Al Behrman, Associated Press
Cincinnati Reds' Ryan Hanigan gets a hit off Houston Astros starting pitcher Brett Myers to drive in two runs in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 5, 2011 in Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI — Homer Bailey provided a lot of encouragement for the defending NL Central champions.

The right-hander returned from the disabled list with six strong innings Thursday, reminding Cincinnati of what it has been missing, and Ryan Hanigan drove in three runs with a three-hit game to lead the Reds to a 10-4 victory over the Houston Astros.

"That was a great performance for his first time out," manager Dusty Baker said. "He was outstanding right from the start, very sharp."

Bailey (1-0) developed a shoulder problem during spring training, forcing him to go on a throwing program. He gave up only four hits and one run while striking out seven.

The Reds have played the whole season without Bailey and Johnny Cueto, who developed shoulder problems during spring. Their rotation finally will be back to full strength when Cueto comes off the disabled list and starts Sunday in Chicago.

"It's nice to be able to have them back," Baker said. "The next step is to have them back and comfortable. With the injuries and their layoff, who knows? They should be strong in September, and maybe October will be their September with the wear and tear. It could work out great for us."

After a 5-0 start, the Reds have been stuck in place. The win Thursday gave them their first back-to-back victories since April 11-12.

The last few weeks, it's been a case of win one, lose one.

The Reds started their surge into contention a year ago at about this time, winning seven of eight to pull into first place on May 16.

The Reds scored six runs in 5 2-3 innings against Brett Myers (1-2), who failed to go six innings for only the second time in 40 career starts with the Astros. Myers also left after 5 2-3 innings of a 9-1 loss in Cincinnati last Sept. 30.

Fred Lewis hit his first career pinch-hit homer in the sixth for a 6-1 lead, ending Myers' outing. The six runs were a season-high off the right-hander.

"I made some good pitches, but they hit them," Myers said. "I didn't feel real comfortable out there. I felt like everything I threw, they knew what was coming. They probably didn't, but it felt that way."

The Astros rallied in the seventh against left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who walked a batter with the bases loaded and gave up Hunter Pence's two-run single that cut it to 6-4. Jay Bruce homered during the Reds' four-run eighth off Nelson Figueroa, who was demoted to the bullpen last week.

Bailey got a chance to return on Thursday after the opening game of the series was rained out, forcing the teams to make it up on what was supposed to be their day off. Originally, Bailey was scheduled to complete his rehab assignment at Class-A Dayton on Thursday. The schedule change allowed him to pitch for the Reds instead of the Dragons.

"To be at that level of competition felt great," Bailey said. "I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand the way it should."

Joey Votto opened the fourth with a single off Myers, keeping him the only major leaguer to reach base safely in every game this season. His 31-game streak is three shy of Dave Collins' franchise mark from 1981. The Reds went on to load the bases, and Hanigan singled for a 3-0 lead.

Before the game, the Astros sent closer Brandon Lyon back to Houston for tests on his right shoulder. He went on the 15-day DL later in the day with a tear in his rotator cuff that won't require surgery. Lyon failed to retire any of the five batters he faced during a 3-2 loss on Wednesday, his fourth blown save in eight chances.

Houston played all three games without outfielder Carlos Lee, who bruised ribs on Sunday in a collision with shortstop Angel Sanchez. He worked out Thursday and could be back soon.

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NOTES: Pence extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. ... 2B Bill Hall was ejected by plate umpire Tom Hallion after he struck out in the sixth and said something while walking away. ... Astros minor league OF/1B Telvin Nash will have surgery next week on a broken hamate bone in his left hand, sidelining him for six weeks. The third-round draft pick in 2009 is playing at Class-A Lexington. ... The Reds optioned RHP reliever Jordan Smith to Triple-A Louisville to open a roster spot for Bailey.