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Astros notch fifth straight win, stay atop wild-card race

HOUSTON (AP) -- Astros manager Phil Garner has his own magic
number, and Houston moved toward it Sunday.

Wandy Rodriguez pitched a career-high 7 1/3 innings, and Lance
Berkman put Houston ahead to stay with a two-run, first-inning
double in a 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that extended
the Astros' winning streak to five.

Houston, which had just six hits, owns a 1½-game lead over
Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race. The Phillies lost Sunday
night at Florida, which is 2½ back of the Astros (81-68).

"This was a big win for us," Garner said. "But our goal is to
get 15 games over .500 and then assess where we are."

Garner wouldn't say what was magical about 15 games over.

"I just feel if we go to 15 over we'll be in pretty good
position," Garner said. "We're playing confidently now. At least
we're pitching confidently. I don't know if we're hitting as
confidently as I'd like."

Houston started Sunday second in the league in pitching with a
team ERA of 3.52 but was next to last in team batting at .256.

"We knew our pitching staff was the backbone of the team,"
catcher Brad Ausmus said. "The question mark is our hitting. It
isn't over yet. We've still got two weeks to go, and the offense
has to come around. We're day to day with our offense."

The pitching has been especially good the last six games
allowing nine runs.

"Wandy did a super job today and that was huge for us," Garner
said. "Our pitching has done a marvelous job the last six games.
You have to feel good any time they pitch, but I'd like to see our
offense come around a little. The guys are grinding and by me
saying this, it'll probably put more pressure on them."

Eric Bruntlett went 3-for-3 with four runs scored and two stolen
bases as the Astros completed a three-game sweep. The Brewers think
Houston is capable of winning the wild-card spot.

"Rodriguez was really good today," manager Ned Yost said.
"The last time we faced him he was just OK."

Chris Capuano (17-10) gave up four runs, five hits and five
walks in five innings.

"Capuano had too many walks," Yost said. "We have been
struggling to get runs, and we just can't afford to put runners on
base. He just struggled all day long."

Capuano had won his previous three starts and five of six.

"Today I just didn't have a great feel," he said. "My command
was off. This was a terrible series for us all around, both
pitching and hitting. The walks kind of hurt me. I was trying to
establish the inside part of the plate. I just wasn't getting the
calls."

Rodriguez (10-8) allowed one run and four hits, earning a
standing ovation from the crowd as he left with one out in the
eighth. Three relievers completed the five-hitter.

Bruntlett tied career highs with the three-hit game and his
fourth home run of the season.

Milwaukee dropped to 73-76. The Brewers, held scoreless for 19
consecutive innings before Jeff Cirillo's RBI grounder in the
eighth, are trying to avoid finishing with a losing record for the
13th straight season.

Berkman's double and Bruntlett's leadoff homer in the third
built a 3-0 lead. Bruntlett doubled and stole third in the fifth
inning, then scored on Jason Lane's single. Bruntlett singled in
the seventh, stole second and scored on Jose Vizcaino's sacrifice
fly to make it 5-0. Lamb added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Game notes
Bruntlett hit four homers last season. He also had three
hits July 31 against the New York Mets this season. ... Adam
Everett missed his third straight game to be with his 8-month-old
daughter Peyton, who had surgery Friday in Kennesaw, Ga. Everett is
expected back Monday, when the Astros start a four-game series at
Pittsburgh. ... Third base umpire Andy Fletcher called time out
just as Capuano began to deliver a pitch in the fifth inning when a
number fell out of the hand-operated scoreboard onto the field. LF
Carlos Lee retrieved the metal number, handed it back to the
scoreboard worker and Capuano's throw was ruled no pitch.