HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros moved within one defeat of their third straight 100-loss season on Monday night after the Cincinnati Reds beat them 6-1.
Instead of focusing on the looming mark, the Astros chose to think about how they can get better in the last few games of the season.
"I feel like we've been playing better," first baseman Chris Carter said. "It's just looking at the season as how we finish it instead of how we started it as a whole. Just looking to finish strong and keep playing good games. Hopefully that rolls into next year and we have a good season after that."
The Astros were 56-106 in 2011 and dropped to 55-107 last year, their final season in the National League.
Johnny Cueto threw five scoreless innings in his return from the disabled list and Zack Cozart homered and drove in four runs to help the Reds to the win.
Pitching for the first time since straining the muscle below his right shoulder on June 28, Cueto (5-2) allowed five hits and struck out five with one walk for the win.
Houston manager Bo Porter said Cueto certainly didn't look like someone who hadn't pitched since June.
"(When) a guy misses a lot of time you think to yourself that maybe he's going to be rusty, maybe he's going to have a hard time finding the strike zone," Porter said. "But he didn't have any of those little effects."
Cincinnati moved five games ahead of Washington for second NL wild card.
Cozart got things going for the Reds with his two-run shot to left field in the second inning. He added a two-RBI single in the fourth.
Cueto lasted 82 pitches on Monday, and didn't allow more than one base runner in an inning until the fifth when Carlos Corporan and L.J. Hoes hit back-to-back singles with one out.
Brandon Barnes grounded into a force play that left Hoes out at second before Cueto walked Jonathan Villar, eliciting a coaching visit to the mound.
Cueto escaped the jam when he struck out Jose Altuve to end the inning and his night. Cueto pumped his fist before slowly walking off the mound.
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