Homer neutralizes Beltran's two, wins series

CHICAGO (AP) -- Carlos Beltran did all he could to keep the
Houston Astros in the game. Then Sammy Sosa sent the Chicago Cubs
home with a victory.

Beltran homered from both sides of the plate to help the Astros
rally from a 4-0 deficit, but Sosa drove one out against Brad Lidge
in the 10th to give the Cubs a 5-4 win Thursday.

"Houston pitched me great and they didn't make that many
mistakes. This guy throws 98 mph, so I just said to myself, `Let me
go up there and get ready," Sosa said.

Sosa's long homer to left on the first pitch from Lidge (2-4)
was his 13th of the season and the 552nd of his career.

"It was right down the middle and he crushed it. In that kind
of a situation you can't make a mistake and unfortunately I did and
he got it," Lidge said.

It was Sosa's third homer since coming off the disabled list 13
games ago, a back injury brought on by a hard sneeze.

"I never doubted I was going to come back and help the team the
way they want me to help," Sosa said. "Be patient because I'm not
going to do it every day. But I'll be there."

And so will Beltran, who finished with four homers in the
three-game series while extending his hitting streak to a
career-best 15 games.

In six games with Houston, he's been every bit as good as the
Astros could have imagined when they traded to get him from the

"He's awesome, a good player," Sosa said. "Every chance he
had to come through in the clutch, he did it. He has a good future
there in Houston."

Jon Leicester (2-0) worked a hitless 10th for the win and was
able to retire Beltran on a fly ball with a runner on first.

Chicago's Mark Prior pitched 7 1-3 solid innings in his longest
outing of the season, leaving with two on in the eighth and a 4-1

After Craig Biggio doubled and Mike Lamb walked in the eighth,
Cubs manager Dusty Baker brought in lefty Kent Mercker to face the
switch-hitting Beltran, whose first three homers of the series came
batting left-handed.

Turning Beltran around didn't make any difference. He sent
Mercker's first pitch high over the fence in left to tie the game
at 4 and deny Prior a victory.

"I ruined it for Mark with one pitch," Mercker said.

In his sixth start of the season, Prior retired 12 straight at
one point before Beltran hit his first homer to make it 4-1.

"He's good. We don't know a whole lot about him," Prior said.
"The guy can hit. After we see him more in the National League,
we'll get a better idea where -- if there are any -- weak spots."

Pete Munro, starting for Houston because Wade Miller went on the
disabled list earlier this week, left after giving up three runs in
the fourth inning. Munro was touched for four runs and six hits,
including a key RBI triple by Michael Barrett.

The Cubs also got RBI singles from Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez
and Rey Ordonez.

Game notes
Houston 2B Jeff Kent missed his second straight game since
leaving Tuesday night's series opener with a strained hamstring.
... The Astros will start Roy Oswalt against the Rangers on Friday
instead of Jeremy Griffiths, called up from Triple-A New Orleans
when Miller was placed on the DL. Griffiths goes Saturday against
Texas in the interleague series. ... The Cubs play a three-game
rematch with the crosstown White Sox this weekend at Wrigley Field.
The White Sox won two of three last weekend in their home park,
then swept three games in Minnesota to take over first place in the
AL Central. ... In a rare play, the Cubs caught Morgan Ensberg off
first after he singled to start the ninth, and catcher Barrett ran
all the way out to the basepath to tag him out.