Batista's ERA now at 2.60, second lowest in NL

HOUSTON (AP) -- It was a big night for Miguel Batista -- even if
he didn't finish the game.

Batista (5-3) pitched into the ninth inning and Luis Gonzalez
hit a two-run homer, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks over the
Houston Astros 4-2 on Thursday night.

Batista was lifted after allowing Morgan Ensberg's leadoff
double in the ninth. Jose Valverde got three straight outs for his
fifth save in five chances.

"This is close to what we would have wished for going into the
game," Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. "We were hoping
Miguel could go a strong eight and then bring in Jose for the

"But Miguel talked me into letting him go back out in the
ninth. His pitch count was reasonable and he said he had done well
against the guys coming up, so I told him he could go out there
again. But I said if a man got on base, I was coming after him."

The Astros have lost seven of nine games and dropped their last
three series.

Batista gave up seven hits, struck out seven and walked one,
lowering his ERA to 2.60 -- second in the NL behind Los Angeles
Dodgers ace Kevin Brown (1.97). The right-hander improved to 1-3 in
seven lifetime appearances against Houston, but he wanted his fifth
career complete game and second of the season.

"I was still feeling strong," Batista said. "I wanted to see
if I could finish it off. I was still throwing pretty well but I
missed my location on a couple of pitches and the guy ended up
hitting it hard."

Batista was still pleased with his outing.

"It was the best I've felt in a long time," he said. "I was
hitting the corners and my fastball was really moving. This is my
sixth year in the big leagues and I've never thrown it by Jeff
Bagwell like that before."

Bagwell went 0-for-4 and struck out in the sixth.

"He was dazzling at times," Brenly said of Batista. "The ball
was darting in and out. It's pretty much what he's done most of the
season. I think he deserves consideration as an All-Star. Ask the
National League hitters. I'm a little biased, but I don't think
it's out of the question."

After giving up two runs in the second inning, Batista set down
10 consecutive Astros before allowing a pair of singles in the

"He's got a nice arm," Houston manager Jimy Williams said.
"He throws 95 with a good breaking ball and he was in the zone."

Tim Redding (4-6) allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in
seven innings, matching his longest outing of the season. He struck
out six and hit a two-run single.

Arizona built a three-run lead with the homer by Gonzalez, his
15th, in the first and a sacrifice fly by Rod Barajas in the

Gonzalez homered to the same spot in the left-field seats off
Billy Wagner on Wednesday, tying the game in the ninth inning of a
2-1 win.

Redding's broken-bat bloop single to left cut Arizona's lead to
3-2 in the second inning. Steve Finley's sacrifice fly in the
fourth made it 4-2.

Game notes
Astros 2B Jeff Kent was scratched from the lineup with a
sore left wrist. ... Tony Womack's first-inning stolen base was
just the 19th in 49 attempts against Houston catcher Brad Ausmus.
... Elmer Dessens, who starts Friday for the Diamondbacks at home
against Cincinnati, is the only Arizona starter who has not missed
a start this season. ... Finley's second-inning triple was his
team-high fourth of the season.