AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Jay Bruce thought about his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds, when he got three hits and had 17,000 fans screaming his name.
On the one-year anniversary, he did it all again.
Bruce homered twice and tripled home another run Wednesday night, and Bronson Arroyo pitched a five-hitter to help the Cincinnati Reds beat the Houston Astros 6-1 for a three-game sweep on the outfielder's special day.
"I was telling somebody earlier: It's awesome," Bruce said, referring to his success on May 27.
Bruce was in a 1-for-18 slump when he hit a solo shot off Felipe Paulino (1-4) in the fourth, getting the 17,602 fans to yell "BRUCE!" as he rounded the bases. The cheer was even louder when his two-run homer off the right-hander made it 5-1 in the sixth and put the Reds in position for their first sweep of the Astros in Cincinnati since May 2004.
Both homers came on first-pitch fastballs.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Paulino said. "He got me. I feel really great now. I'm healthy, I know I can throw my pitches. What happened today — it happens. Two pitches, two homers. Nothing I can do."
The 22-year-old outfielder completed his breakout game with a run-scoring triple in the eighth off Chris Sampson. Cincinnati has won four in a row for the first time this season.
Arroyo (7-3) gave up four singles, a double and one walk in his seventh career complete game and first this season. His last complete game was Aug. 26 in Houston, also a five-hitter for a 2-1 win.
"I can't remember the last time I had a complete game with fewer than 100 pitches — maybe never," said Arroyo, who need only 92. "We already had two games in the bag, I felt strong. I was hoping we would do what we did — put some runs on the board."
The last-place Astros have dropped seven straight — their longest skid of the season — and hit a new low point at 18-27. They welcomed a day off on Thursday before resuming their trip in Pittsburgh.
"At this point in time, it probably is what we need," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We've had a rough stretch here the last eight to 10 days. So yeah, we probably do need a break to get away from it and kind of refresh ourselves a little bit. And hopefully we come with some energy and a little bit better focus come Friday, with a sense of urgency."
Houston gave up another unearned run — its ninth of the series — while completing three days of miserable baseball in a city where it had felt at home. Houston had won 11 of its last 12 games at Great American Ball Park heading into the series.
On this visit, everything went wrong.
Houston gave up eight unearned runs in an 8-5 loss in the opener, then had Roy Oswalt — 23-1 career against Cincinnati — hurt his pitching hand and blow a lead in a 6-4 defeat on Tuesday night.
This one provided a fitting finish.
"Overall, it's just a good series, especially against a team that had beaten us pretty badly in the past," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's a change, at least for now."
Notes:@ The Astros activated RHP Brandon Backe from the DL after the game and optioned LHP Wesley Wright to Triple-A. Backe has been sidelined since March 27 by strained muscles in his left side. Cooper said Backe's role is undetermined. … Astros hitting coach Sean Berry, recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous kidney, will have a follow-up visit with the doctor on Monday and could rejoin the club then. … Houston SS Miguel Tejada doubled in the ninth, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. … Reds RHP Edinson Volquez threw in the bullpen without problem. Volquez, on the DL with a sore back, expects to be activated on Monday and start in St. Louis. … The Reds drew 17,964 fans for Bruce's debut last year.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.