CHICAGO -- As a pitcher and also as a hitter, Roy Oswalt got rid of the rust quickly.
"Oswalt is Oswalt. I don't care what day it is. He's not won all those games by luck," the Cubs' Matt Murton added.
Oswalt (6-3), who'd been on the DL with a strained back and hadn't pitched since May 29, allowed eight hits and three runs in six innings. It was the right-hander's first win in his last six starts, dating back to his last win on May 3, a stretch that had included two losses and three no-decisions.
He also had two of Houston's 11 hits off Greg Maddux, both with two outs.
"I was hoping to last six, seven innings and go deep into the game," said Oswalt, a 20-game winner in each of the last two seasons. "I felt the first two innings I would try to get warm and not try to go too hard right out of the gate. After the fourth, I started feeling better and better."
Maddux (7-6), who started the season 5-0, gave up five runs and the 11 hits in seven innings.
"I left pitches up with two strikes that I was trying to throw in the dirt," Maddux said. "It's kind of a tough way to get beat. If they go down and pick it, that's one thing. But to hang pitches like that with two strikes way ahead in the count. ..."
Trailing 5-3, the Cubs rallied in the eighth off reliever Chad Qualls, who walked pinch-hitter Tony Womack and gave up a single to Michael Barrett. Nevin delivered a run-scoring infield single on a ball hit to shortstop Adam Everett, whose throw to second for a force was wide. Qualls then got Aramis Ramirez to hit into a double play and struck out Jacque Jones to end the inning.
The Astros turned three double plays. That and Oswalt's two hits were the difference. At least according to Cubs manager Dusty Baker.
"What hurt us was Oswalt got a couple of key knocks for them," Baker said. "His hits accounted for two runs and ended up beating us."
Houston had five hits in a three-run second inning off the 40-year-old Maddux, a 325-game winner.
Lance Berkman had an infield single to start the second and after Jason Lane lined a ball over left fielder Murton's head for a double, Wilson hit an RBI grounder. Brad Ausmus singled and the Astros made it 2-0 when Everett laid down a squeeze bunt to score Lane. Oswalt followed with a single and Biggio gave the Astros a three-run cushion with an RBI single.
The Astros are awaiting the season debut of Roger Clemens but getting Oswalt back was a big deal, as well. His pitching was what they were looking for, his bat just an added plus.
"It's huge," Biggio said. "He is one of the nastiest guys in the National League. It's a huge lift to get him back tonight."
Jones hit a sacrifice fly after Nevin's leadoff double and a single by Ramirez in the bottom half of the second for the Cubs' first run. Chicago closed to within 3-2 in the third when Ronny Cedeno tripled and Maddux delivered a run-scoring grounder.
Oswalt helped himself in the fourth, doubling with two outs and coming home on another RBI single by Biggio.
"I told the guys I was going back to my old style of hitting," Oswalt said. "When I was in high school I was straight up and I was able to see the ball. ... I don't know what it (the pitch) was, I just saw it and swung."
Barrett, Nevin and Ramirez hit three straight singles to start the bottom of the fourth and cut the lead to 4-3 before Oswalt struck out Jones and got Murton to hit into a double play.
Wilson had a two-out RBI single in the fifth, scoring Chris Burke, who'd singled and stole second.
Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 20 chances.
- Barrett's appeal hearing on his 10-game suspension for punching the White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski and starting a brawl last month is scheduled for Friday in Chicago.
- Oswalt's two hits matched his season total (2-for-27) entering the game. It was hit first two-hit game since Sept. 11, 2005. He now has eight multi-hit games in his career.
- Oswalt is now 10-6 in his career against the Cubs and 4-1 in his last five starts against them. He beat them for his 20th victory last October. Wednesday night's outing marked his first at Wrigley Field since Aug. 27, 2004.
- Nevin and Barrett each had three hits.