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Lowry outduels Oswalt as Giants edge Astros

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- For a team that hadn't won a home series in
more than two months, facing the National League's best team since
the end of May and its trio of aces didn't figure to be the way to
get out of a slump.

But San Francisco has been the team getting the stellar starts.

Noah Lowry allowed one hit in seven scoreless innings to help
the Giants win a home series for the first time since May, beating
the Houston Astros 5-2 Saturday.

Lowry (7-11) followed Jason Schmidt's eight scoreless innings
Friday, striking out eight and retiring 18 of the final 20 batters
he faced.

After snapping Andy Pettitte's six-game winning streak in a 4-0
win Friday, the Giants tripped up Roy Oswalt (14-9) in the second
game, handing him just his second loss in 10 decisions.

"We faced two good pitchers the last two days and did pretty
well," first baseman J.T. Snow said. "We got good pitching. It
all starts on the mound."

Lowry was the sharper pitcher this game, continuing his strong
stretch since the All-Star break. Keeping the Astros guessing with
his off-speed pitches, the only hit he allowed came when Jason Lane
singled off the left-field wall to lead off the second inning.
Lowry lowered his ERA to 1.81 in five starts since the break.

After throwing 21 pitches in the first inning, Lowry tried to be
more aggressive and needed just 85 pitches over his final six
frames. Lowry left because his left elbow tightened up but said he
wouldn't miss a start.

"I threw a lot more fastballs inside today, which in turn opens
up the outside part of the plate for my changeup," Lowry said. "I
was able to hit my spots for strikes."

Edgardo Alfonzo added a pair of RBI singles and Mike Matheny hit
a solo homer for the Giants, who have won three straight games for
the first time since a four-game winning streak June 28-July 1.

San Francisco, which has the worst home record in the National
League, has won its first series at SBC Park since taking two of
three from the Los Angeles Dodgers from May 24-26.

"It is satisfying to get success at home. Maybe we can get some
more respect at home, too," manager Felipe Alou said in a thinly
veiled reference to a radio talk-show host on the Giants flagship
station who made racial remarks about the team's Latino players
earlier this week.

Houston avoided its second consecutive shutout when Morgan
Ensberg hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning against Tyler
Walker. Before Ensberg's 29th homer, the Astros hadn't gotten a
runner as far as second base.

"If they keep getting pitching like that, they're going to win
a lot of games," Astros manager Phil Garner said.

After scoring just six runs in the first 25 innings of a
three-game series against Colorado's beleaguered pitching staff,
the Giants have posted back-to-back wins over two of the best
starters in the league.

The Giants will go for their first sweep at home since the
opening week of the season when they face Roger Clemens on Sunday.
San Francisco doesn't know who its starter will be because Brett
Tomko is out with a bone bruise in his right foot.

Oswalt had allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his
previous 16 starts. He gave up more than that by the third inning
against the Giants and allowed four runs -- three earned -- and nine
hits in seven innings.

Ray Durham led off the second with a single, advanced to second
on a sacrifice fly and scored on a single by Alfonzo. After Matheny
singled, Lowry sacrificed the runners to second and third.

Omar Vizquel then hit an RBI single to center to make it 2-0.
Randy Winn followed with a grounder to second base. With Vizquel
running right in front of him, Craig Biggio bobbled the ball for a
run-scoring error.

The Giants added another run in the third when Durham singled,
stole second and scored on another hit by Alfonzo.

"They nickled and dimed me," Oswalt said. "It's one of those
games where you have to kind of take it in stride. I didn't have my
best stuff. I had average stuff. It's just one of those days when
they were able to find the holes."

Game notes
Oswalt was 15-1 in his career in August before the loss.
... Houston 1B Jeff Bagwell, who had right shoulder surgery June 7,
hit off live pitching for the third straight day. The Astros are
optimistic Bagwell could return as a pinch-hitter in September
after originally thinking he could be sidelined for the season. ...
San Francisco OF Moises Alou (tight right hamstring) missed his
fourth straight game.