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HOU@ARI: Collmenter hurls seven frames vs. Astros

PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter's spot in the rotation may not have been on the line Wednesday night, but first place in the National League West was and the D-backs right-hander came up big.

Collmenter tossed seven strong innings to help the D-backs leapfrog the Giants into first place with a 6-3 win over the Astros at Chase Field.

The victory, combined with the Giants' 9-2 loss to the Pirates, put the D-backs a half-game ahead of San Francisco. It's the first time they've led the division since June 24 and it is the latest they've been in first place since Sept. 5, 2008.

The D-backs have picked up five games on the Giants since July 20 as San Francisco has dropped 10 of its last 13 games.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson downplayed any first-place talk after the game, as did his players, who realize there are still 45 games left on the schedule.

"It's obviously nice to be in a position where we're in a race here, but we're not going to get to excited about being in first place right now," shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. "Talk to me in late September. Then I'll start getting excited. Still a lot of baseball to be played. We just have to keep playing the way we're capable of playing."

After back-to-back poor starts in which he allowed 11 runs over six innings, there was speculation that Collmenter (7-7) could be in jeopardy of losing his job, but Gibson said that was not the case.

"He did what he had to do," Gibson said. "There was a question [asked about] why he deserved to be in the starting rotation still and I think he showed everybody why. And more importantly, our bullpen was beat up bad from the previous games and he threw seven strong innings and kind of allowed us to get our bullpen in better condition for the future."

Collmenter had better fastball command and also utilized his curveball more than usual dropping it over for strikes early in the count.

"It was big for me confidence a little bit, but [more] just to get back on track and give our team a good start and kind of get us some momentum," Collmenter said. "Especially with the Giants losing today and reeling as of late, we need to take advantage of that, so I wanted to make sure that I went out and took care of business got myself on track and hopefully set up the team as we continue forward."

Collmenter allowed two runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.

"It's picking up his ball," Astros shortstop Clint Barmes said, referring to Collmenter's deceptively unique delivery that is more over the top than most pitchers. "He gets to the top of the strike zone and he's got a good plane out of his hand to the catcher. All of us really battled to get on top of him, and he was beating us with his fastball a lot of the times. That was our big battle and we were able to have one big inning, but it just wasn't big enough."

The D-backs provided Collmenter with an early cushion when they jumped on Astros starter Henry Sosa, who was making his Major League debut, for three runs in the first inning.

Bloomquist started the Arizona offense with a leadoff homer and Paul Goldschmidt capped the scoring in the first with a two-out, two-run single to left.

The Astros cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth on RBI singles from Barmes and Humberto Quintero, but it could have been worse as they had runners at first and third with no one out before Collmenter worked out of things without any further damage.

The D-backs answered in the bottom of the of the fifth when Chris Young followed a Justin Upton double with one of his own to put Arizona up 4-2, and the D-backs added an insurance run in the seventh and got an RBI triple from Gerardo Parra in the eighth. Comments