CHICAGO (AP) -- Trailing by a run with the bases loaded and only one out, the Houston Astros were confident they'd pull this one out like they have so many other times this year.
They were wrong.Derrek Lee helped the Chicago Cubs play spoiler Friday, making an impressive defensive play to stall Houston's rally and preserve a 5-4 victory over the NL wild-card leaders. Lee also was 3-for-3 with an RBI at the plate.Ryan Dempster got his 30th save and Nomar Garciaparra drove in a pair of runs for the Cubs, who handed the Astros their second loss in the last 10 games."We had a chance, but we didn't execute well and that's why we lost," Jose Vizcaino said. "We're still confident. We just have to come back tomorrow and learn from our mistakes."Philadelphia rallied for an 11-10 victory over Cincinnati on Friday night, cutting the Astros' lead in the wild-card standings to one game. Houston remained four games in front of Florida, which lost 4-3 to Atlanta on Friday night."We weren't going to win the rest of them," said Lance Berkman, who was 2-for-5 with an RBI. "Nobody expected us to go 9-0 over the last nine games. It would have been nice, but these guys are getting paid to play, just like we are. They're a tough team. We certainly have our hands full. We just have to regroup and come back tomorrow."But they'll have to do it without Roger Clemens. The Astros' ace was scratched from Saturday's start with a strained left hamstring that has been bothering him since Sept. 3. Ezequiel Astacio will start in his place."We just need a good performance," manager Phil Garner said. "Nine shutout innings would be nice."So would some timely offense.The Astros trailed 5-1 after four innings before they finally started clicking, thanks to Craig Biggio and a defensive gaffe by Corey Patterson.Biggio, who hit a solo homer in the third inning, got things started with an RBI double in the fifth. Berkman hit an RBI single one out later and advanced to second on a single by Jason Lane.Chris Burke then hit what looked like a playable pop to shallow center field. Patterson sprinted in to get the ball, but it hit his mitt and fell to the ground for an error, allowing Berkman to score to pull the Astros within 5-4.The Astros loaded the bases with only one out in the eighth when Scott Williamson plunked pinch-hitter Jeff Bagwell on the forearm."We had a couple of chances. We couldn't get a run across the plate, but we got back in the ballgame," Garner said. "We did a good job fighting to get back into the ballgame. It looked like we were going to turn it and win it."Roberto Novoa relieved Williamson, and Vizcaino hit a grounder to Lee. The first baseman grabbed the ball and rifled it home to catcher Michael Barrett to beat a sliding Charles Gipson.Novoa then struck out Willy Taveras to end the threat. Dempster gave up a single to Biggio but struck out Mike Lamb to end the game and get his 30th save in 32 chances."The bullpen did a great job. They deserve the win today for holding those guys down," said starter Glendon Rusch, who allowed four runs -- three earned -- and nine hits in five innings to even his record at 8-8.Wandy Rodriguez (10-9) gave up five runs and eight hits in just four innings, his shortest start since going five innings Aug. 30."I wouldn't say he pitched poorly, I'd say that they did a good job of putting the ball in play," Garner said. "They are a good hitting team. They're going to get some hits on you."They didn't waste any time doing it, either, tagging Rodriguez for three runs in the first inning. Todd Walker singled and then advanced to third on Lee's double off the wall in center. Walker strained his right knee between second and third and was replaced by Jose Macias, who scored on Garciaparra's single.Jeromy Burnitz followed with an RBI grounder, and Barrett hit a run-scoring double to make it 3-0. Rodriguez finally got out of the inning when Patterson struck out swinging, but the Cubs tacked on two more runs in the fourth."We swung the bats well today all the way through the lineup," said Lee, who improved his batting average to an NL-best .341. "We got hits at the right time."
Tests showed Walker has no ligament damage, and he's listed as day-to-day. ... Dempster is the eighth Cubs closer with 30 or more saves in a season. ... Berkman, who has 14 walks in the last 10 games, didn't draw any freebies Friday. ... Rodriguez has lost both his starts at Wrigley Field this season.