Astros top Reds, move a hair within wild-card lead

HOUSTON (AP) -- Wandy Rodriguez has been a pleasant surprise for
the Houston Astros.

Rodriguez pitched five strong innings and Morgan Ensberg hit a
three-run homer to help the Astros rally past the Cincinnati Reds
5-2 Tuesday night and close within a half-game of the NL wild-card

Rodriguez (9-6) won for the fifth time in his last seven
decisions, allowing one run and four hits and dropping his ERA from
a team-high 6.16 to 5.94.

"Nine wins, that's pretty good for a guy who didn't figure in
your rotation at the start of the year," Houston manager Phil
Garner said. "He pitched a nice, crisp game. He was only in
trouble in that one inning. That kind of performance gives the team
a lift, especially when we needed one."

Ensberg's 34th home run highlighted a five-run fifth inning for
the Astros,

Houston (69-62) is tied with the New York Mets in the wild-card
race, just behind Philadelphia and Florida (70-62).

"The key to the game was Wandy threw five great innings,"
Ensberg said. "Tonight Wandy was just outstanding. If we score
five runs every night, I'm convinced we'll go to the playoffs.
We've done such a poor job of scoring for a bunch of guys who are
pitching their tails off."

The Astros have backed Rodriguez with an average of 7.78 runs a
game, more than double the team-low 3.61 given Roger Clemens.
Rodriguez started the season at Triple-A Round Rock.

"Since I got here, my goal was to make sure I pitched well
every game," Rodriguez said through an interpreter. "I'm not
surprised with what I've done. This is what I had in mind, to be
able to pitch this way. My biggest concern has been learning to
speak English. Beyond that, just keeping confidence has been the
big thing. I had to make sure I kept it even if I didn't pitch well
at the beginning of the year."

Ramon Ortiz (8-10) allowed five runs and eight hits in six

"He did a great job. He just made a few bad pitches in the
fifth," catcher Jason LaRue said. "Even the home run was not a
bad pitch. Not to take anything away from Morgan, but in any other
ballpark that is a routine pop fly. He hit it just hard enough to
get it out."

Ortiz fell to 2-6 on the road.

"It's crazy, but that's baseball," Ortiz said. "In the fifth,
I didn't make good pitches when I had to. I hung a slider to a guy
and he hits it out. It was just a fly ball, but it's a home run
here. I felt good. I have a lot of confidence in myself and my
team. I don't worry about this game. I'll come back. It was just a
flyball home run, but nothing can change it."

Cincinnati, which had won four straight, loaded the bases in the
ninth against Brad Lidge on a single by pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz and
two walks. Pinch-hitter Javier Valentin hit an RBI groundout before
Lidge struck out Edwin Encarnacion to end the game.

Adam Dunn's RBI single put Cincinnati ahead in the fifth, but
pinch-hitter Mike Lamb had a run-scoring single in the bottom half
that ended the Astros' scoreless streak at 16 innings. Willy
Taveras' sacrifice fly drove in another run, Craig Biggio singled
and Ensberg hit his 34th homer.

Game notes
Luke Scott, the Astros' opening day left fielder, was in
the lineup for the first time since being sent down to Triple-A
Round Rock May 3. He led the Pacific Coast League in home runs with
31 when he was called up Monday. ... Cincinnati is 1-6 at Houston
this season. ... Houston reliever Chad Qualls had to jump out of
the way in the seventh inning when plate umpire Tim McClelland and
C Humberto Quintero inadvertently threw two balls at him at the
same time.