HOUSTON – Craig Biggio hit his National League-record 43rd leadoff homer and Brandon Backe had his best outing since returning from the disabled list in the Houston Astros’ 7-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Astros won their fourth straight to stay a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race. The Phillies routed Florida 10-2.

Biggio, leading off for only the 10th time this season, connected off Wes Obermueller (1-4). Biggio also had a leadoff homer May 12 against San Francisco and has 22 home runs overall this season.

Backe (9-8) made his third start since returning Sept. 7 and got his first victory since July 18 at Pittsburgh. He pitched 6 2-3 innings, allowing six hits, walking one and striking out five.

Mike Gallo finished the seventh after Backe hit consecutive batters. Russ Springer pitched the eighth and Ezequiel Astacio worked the ninth to preserve the shutout.

Wes Obermueller (1-4) lasted only four innings. He allowed five runs, four of them earned, on eight hits and two walks. Obermueller fell to 1-3 on the road this season and hasn’t won an away game since May 17 at Washington.

Jose Vizcaino added an RBI single for Houston in the first, and Orlando Palmeiro singled in another run in the second to make it 3-0. Vizcaino’s second RBI single and Brad Ausmus’ sacrifice fly made it 5-0 in the third inning.

In the sixth inning with Biggio on third and Lance Berkman on first, reliever Justin Lehr appeared to pick off Berkman on first. But third-base umpire Mike Reilly called a balk on Lehr, scoring Biggio and sending Berkman to second.

Jason Lane followed with a run-scoring double to give Houston a 7-0 lead.

Notes: Houston’s Morgan Ensberg made his first appearance since injuring his wrist Sept. 5 when he was hit by a pitch from Philadelphia’s Brett Myers. Ensberg pinch hit in the seventh inning and beat out an infield single.

AP-ES-09-17-05 2204EDT

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