Astros defeat Cubs' Wood for third time this year

HOUSTON (AP) -- Kerry Wood thought he had his good stuff. It
didn't matter to the Houston Astros.

One night after Houston managed only four hits, Craig Biggio hit
a two-run homer and the Astros beat Wood for the third time this
season with a 9-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.

The NL Central-leading Astros took two of three in a key series
against the Cubs, who dropped 1{ games out of first place. Houston
finished with 16 hits, one short of its season high.

Wood (11-10) lost for the fourth time in five decisions. He
lasted only four innings and left trailing 5-0.

"I had as good stuff as I have all year," Wood said. "It was
like they knew what was coming. I still went out and made the
pitches and my velocity was pretty good."

Ron Villone (5-2) threw five solid innings and benefited from
Houston's early offense.

"It wasn't a huge series, there is so much baseball left,"
Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said. "It wasn't an overwhelming amount
of pressure but it was the last chance, the last chance we have, to
go against the Cubs. It's nice to beat a team you know is going to
be there at the end."

Wood allowed six hits, walked two and struck out five -- boosting
his major league-leading strikeout total to 208. He has reached 200
strikeouts four times in his five big league seasons.

"I just got beat tonight," Wood said. "I felt pretty good
with the stuff I had today but they hit it. Even on the Biggio home
run, it was a good pitch, a slider down and away. We should beat
this team. I had a chance to get it done and didn't give the team
that chance to win."

The Cubs, who had 12 hits in Wednesday's 6-0 victory, managed
seven in the final game of the season series.

"There is no logical reason for us hitting him well," Ausmus
said. "He certainly has dominated us in the past."

The Astros jumped on Wood quickly. Geoff Blum singled and
Richard Hidalgo doubled to open the second inning. A sacrifice fly
by Ausmus and a wild pitch by Wood gave the Astros a 2-0 lead.

Jeff Bagwell had an RBI single in the third inning, and Biggio's
12th homer in the fourth gave Houston a 5-0 lead.

"I would love for the last week of the season to be playing the
Cardinals and the Cubs," Bagwell said. "That being said, I'm not
going to miss the Cubs' pitching staff."

The Astros got five straight hits to start the fifth inning off
Dave Veres and took an 8-1 lead on an RBI double by Hidalgo, a
run-scoring single by Ausmus and a wild pitch by Veres.

Chicago scored on Doug Glanville's sacrifice fly in the fifth
inning and a two-run double by Moises Alou in the ninth.

"It is what it is, we're a game and a half back and still in
pretty good shape," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It's
disappointing, but you're one game out in the loss column. You have
to buckle back up and get ready for the next series and go into
Arizona and put this behind us."

Villone escaped a jam in the second inning when the Cubs loaded
the bases on a single by Alou and walks to Aramis Ramirez and Eric

Ramon Martinez followed with a fly to right fielder Hidalgo,
whose throw held Alou at third. Damian Miller then hit into a
double play to end the inning.

Villone allowed three hits, one run, struck out five and walked
three. Rick White pitched two scoreless innings, and Dan Miceli
finished up.

Adam Everett added an RBI groundout for Houston in the eighth.

Game notes
The Cubs won the season series from the Astros (9-7) for
the first time since 1992. ... The Cubs (65-61) need two victories
to equal their total for all of last year. ... Wood is ninth on the
Cubs' career strikeout list with 1,007. ... Glanville has a
214-game errorless streak in the outfield. His last error came in
August 2001 with Philadelphia. ... Biggio's homer snapped an
0-for-14 skid. ... The Astros activated infielder Jose Vizcaino
from the 15-day disabled list after he recovered from a broken bone
in his left hand. ... Houston closer Billy Wagner has pitched 20
2-3 scoreless innings over his last 19 appearances and has
converted 13 straight saves.