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Astros keep heat on Giants, Cubs

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Houston's backups are doing all they can to
propel the Astros into the playoffs.

Raul Chavez drove in a career-high five runs, Jason Lane went
3-for-4 with and scored twice, and Morgan Ensberg went 4-for-5 with
two runs scored as Houston outslugged the Milwaukee Brewers 11-7 on
Sunday.

"Nine guys are not going to take you to the playoffs," said
Jeff Kent, who hit a three-run homer. "You need a bunch of guys to
do some little things to pick up some guys when they are not
playing, to pick up some guys when they are not playing well."

Lance Berkman also homered for the Astros, who closed within 1½
games of Chicago in the NL wild-card race. San Francisco is also
ahead of Houston, which returns home to play St. Louis three times
beginning Monday night and Colorado three times during the final
week of the season.

"St. Louis is not going to have the urgency that we're going to
have," said Astros manager Phil Garner, who suggested Cardinals
manager Tony La Russa, "probably won't use his bullpen like he
normally does, may even rest a veteran hitter."

"They can still beat us," Garner cautioned.

But he likes his chances when playing at home against a team
that's already clinched the NL Central.

The Cardinals are 5-1 at Houston this year, all of the games
coming before Garner replaced Jimy Williams at the All-Star break.

"The Cardinals and the Astros are playing for different
reasons," Kent said. "The Cardinals are trying to play to get
themselves ready for the playoffs. We're playing for our lives. The
atmosphere will be a little bit different in each dugout."

Chavez capped a four-run first off Victor Santos with an RBI
single, then added a bases-clearing double in the fifth off Matt
Wise and a run-scoring single in the seventh off Jeff Bennett.

Tim Redding (5-7), the third of eight Astros pitchers, was
credited with the win after throwing a 1-2-3 fourth inning. It was
the fourth time in club history that the Astros used eight pitchers
in a nine-inning game.

Kent hit a three-run homer off Santos (11-12) in the first,
pulling within two of Ryne Sandberg's major league record of 277
for a second baseman. It was his 299th homer overall.

Keith Ginter hit his 16th homer in the second off Carlos
Hernandez and added an RBI single in the third, when Chris Magruder
hit his second homer of the season, a two-run shot that tied it at
4.

Berkman led off the fifth with his 30th homer to make it 5-4.
Chavez's bases-loaded double to the right-field corner made it 8-4,
and he scored on Jose Vizcaino's single for a 9-4 lead.

Chavez followed Lane's leadoff triple in the seventh with a
single to left for a 10-4 lead.

The Brewers got two runs in the bottom of the inning when Chad
Qualls surrendered Lyle Overbay's 15th homer and Dave Krynzel's
run-scoring single.

Overbay's third-inning double was his 50th, breaking Robin
Yount's club record set in 1980.

"Being in the same sentence with him is an honor," Overbay
said. "You know you've accomplished something if you're in the
same boat as he is, at least in one category."

Qualls plunked two batters in the inning to load the bases with
two outs for pinch-hitter Craig Counsell, a .235 hitter, who flied
out to second with Kent making a nice over-the-shoulder catch.

Ensberg's RBI single off Ben Ford made it 11-6 in the eighth.
Overbay scored on Vizcaino's throwing error at shortstop in the
bottom of the inning.

Game notes
Brewers ace Ben Sheets, on leave to attend his
grandmother's funeral, flew to Arizona to join the team in Phoenix,
where he'll face Randy Johnson on Monday night. ... Despite their
12th straight losing season, the Brewers drew 2,062,382 fans,
topping the 2 million mark for just the third time in franchise
history. The club has said that is the break-even point to avoid
losing more money. ... Kent's three RBI gave him 102 and tied him
with Charlie Gehringer and Tony Lazzeri for most 100-RBI seasons
(seven) by a second baseman. ... The Brewers finished 36-45 at home
after two straight seasons of 31-50.