Houston at Chicago

Chi. Cubs
W: E. Astacio (3-6) L: C. Zambrano (14-6)
HR: HOU - C. Biggio (24), L. Berkman (21)   CHC - N. Garciaparra (8)

Astros get boost from Clemens' replacement, extend wild-card lead

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports

CHICAGO -- Roger Clemens couldn't have done it much better.

Ezequiel Astacio, starting in place of the injured ace, allowed four hits in six innings Saturday, and the Houston Astros preserved their lead in the NL wild-card race with an 8-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Craig Biggio matched his career high with his 24th homer, a solo shot in the first inning, and drove in another run, and Lance Berkman also homered. It was the ninth win in 11 games for Houston, which extended its lead to two games over Philadelphia in the wild-card race.

"I feel happy because I won, but more because the team won and we needed to win," said Astacio, who got his first victory since Aug. 3.

The Astros also moved five games ahead of Florida after the Marlins' 6-1 loss at Atlanta.

"We've got to take care of our own business. If we don't do that, we could be sitting at home in a few weeks," Biggio said.

Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer for the Cubs, who were officially eliminated with the loss. Carlos Zambrano (14-6) gave up six runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, snapping his career-best, six-game winning streak.

"They're playing hard, we just didn't play good defense," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "You can't give runs away in the major leagues, even at the end of the season. You have to play to win every day, and our defense didn't do that."

Astacio was tapped to start after Clemens was scratched Friday with a sore left hamstring. Clemens, who won his record seventh Cy Young award last year at 42 and is leading the majors with a 1.89 ERA this season, has been bothered by the injury all month and the Astros decided it would be better to give him some extra rest in case they make the postseason.

Astacio (3-6) hadn't started since Sept. 2 and had pitched only one inning in each of his last four outings, but he looked sharp against Chicago.

"I didn't put any pressure on myself," Astacio said. "It had been awhile since I started, so I was more calm on the mound. That way I could stay there longer."

Astacio allowed three runs, struck out three and walked two. He limited the Cubs to two hits and Corey Patterson's sac fly RBI through the first five innings, retiring nine of 11 batters at one point.

But the Cubs got to him in the sixth. Neifi Perez led off with a single up the middle and one out later, Garciaparra sent the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence and onto Waveland Avenue. The homer was Garciaparra's eighth of the year, and pulled the Cubs within 4-3.

The Astros put away the game with a three-run seventh, though, getting some help from the elements. Willy Taveras led off with a single and, one out later, scored on a triple by Morgan Ensberg. It actually looked as if it would be a routine flyout, but rain had started a few minutes earlier and Patterson slipped and fell on the wet dirt when he backed up to make the catch.

The ball bounced in front of Patterson, allowing Taveras to score and Ensberg to get to third. The game was halted shortly after that for 1½ hours, but the Astros picked up where they left off when it resumed. They loaded the bases with two walks off reliever Will Ohman, scored one run on Jose Vizcaino's RBI single and another on a wild pitch by Ohman.

"Astacio did a good job today. A real good job today," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "Astacio kept them down and he kept us in the ballgame, and then we broke it open. ... We've been saying it all along, if we take care of business, we don't have to worry about the other teams."


  • Biggio also hit 24 homers last season.
  • Ensberg and Vizcaino each had a pair of RBI.
  • Derrek Lee went 0-for-4, only the eighth time in 36 games he's failed to get at least one hit.
  • Astros manager Phil Garner said he doesn't expect Clemens to miss any other starts, which would mean Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt are in line to start the last three games of the regular season.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Filling in for Roger Clemens, Ezequiel Astacio allows three runs and four hits over six innings. (AP)
Filling in for Roger Clemens, Ezequiel Astacio allows three runs and four hits over six innings. (AP)

Players of the Game

N. Garciaparra
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1

C. Biggio
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1

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Houston Astros
Willy Taveras, CF4220000 .291
Craig Biggio, 2B3122101 .266
Morgan Ensberg, 3B5132011 .281
Lance Berkman, LF-1B3211203 .300
Mike Lamb, 1B4010012 .234
    Adam Everett, SS1000012 .250
Jason Lane, RF4110111 .265
Jose Vizcaino, SS3012001 .247
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
    Mike Gallo, P0000000 .000
   a- Jeff Bagwell, PH1000010 .255
    Mike Burns, P0000000 .000
Brad Ausmus, C5000024 .262
Ezequiel Astacio, P3000021 .143
    Chris Burke, LF1110000 .242
a-struck out for Gallo in the 9th
2B - Craig Biggio (38, Wellemeyer), Morgan Ensberg (29, Zambrano), Jason Lane (33, Zambrano)
3B - Morgan Ensberg (3, Zambrano)
HR - Craig Biggio (24, Zambrano), Lance Berkman (21, Zambrano)
SH - Willy Taveras (5), Craig Biggio (4), Jose Vizcaino (1)
RBI - Craig Biggio 2 (66), Morgan Ensberg 2 (99), Lance Berkman (77), Jose Vizcaino 2 (23)
2-OUT RBI - Morgan Ensberg (41), Lance Berkman (32), Jose Vizcaino (9)
SB - Lance Berkman (4, 2nd base off Ohman/Barrett)
Team LOB - 9
Houston Astros
Ezequiel Astacio (W,3-6) 6433231 5.67
Chad Qualls 1000010 3.32
Mike Gallo 1000010 2.25
Mike Burns 1000010 4.94
Pitches-Strikes - Ezequiel Astacio 81-46, Chad Qualls 8-6, Mike Gallo 10-8, Mike Burns 7-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ezequiel Astacio 9-6, Chad Qualls 1-1, Mike Gallo 2-0, Mike Burns 2-0
Batters Faced - Ezequiel Astacio 24, Chad Qualls 3, Mike Gallo 3, Mike Burns 3
Chicago Cubs
Jose Macias, 2B4000010 .271
Neifi Perez, SS4110000 .278
Derrek Lee, 1B4000011 .339
Nomar Garciaparra, 3B4122000 .272
Jeromy Burnitz, RF3100111 .260
Michael Barrett, C4010021 .277
Matt Murton, LF2000111 .319
Corey Patterson, CF2001000 .220
Carlos Zambrano, P2000002 .295
    Will Ohman, P0000000 .000
   a- Ryan Theriot, PH1000000 .250
    Todd Wellemeyer, P0000000 .250
a-grounded out for Ohman in the 7th
HR - Nomar Garciaparra (8, Astacio)
SF - Corey Patterson (1)
RBI - Nomar Garciaparra 2 (27), Corey Patterson (32)
Team LOB - 3
Chicago Cubs
Carlos Zambrano (L,14-6) 6.1966142 3.33
Will Ohman 0.2111210 3.10
Todd Wellemeyer 2211140 6.12
IBB - Berkman by Todd Wellemeyer
WP - Carlos Zambrano (7), Will Ohman (6)
Pitches-Strikes - Carlos Zambrano 94-61, Will Ohman 32-19, Todd Wellemeyer 42-24
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Carlos Zambrano 9-7, Will Ohman 1-0, Todd Wellemeyer 2-0
Batters Faced - Carlos Zambrano 30, Will Ohman 5, Todd Wellemeyer 9
Game Information
Attendance - 39263
Game Time - 2:34
Temperature - 69
Umpires - Home - Larry Poncino, First Base - Paul Nauert, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Mark Wegner