HOUSTON --The starter pitched well, the batters got timely hits and Brad Lidge finished off an opponent in the ninth.
That's how the Houston Astros won games last season and they're doing it again in time for another late surge toward the playoffs.
Craig Biggio homered and Andy Pettitte struck out five in seven solid innings Thursday night as the Astros won their season-high sixth straight game and completed a three-game sweep of the Brewers with a 5-3 victory.
"We got contributions from everybody, just doing enough," said Biggio. "It's just nice to start playing well again, playing well as a team."
Willy Taveras, Brad Ausmus and Lance Berkman added RBI for the defending NL champions, who have won six in a row heading into a weekend series with the New York Mets.
"Every game is extremely important and we've been playing it like that for the last couple of weeks," said Pettitte.
Pettitte (13-13) won his second straight start, allowing five hits with a walk. Doug Davis (9-9) took the loss after giving up six hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Milwaukee manager Ned Yost and first baseman Jeff Cirillo were ejected in the first inning as the Brewers lost their season-high seventh straight road game.
Prince Fielder replaced Cirillo and snapped out of an 0-for-17 slump with an RBI single off Pettitte and a two-out solo homer in the eighth off Dan Wheeler. The Astros' set-up man hadn't allowed a run since June 24, a span of 20 appearances and 17 1/3 innings.
But Wheeler struck out Bill Hall to end the inning and Lidge shut out Milwaukee in the ninth, earning his 100th career save and his 28th in 33 appearances this season.
"It definitely feels great," Lidge said of his milestone. "I know it's early in my career, but when you do it in a win, it's obviously the best feeling there is."
The Brewers, meanwhile, haven't won a road game since Aug. 18 and this bad night away from home started when Brady Clark grounded out leading off the game and got into a shouting match with first-base umpire Tim Timmons. Clark was clearly out, but the two had a heated exchange as first-base coach Dave Nelson held Clark back and Yost ran out of the dugout to argue.
After Tony Graffanino's fly out, Cirillo grounded to Biggio, the second baseman, and Timmons called Cirillo out on a close play. Cirillo slammed his helmet down and yelled at Timmons as Yost sprinted out again. Timmons ejected both of them.
Timmons refused to comment after the game, but Cirillo had plenty to say.
"I didn't know what was going on with Brady and them," he said. "And then when Brady grounded out, he (Timmons) stared at him and punched him out aggressively.
"On my play, I would hate to think that he would sacrifice his job performance on a personal issue," Cirillo said. "I mean, I give everyone the benefit of the doubt unless it's something that was totally blatant."
The Brewers regrouped in the third with the help of an Astros' error.
Damian Miller singled leading off and Clark grounded to third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who made a bad throw to Biggio trying to start a double play. Graffanino then fouled off six straight 3-2 pitches from Pettitte before drilling an RBI single to right, ending a 13-inning scoreless streak for Milwaukee.
Fielder followed with a single to right to score Clark.
Pettitte helped himself in the Astros' third, singling to right, the first hit off Davis. Pettitte went to second on Taveras' bunt and score on Berkman's single to left.
Pettitte retired nine in a row after Fielder's hit and Davis retired nine of the next 11 batters he faced after Pettitte's hit.
Chris Burke opened the seventh with a single up the middle to spark the Astros' rally. Ausmus, batting .500 in his last five games, then ripped a double down the left-field line to tie the game.
Aubrey Huff, who won Wednesday's game with a bases-loaded ground out in the ninth inning, pinch hit for Pettitte and flew out to deep center, allowing Ausmus to tag up to third.
With the infield drawn in, Taveras hit a high bouncer over third baseman David Bell, his first hit since his 30-game hitting streak ended on Tuesday night.
Rick Helling replaced Davis after that and Biggio hammered a 3-2 pitch into the left-field porch, his 18th homer of the season.
|Willy Taveras (right) congratulates Craig Biggio after Biggio homers in the seventh inning. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Brady Clark, CF||4||1||0||0||0||1||0||.267|
|Tony Graffanino, 2B||4||0||1||1||0||0||0||.272|
|Jeff Cirillo, 1B-DH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.338|
|Prince Fielder, 1B||3||1||2||2||0||0||0||.275|
|Bill Hall, SS||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||.268|
|Corey Hart, RF||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||.280|
|Kevin Mench, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||2||.273|
|David Bell, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.269|
|Damian Miller, C||2||1||1||0||1||0||0||.250|
|a- Geoff Jenkins, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.249|
|Doug Davis, P||3||0||0||0||0||3||3||.055|
|Rick Helling, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-grounded out for D. Miller in the 9th|
|2B - Kevin Mench (21, Lidge)|
|HR - Prince Fielder (24, Wheeler)|
|RBI - Tony Graffanino (44), Prince Fielder 2 (68)|
|2-OUT RBI - Prince Fielder (31)|
|SB - Corey Hart (5, 2nd base off Pettitte/Ausmus)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Graffanino-Hall-Fielder|
|E - Kevin Mench (2, )|
|Doug Davis (L,9-9)||6.2||6||4||4||3||2||0||5.18|
|Pitches-Strikes - Doug Davis 98-62, Rick Helling 22-15|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Doug Davis 9-8, Rick Helling 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Doug Davis 28, Rick Helling 5|
|Willy Taveras, CF||2||1||1||1||1||0||0||.281|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||4||1||1||2||0||0||3||.257|
|Dan Wheeler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Brad Lidge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Lance Berkman, 1B||4||0||1||1||0||0||1||.308|
|Jason Lane, RF-LF||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.211|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||0||0||.230|
|Chris Burke, LF-2B||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.286|
|Adam Everett, SS||1||0||0||0||1||0||1||.241|
|Brad Ausmus, C||3||1||2||1||0||0||1||.234|
|Andy Pettitte, P||2||1||1||0||0||1||1||.231|
|a- Aubrey Huff, PH-RF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.271|
|a-flied out for Pettitte in the 7th|
|2B - Willy Taveras (17, Davis), Brad Ausmus (14, Davis)|
|HR - Craig Biggio (18, Helling)|
|SH - Willy Taveras (9), Adam Everett (7)|
|RBI - Willy Taveras (30), Craig Biggio 2 (49), Lance Berkman (111), Brad Ausmus (33)|
|2-OUT RBI - Willy Taveras (15), Craig Biggio 2 (18), Lance Berkman (31)|
|Team LOB - 4|
|DP - Ensberg-Biggio-Berkman|
|E - Morgan Ensberg (12, )|
|Andy Pettitte (W,13-13)||7||5||2||1||1||5||0||4.44|
|Dan Wheeler (H,22)||1||1||1||1||0||2||1||2.70|
|Brad Lidge (S,28)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||5.08|
|IBB - D. Miller by Andy Pettitte|
|Pitches-Strikes - Andy Pettitte 110-74, Dan Wheeler 23-16, Brad Lidge 8-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Andy Pettitte 7-9, Brad Lidge 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Andy Pettitte 27, Dan Wheeler 4, Brad Lidge 4|
|Attendance - 36438|
|Game Time - 2:47|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Travis Reininger, First Base - Tim Timmons, Second Base - Derryl Cousins, Third Base - Rob Drake|