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Griffey, Kearns homer in win

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The only folks who expected such a finish were
those five Cincinnati Reds fans who brought brooms.

They waved their brooms in the outfield stands Monday night
after Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 491st homer and Austin Kearns hit a
three-run shot in the eighth for a 7-5 victory and a four-game
sweep of the Houston Astros.

Kearns' tiebreaking homer off Brad Lidge (0-3) pushed Cincinnati
a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central lead.

A club that lost 93 games and traded away stars last season now
has the league's best record, having swept a team counted among the
NL's best.

"Those guys are as good as it gets," Kearns said, with shaving
cream smeared in his hat and shirt after an impromptu celebration.
"Just to win the series would have been sweet. To sweep is great.
I can't say enough."

The Astros had the misfortune to run into a streaking team on
its home field.

Cincinnati has won six in a row -- its best spurt since 2002 -- to
grab sole possession of first place for the first time since April
15. The Reds have won nine of 10 overall.

The Astros hadn't been swept in a four game series since June
24-27, 1999, when the Reds did it in the Astrodome. Houston has
lost a season-high five in a row.

"They made all the plays, made all the pitches and got all the
calls," said Craig Biggio, who had a pair of hits. "We're not
sitting here crying over it. They're hot right now and when you're
hot, you get everything going your way."

Griffey hit his second homer in two games, a solo shot that tied
him with Fred McGriff for 21st place on the career list. He also
had a two-run double off Tim Redding that smacked off the
left-field wall, a few feet short of another homer.

Sean Casey also homered for the second straight game and had a
pair of hits, raising the NL's top batting average to .386.

John Riedling (3-0) got the win despite giving up Lance
Berkman's tying, two-run homer in the seventh. Danny Graves got
three outs for his major league-leading 21st save in 25 chances.

Pinch-hitter Jason Lane singled and scored on a passed ball to
make it 7-5, but Graves retired Jeff Bagwell and Berkman with a
runner at third to end it.

The Reds' resurgent rotation and an offense led by Griffey and
Casey set up the sweep, celebrated by those fans hoisting brooms in
the outfield seats.

"The main thing is we're winning and playing good baseball,"
manager Dave Miley said. "But it's only May. There's still a lot
to play."

The surge has energized a roster that still has big holes -- the
bench is thin, the bullpen is shaky -- but is overcoming them with
good karma.

"We're a close-knit group," said Casey, who was 2-for-3 with
an intentional walk. "You look out there and feel you want to win
for that guy."

The NL's top offense was limited to six singles in Cory Lidle's
7-0 shutout Sunday, and reduced to playing one-base-at-a-time in
the first six innings against Jose Acevedo.

The Astros managed only eight singles off Acevedo before Orlando
Palmeiro led off the seventh with his second pinch-hit homer of the
series, ending Acevedo's night.

Riedling, who hadn't given up an earned run in his last 15
appearances, walked Bagwell with two outs in the seventh and gave
up Berkman's homer, his 10th.

Berkman also had an RBI single in the fifth that snapped the
Reds' shutout streak at 13 innings.

The Astros' vaunted starters -- Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens,
Wade Miller and Redding -- gave up 17 runs in only 20 1-3 innings
during the series. The first three lasted five innings apiece, and
Redding went 5 1-3.

Griffey led off the second inning with his 10th homer, a
430-foot drive that smacked off the middle of the batter's eye in
center. Casey led off the fourth with his sixth homer into the
Astros' bullpen.

Barry Larkin and Casey opened the sixth with singles, and
Griffey doubled for a 4-1 lead. Larkin also tripled to start the
Reds' winning rally in the eighth. Casey was intentionally walked
before Griffey grounded out and Kearns hit his third homer.

Game notes
Redding is the 309th pitcher to give up a homer to Griffey.
... Acevedo hasn't won since April 20, a span of six starts that
includes three losses and two blown saves. ... Berkman had two hits
off Acevedo, leaving him 7-for-9 career off the right-hander. ...
Larkin committed his first error of the season in the eighth. To
that point, he was the only starting shortstop in the majors
without an error. ... Riedling hadn't allowed an earned run since
April 16.