CINCINNATI - One inning, four pitches, three home runs; that was more than enough for the streaking Houston Astros.
Jeff Kent homered twice and the Astros hit three straight in the fifth inning Tuesday night to help them beat the Reds 8-0 for their fifth straight win and eighth in nine games.
Carlos Beltran, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman hit consecutive home runs for the Astros, who pulled within three games of the Cubs for the wild-card lead. Former Devil Rays reliever Brandon Backe scattered three hits over six shutout innings to win for the first time in three career starts. He pitched seven shutout innings in a no-decision against Chicago in his first career start Aug. 21.
The Reds got one runner past second base against Backe. Barry Larkin went to third on Sean Casey's two-out double in the sixth, but Backe struck out Adam Dunn looking to end the threat.
"I had already gotten him out twice," Backe said. "On 3-2, I threw him a backdoor slider. First base was open, so I wasn't going to leave it in the middle of the plate. He was either going to take it for a ball, take it for a strike or swing through it."
MARLINS 5, METS 0: Josh Beckett pitched a six-hitter for his first regular-season shutout and Juan Pierre hit a two-run single to lead visiting Florida to its fifth consecutive victory. The Marlins took advantage of a career-high seven walks by former Devil Ray Steve Trachsel, who lost his fourth straight start. Beckett drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk and Paul Lo Duca had a run-scoring single.
GIANTS 9, ROCKIES 5: Yorvit Torrealba and Marquis Grissom homered, and Ray Durham hit a tiebreaking three-run double to lead host San Francisco. The Giants moved into a virtual tie with the Cubs for the wild-card lead.
DODGERS 4, D'BACKS 1 (13): Steve Finley hit a three-run double in the 13th inning in his return to Arizona, lifting Los Angeles. Finley also homered off Randy Johnson as he faced Arizona for the first time since the Diamondbacks traded him July 31. Alex Cintron tied it with a sacrifice fly in the eighth after Los Angeles starter Jeff Weaver hit pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga with a pitch leading off.
EXPOS 8, CUBS 0: Livan Hernandez allowed three hits in eight scoreless innings, and Brad Wilkerson and Maicer Izturis homered for host Montreal. Hernandez also had two hits for the Expos.
CARDINALS 9, PADRES 3: Jim Edmonds homered twice, giving him seven in six games for host St. Louis. Albert Pujols and Edgar Renteria homered and had three hits each for the Central leader.
BRAVES 5, PHILLIES 3: Former Crystal River standout Mike Hampton pitched two-hit ball over eight innings and Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer for visiting Atlanta. The Braves went 20-8 in August, marking their second 20-win August since moving to Atlanta from Milwaukee after the 1965 season.
BREWERS 4, PIRATES 2: Host Milwaukee snapped a 12-game losing streak and avoided the worst month in franchise history.