Brad Ausmus said his key hit yesterday made the Houston Astros' recent surge that much sweeter.

Ausmus snapped an eighth-inning tie with an RBI single to give the Astros their seventh win in eight games. They have won 16 of 20 to reach the all-star break at 44-43, which is reminiscent of their 36-10 finish to win the wild-card spot last season.

"It was a great feeling to get the game-winning hit," said Ausmus, who went 11 for 30 (.367) the last eight games to raise his average to .241. "It would be in any game, but it was especially great because of the way we've been playing lately.

"To be over .500 right now, to me that's just as remarkable as the run we had last year. It just shows you how resilient this team is."

Astros Manager Phil Garner agreed, recalling that the team was 15 games under .500 on May 24.

"This is a good way to go into the break," Garner said. "It makes you feel good about yourself. And today's win was really big for the way we came back. We have gotten close on a couple of big comebacks before but not quite made it. Wins like this really help your confidence."

* GILES STAYS HOT: Brian Giles has been the San Diego Padres' most efficient table-setter and run producer in the first half of the season.

"This all comes from staying within myself and contributing the way I can," said Giles, who leads the team with 58 runs scored and 49 RBI. "I have to stay disciplined, stay within my strike zone, and if I get a good pitch, take a good swing on it."

Giles was 1 for 3 yesterday with a triple, three RBI and two walks and improved his on-base percentage to .429. He has reached base in 23 of 24 games and leads the majors with 71 walks.

* LEFTY-LESS DODGERS: With Kelly Wunsch sidelined for the season by an ankle injury, the Dodgers are without a left-handed reliever. Wilson Alvarez, on the DL with left shoulder tendinitis, threw a one-inning, 27-pitch rehabilitation assignment at Class AAA Las Vegas on Saturday and is the logical candidate to come up after the all-star break.

But Manager Jim Tracy said that is still to be determined. "We'll evaluate him [today] and see where he's at," Tracy said. "We won't bring him up just to have a left-hander if he's not ready."

* PETTITTE WORKS OUT: Andy Pettitte, who left his last start Wednesday with left elbow tightness, threw an elongated bullpen session and said he felt fine and likely would be able to make his next start at St. Louis on Friday.

-- From News Services