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Astros win 15 of 17 in blanking of D-Backs

PHOENIX (AP) -- Morgan Ensberg is putting up some impressive
numbers. Still, the only ones he cares about are in the standings.

Ensberg hit his 28th homer and five Houston pitchers combined on
a seven-hit shutout to lead the surging Astros past the Arizona
Diamondbacks 7-0 Wednesday night.

"Individual accolades are something that when your career is
over you can look back on," said Ensberg, who finished 3-for-4
with two runs. "What I'm excited about is how the team's playing
as a team. We're a team of nobodies and we're playing solid
baseball."

Ezequiel Astacio (2-4) won his second straight decision for the
Astros, who won for the 15th time in 17 tries to maintain a
two-game lead over Washington in the NL wild-card race.

Astacio scattered four hits, three of which never left the
infield, and allowed only one runner to reach third base. He walked
three and struck out one in five innings.

"He did a good job of making pitches when he needed to,"
Astros manager Phil Garner said. "We'd like to see him pitch ahead
a bit more. He got behind a lot of hitters. But he did a pretty
good job of making the pitches when he had to."

Astacio, who has allowed three runs or fewer in all four starts
since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, credited catcher
Brad Ausmus with his turnaround.

"[Garner] told me he's been in the big leagues a long time and
to listen to him," Astacio said. "He's taught me a lot."

Russ Springer, Mike Burns, Dan Wheeler and Chad Harville each
worked a scoreless inning to close it out.

Arizona lost for the fifth time in seven home games and
squandered a chance to move into a first-place tie with San Diego
in the NL West. The Padres lost 9-8 to Pittsburgh before the
Diamondbacks took the field.

Astacio was in trouble only once, when consecutive infield hits
with one out and a line-drive single loaded the bases in the
fourth. But he struck out Chris Snyder and retired pitcher Javier
Vazquez on a fly to center.

Houston took a 1-0 lead in the second on Chris Burke's sacrifice
fly, then broke the game open with a four-run sixth against Vazquez
(9-10).

Ensberg led off with a 450-foot shot off the batter's eye in
center, and a bloop RBI double by pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro
with two outs made it 3-0.

Willy Tavares' major league-leading 53rd infield single scored
Ausmus, who reached on a fielder's choice. Palmeiro scored on a
throwing error by first baseman Conor Jackson.

Pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino's RBI single in the eighth extended
the lead to 6-0. Adam Everett added an RBI double in the ninth.

Vazquez allowed five runs -- two earned -- and nine hits with five
strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

"We all didn't play well today," Arizona's Luis Gonzalez said.
"We didn't make plays behind him when we had to and we didn't get
hits. We didn't score runs. You can't win with zero runs."

Game notes
The Astros have seven pinch-hit doubles, a franchise
record. ... Gonzalez ran full speed into the left-field fence to
catch Jason Lane's drive in the fourth. Gonzalez appeared shaken
but remained in the game. "I thought that was really going to be
an emotional play in the game for us," manager Bob Melvin said.
... Astros 1B Lance Berkman was scratched from the lineup shortly
before the first pitch with an undisclosed illness and replaced by
Mike Lamb. ... Arizona RHP Russ Ortiz, making a rehab start at
Class-A Lancaster, allowed 10 runs and 12 hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Ortiz has been on the disabled list since June 16 with a stress
fracture of his right rib cage.