Backe improves to 7-0 at Minute Maid Park

HOUSTON (AP) -- Brandon Backe feels right at home in Houston.

Backe remained unbeaten at home as a starter and sparked a
two-run fifth-inning rally, leading the Astros to a 4-3 victory
over the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night.

Backe (5-3) improved to 7-0 in nine career starts -- all Houston
wins -- at Minute Maid Park. Backe, who broke into the starting
rotation last season, is 8-1 at home in his career.

"I love to pitch here, I guess that's obvious," said Backe, a
native of nearby Galveston, Texas. "It's just the atmosphere, and
of course I've got family here so there are people enjoying me
being out there. My routine is better here. Before the game I'm
able to go through everything. Sometimes on the road I feel rushed.

"Here, I sleep in my own house, come to the park and go through
my own routine. I'm much more comfortable."

Backe's performance helped the Astros forget Monday night's 9-0
loss to the Reds.

He allowed nine hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings. John
Franco got the last out of the seventh, Dan Wheeler struck out the
side in the eighth and Brad Lidge did the same in the ninth --
hitting 96 mph or higher with all three third-strike pitches -- for
his 11th save in 13 chances.

"Right now, I'm feeling pretty strong," Lidge said.
"Certainly the last couple of games in Milwaukee and tonight were
the strongest I've felt this year. Tonight the bullpen threw well
and we really needed it after last night."

Ken Griffey Jr. homered off Backe to give the Reds a 2-1 lead in
fifth inning, but Backe singled and scored on a hit by Todd Self in
the bottom half to tie it. The Astros took the lead later in the
inning on an RBI double by Lance Berkman off Matt Belisle (2-5).

"He just couldn't get a feel for his pitches," Reds manager
Dave Miley said of Belisle. "But he just gave up three runs in
five innings so he gave us a chance. We couldn't get the big hit."

Adam Everett made it 4-2 with a homer in the sixth off former
Astros reliever Ricky Stone. Sean Casey had an RBI double in the
seventh for the Reds.

"It was just beautiful the way we won tonight," Everett said.
"Whenever you can get two-out hits and come through like we did
tonight, it's nice. Yesterday, things fell apart on us at the end
so it was good to come back like this tonight."

Belisle retired the first 11 Astros batters and allowed only
three balls out of the infield before Berkman hit a two-out single
to left field in the fourth inning. Morgan Ensberg walked and Mike
Lamb's roller past shortstop scored Berkman.

The run ensured the Astros wouldn't be shut out again. They lead
the majors with nine shutout losses.

"I was a little off tonight," Belisle said. "I made some
adjustments but I struggled with my location. Overall I pitched
pretty good, just not good enough."

Belisle got his first major league hit in the second inning to
load the bases with two outs. Adam Dunn walked and Jason LaRue
singled to deep third base before Belisle hit a liner off Backe for
a hit. Ryan Freel then flew out to end the threat.

The Reds took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Felipe Lopez beat out
an infield hit that extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Griffey then hit a first-pitch homer over the right field fence. It
was Griffey's 509th career homer, two behind Mel Ott for 18th place
on the all-time.

Game notes
The Reds have come from behind to win 11 times this season
but they're only 1-26 when trailing after seven innings. ... Reds
pitchers have allowed at least one homer in 41 of their 52 games.
... Cincinnati reliever Todd Coffey hasn't allowed a run in his
last five appearances, spanning seven innings. ... Casey has hit
safely in eight straight games. ... The Reds are 6-17 on the road.