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ARI@HOU: Nady rips a go-ahead double in the eighth

HOUSTON -- The Arizona Diamondbacks are in first place.

A 6-1 road trip that concluded with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon over the Astros at Minute Maid Park has vaulted the D-backs past the Giants and into the top spot in the National League West by a half-game.

"I've said all along it's a pretty talented group," infielder/outfielder Xavier Nady said. "And when you start playing well it goes a long way and really gets guys believing in themselves, and you dig deeper and find out what you're made of. It's a good road trip, obviously, and hopefully we continue playing well."

Nady was the latest in a string of heroes for the D-backs. It was his two-run double in the eighth inning that gave the D-backs their first lead of the day.

Given the way Nady's first two at-bats of the day went, the fact that he would wind up the hero was about as unlikely as the D-backs being in first place after they were almost in last just a few weeks ago.

"[Nady] was really the main culprit in the first inning, and came back and got the big hit," manager Kirk Gibson said.

Nady came to the plate in the first inning with just one out and the bases loaded. Houston starter J.A. Happ had walked the three batters in front of him and seemed to be on the ropes. Nady, however, struck out after not having a good at-bat -- as did Juan Miranda behind him -- and Happ wiggled out of trouble.

That seemed to embolden the left-hander, as he held the D-backs to just one hit through five innings.

Nady, meanwhile, struck out looking in his second at-bat, and lined out to right in his third.

"I felt like, my third at-bat, I had a good swing," Nady said. "My second at-bat, I was seeing the ball a little better."

Meanwhile, Gibson worked to keep Nady's spirits up.

"The first at-bat, bases loaded, he strikes out," Gibson said. "He strikes out the second time and I walked by and said, 'Keep your head up. Keep grinding.'"

By the time Nady's fourth at-bat rolled around, Gibson was back in his office, having been ejected in the fourth inning, and the D-backs were trailing, 2-1, with runners at first and second following an intentional walk to Chris Young.

Bench coach Alan Trammell, serving as manager in Gibson's absence, elected to let Nady face reliever Jeff Fulchino rather than pinch-hit with the left-handed-hitting Kelly Johnson or Stephen Drew. It was a move that Gibson heartily endorsed.

"That's a no-brainer," Gibson said. "You give Nady that opportunity right there to redeem himself. I just feel that's how you build character, how you build teams."

In this case, it was how you win a game, as Nady lined a fastball into right to score a pair of runs and give Arizona a 3-2 lead.

"I was just looking fastball, trying to get a good pitch to hit," Nady said. "When they intentionally walk [Young] in front of you, it kind of fires you up. I just wanted to have a good at-bat, and fortunately enough, I had a good baserunner at first base who scored, so it was good."

"I think [Fulchino] was trying to go down and away," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "It got elevated maybe a little bit."

Miranda then followed with an RBI single to give the D-backs a 4-2 cushion.

J.J. Putz closed things out in the ninth to earn his 16th save in as many chances.

The postgame celebration was more raucous than your usual May 29 victory. Gibson was the first person Trammell saw when he got back to the clubhouse.

"He walks up the steps and he says, 'I've been carrying you for 30 years,'" Gibson said of his longtime teammate.

However, while the D-backs are plenty excited about having won six straight, 12 out of their last 13 and 14 of 16, they know not to get too carried away.

Gibson already has extra fundamental work planned for this week when the team returns home to play the Marlins and Nationals.

"This team was 20-8 in 2008 in April, and it's been bad since then," Gibson said. "There are no guarantees. Nothing will ever be easy in this game. These guys deserve all the credit in the world. They feel good about themselves. We just need to remain humble. We'll go to work this homestand. We'll just keep seeking out and searching to become better and better, and be able to handle more situations that are ahead of us."

For now, at least, there are no teams ahead of them in the NL West.

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