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Back-to-back HRs by Lamb, Taveras in 9th fuel Astros

PHOENIX (AP) -- Houston starter Roy Oswalt gave up 12 hits.
Closer Brad Lidge couldn't finish the ninth inning. The Astros left
15 runners on base.

And Houston still found a way to win a game it hopes will
provide an emotional lift as it tries to defend its NL pennant.

Mike Lamb and Willy Taveras hit back-to-back home runs in the
ninth inning to lead the Astros past the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-7
Friday night.

"It's one of those games where it's really important to win for
our own morale, I guess," Lamb said. "It's tough to lose those
games, especially when we're fighting for a playoff spot."

The victory left the third-place Astros 6½ games out in the NL
Central, and four back in the wild-card race.

It was a crushing loss for the Diamondbacks, who missed a chance
to move into a tie with San Diego atop the NL West.

"That's real tough," Conor Jackson said. "It's a long game.
Coming back from a double-dipper yesterday in Chicago and flying
back, I think we were a little worn out today, but that's no
excuse."

Chad Tracy tied a career high with four hits for Arizona. The
Diamondbacks had 16 hits but couldn't overcome 10 walks by their
pitchers, which tied a season high. Starter Miguel Batista issued
seven walks.

"Maybe the worst I've ever done," Batista said.

The Astros liked their chances with Oswalt, who had owned the
Diamondbacks. In his first five career starts against Arizona, he
was 5-0 with a 0.95 ERA, the lowest ERA by any active pitcher
against an opponent with a minimum of five starts.

In his last start, Oswalt beat the Diamondbacks on July 29,
limiting them to one run in eight innings.

Oswalt's mastery vanished quickly Friday night. Every Arizona
position player except Eric Byrnes had a hit by the third inning.

Oswalt gave up 12 hits and a walk in six innings, allowing four
runs and striking out four. But he pitched well enough to leave
with a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning.

"I thought Roy did a super job of battling tonight," Houston
manager Phil Garner said. "Early in the game we were wondering,
the way they kept throwing hits up there, but he kept us in the
ballgame."

Chad Qualls replaced Oswalt to start the seventh inning. Qualls
gave up a leadoff single to Jackson before yielding Johnny
Estrada's 420-foot home run into the swimming pool beyond the
right-center field fence to put the Diamondbacks up 6-5.

Houston tied it in the eighth when Lance Berkman hit a 426-foot
shot into the right-field seats off reliever Brandon Lyon.

"We had the lead going into the eighth and we gave it up,"
manager Bob Melvin said. "Then one strike, one hit, one whatever
short at the end."

In the ninth, Lamb hit for pitcher Trever Miller (1-3) with one
out and belted reliever Tony Pena's first pitch 418 feet into the
right-field seats for his second pinch-hit homer of the season.

"He's a guy who throws hard," Lamb said of Pena, a rookie
right-hander. "Swing early and hope you hit it, pretty much. It
was a pitch I could handle, and good things happened."

Taveras followed with his first homer of the year, a shot to
left off Pena (3-1). It was Taveras' first home run in 739 at-bats.

But the Astros weren't safe. The Astros needed both runs when
Lidge struggled.

Lidge entered in the bottom half of the ninth looking for his
25th save but was pulled after he walked Stephen Drew on four
pitches to load the bases with two outs. He also surrendered a
leadoff single to Jackson and a walk to Orlando Hudson.

Garner bounded out of the dugout and called on Dan Wheeler,
typically used as a set-up man.

"I felt like I had to go to Wheeler," Garner said. "I just
felt like I had to do it."

Wheeler walked Jeff DaVanon to force in a run then struck out
pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin for his third save in five
opportunities.

The Astros had their victory, even if it wasn't very pretty.

"I give credit to our ballclub for not quitting and battling
right back," Garner said.

Game notes
Batista's second-inning wild pitch was his 13th, most in
the league. ... Oswalt's second-inning single was his eighth hit,
most among Houston pitchers. ... Estrada's homer was the 33rd to
land in the swimming pool, and the 15th by a Diamondback. ... 2B
Craig Biggio homered for the Astros. ... Drew, who doubled and
singled, has four straight two-hit games.