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Hillenbrand clubs two-run HR

HOUSTON (AP) -- Lance Cormier flopped badly in the first two
starts of his big league career. His third start might have bought
him a little more time in the Arizona Diamondbacks' starting
rotation.

Cormier won the first game of his brief career, and Shea
Hillenbrand hit a two-run homer Thursday to lead the Diamondbacks
to a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros -- only their second win
since the All-Star break.

"I think I'm getting more relaxed with each start," Cormier
said. "I felt more in control every inning even when I got in
tough situations. Knowing I'm going to be here, even when I give up
10 runs, I still know I have a chance to come back five days
later."

Cormier (1-2), making his third start in the big leagues, lasted
six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits with five
strikeouts. He was much better against the Astros than he was in
his previous two outings -- he entered with a 14.73 ERA after starts
against Tampa Bay and Colorado.

A confidence-building chat with manager Al Pedrique earlier this
week eased Cormier's worries about being sent back to the minors.

"With young players, anytime you give them some confidence, it
should help them," Pedrique said. "We're hoping he can go out and
relax and show us what he can do."

The 23-year-old right-hander even tallied his first career hit
with a single in the sixth, almost getting thrown out at first when
he halfheartedly started running toward the base.

"Yeah, I probably should have been thrown out," Cormier said
sheepishly.

Hillenbrand's shot just over the left-field fence in the fifth
gave the Diamondbacks a 6-1 lead, enough of a cushion to seal
Arizona's second win in 18 games. The Diamondbacks, who snapped a
club-record 14-game losing streak against Houston on Monday, hadn't
split a series since June 28-July 1 against San Diego.

Greg Aquino got three outs for his second save in as many
chances, but gave up Craig Biggio's two-out homer that made it 6-4.

Arizona even managed to win without its best hitter, right
fielder Danny Bautista, who sat out with a sore left hamstring.
Bautista, who's batting .308, was replaced in the lineup by Quinton
McCracken.

Before the game, Luis Gonzalez announced that he'll have
season-ending ligament replacement surgery Monday, but expects to
return to the Diamondbacks by next spring. The left fielder has
played all season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament
in his right elbow, feeling pain on every throw to the infield. The
ligament connects bones in the upper and lower arm.

Team orthopedists will perform Tommy John surgery in Phoenix on
an off-day for the team.

The win over his former team was especially sweet for Gonzalez,
who'll play in the three-game series at Colorado this weekend
before having the operation.

"It's especially nice because we're not in the race, so we can
come in and play spoiler," said Gonzalez, who went 2-for-5 with an
RBI. "We were losing 14 in a row and other teams have to take
advantage of that."

Houston (51-51) dropped back to .500, and even worse, lost two
games at home to the league's worst team (33-71). The Astros are
14½ games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis and only a half-game
ahead of Cincinnati for third place.

The crowd of 39,758 booed the Astros throughout, particularly
struggling starter Tim Redding (4-6).

Redding, briefly moved into a relief role this month, gave up
six runs on nine hits in 5 2-3 innings. He's 1-4 in his last six
starts.

"It's a letdown," Redding said. "No way should we have lost
two games."

Redding got off a rough start, allowing run-scoring singles by
Gonzalez, Hillenbrand and Alex Cintron in the first. He retired 12
of the next 13, but started to falter after Chad Tracy's double in
the fifth.

Tracy scored on Adam Everett's throwing error on Gonzalez's
infield hit, and Hillenbrand followed with a homer.

Redding was finally chased in the sixth, after giving up three
straight singles to load the bases with two outs. Mike Gallo struck
out Steve Finley to end the threat.

The Astros rallied briefly in the bottom of the fifth, as Carlos
Beltran singled in Biggio and Adam Everett scored after Lance
Berkman grounded into a double play. But Jeff Kent flied out to
right to end the inning.

"We have to forget about it and we have to move on," Beltran
said. "Today, we just fell behind early in the ballgame and we
weren't able to get back into it."

Game notes
Biggio hit the 544th double of his career in the first,
moving him past Tony Gwynn for 19th all-time in the majors. He
doubled again in the fifth. Biggio also passed Reggie Jackson for
70th on the career hits list, getting his 2,586th.