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Astros stop four-game losing streak

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros were on the brink and they
knew it. Then Jose Vizcaino came up with a big hit that kept them
from dropping even farther back in the NL Central.

Vizcaino pinch hit in the seventh inning and singled home two
runs to lead Houston over a lineup of San Francisco substitutes 2-1
Wednesday.

"If we lost today, we were in serious trouble, but we live to
fight another day," Craig Biggio said. "Obviously, that was a
huge hit."

Houston, which remained one game behind the division-leading
Chicago Cubs, stopped a four-game losing streak, which had tied a
season high. A defeat would have dropped the Astros two games back
with four to play.

"This was huge for us. It was make or break for us," said
Billy Wagner, who closed with a perfect ninth for his 44th save in
47 chances. "We've got to win out and hope they lose one or two.
If they win out and we win out, then so be it. You get out there
and the adrenaline is pumping. We've got to win this game."

Roy Oswalt (10-5) won his fourth straight start since coming off
the disabled list, allowing three hits in eight innings, including
Pedro Feliz's second-inning homer. Oswalt struck out six and walked
none.

Sidney Ponson (3-6), backed by three double plays, allowed just
two singles in the first six innings, but got in trouble in the
seventh.

Ponson hit Jeff Kent with a pitch with two outs and Lance
Berkman followed with a double off the left-field scoreboard,
sending Kent to third.

San Francisco intentionally walked Richard Hidalgo and Vizcaino,
batting for Brad Ausmus, lined a single to center to drive in the
tying and go-ahead runs.

"He was tough," Vizcaino said. "In that situation, when I go
out to pinch hit, he's the one in trouble. He has to throw a
strike."

Vizcaino was on the disabled list from June 25 to Aug. 20
because of a broken wrist. He'd rather start than pinch hit.

"I don't want to be in that role," he said. "I know I can
play every day."

Hidalgo was thrown out at third when first baseman Andres
Galarraga cut off the throw from center fielder Jeffrey Hammonds.

San Francisco, which already has clinched the NL West, rested
many of its regulars. Barry Bonds pinch hit leading off the ninth
and was struck out by Wagner, whose pitches reached 101 mph.

"Barry doesn't really care how hard a guy throws," Giants
manager Felipe Alou said. "He's the best, and the best isn't
afraid."

Wagner, who gave up two homers in Monday's loss to the Giants,
was eager to get back on the mound.

"It wouldn't have mattered who was up," he said. "Once you
give up three runs and get embarrassed on the field, every guy you
face is like Barry. You get humbled and that adrenaline goes up.
You don't want to go through that humble feeling again."

San Francisco lost for only the second time in 15 games at
Minute Maid Park.

Ponson, making his 10th start since he was acquired from
Baltimore at July's trade deadline, allowed two runs, four hits and
four walks in seven innings.

Feliz, whose two-run homer helped the Giants to a 6-3 victory
Monday night, put San Francisco ahead with his 15th homer.

Oswalt retired his next eight batters before Feliz singled in
the fifth. He was erased when Neifi Perez grounded into a double
play. Galarraga's two-out single in the seventh gave San Francisco
its only runner after that, but he was stranded when Oswalt struck
out Feliz.

"We know we can play with these guys," Wagner said. "I didn't
execute the first game. Our starting pitchers have to keep us
close, and our bullpen's got to be sharp, and we've got to scrap
out runs."

Game notes
Rich Aurilia needs three hits to reach 1,000. ... Wagner
has appeared in 77 games, 30 of them non-save situations.