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Houston at Chicago

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Houston (61-74) «100302000681
Chi. Cubs (68-65)000000010171

Pence's 2-HR game, Rodriguez's gem carry Astros past Cubs

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- Hunter Pence is making Cecil Cooper's transition a lot easier.

Houston's rookie center fielder hit two homers and had a career-high five RBI Friday to help the Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 for their third win in four games since Cooper became interim manager.

"What can I say? He's a pretty special player. He's a young man who will eventually be the face of our franchise, I think," Cooper said.

"He's not afraid to go up there (and) if he sees something he likes, he lets it go. Just a baseball player, a throwback kind of a baseball player. ... He's my kind of guy."

Pence's first career multihomer game featured a three-run shot in the fourth and two-run drive in the sixth. The homers gave the standout rookie 14 for the season, while helping Wandy Rodriguez (8-12) win for the first time since July 26.

Cooper replaced the fired Phil Garner on Monday. And with a month left in the season, Houston is 13 games under .500 but only eight games back of the first-place Cubs in what is becoming a tightly bunched NL Central.

"It seems tough, but we haven't given up. You've seen the last couple seasons that we're capable to make a run," Pence said. "Right now we're running out of time, so we got to play with as much urgency as possible. "

One change Cooper made was to put Pence in the leadoff spot the last three games. He's gone 5-for-11, and the Astros have won all three games.

"Maybe one day he'll end up hitting in a different spot. But right now he fits for us. I think he sets the tone a little bit for us by his aggressive style," Cooper said.

"I enjoy leading off. I just enjoy playing," Pence said. "Fortunately I've been successful there."

Rodriguez, who'd been 0-3 in six previous August starts, allowed four hits and earned a rare road victory. He is 2-9 away from Minute Maid Park and 6-3 at home.

"He shut us down," Derrek Lee said. "We couldn't get anything going. It's a little frustrating."

Chicago broke up the shutout bid in the eighth when pinch-hitter Daryle Ward had an RBI single, one of three straight hits in the inning off Dave Borkowski.

Trever Miller got the final out in the eighth and pitched a perfect ninth.

Pence, who came off the disabled list 10 days ago, hit his second homer of the game in the sixth off Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz.

His two-out, three-run homer off Sean Marshall capped a fourth that started when third baseman Aramis Ramirez fumbled Ty Wigginton's grounder for an error. After Chris Burke singled, Marshall got two outs before Pence hit a long drive to left for a 4-0 lead.

"Wuertz and I both gave him a pitch to hit up in the zone and he did a good job of it, even with the wind blowing in," Marshall said.

After Craig Biggio singled and Lance Berkman walked, Marshall's day was over and Wuertz relieved. Marshall (7-7) gave up four runs -- one earned -- and five hits in 3 2/3 innings, his third shortest outing in 18 starts.

"You can see why we've gone out and gotten a veteran pitcher who's been through this before," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said, referring to the team's acquisition Friday of Steve Trachsel from Baltimore for the stretch run.

Piniella said it'll be a modified six-man rotation with Trachsel instead of dropping someone out. But he wasn't pleased Friday with the pitching of Marshall or his team's inability to hit. The Cubs began the day with a 2½-game lead in the division.

"You are not going to hit every day. That I can tell you," Piniella said. "But down the stretch we are going to have to swing the bats with more consistency. There's no question."

Houston also had a big inning going in the first, but Marshall allowed only one run after the Astros loaded the bases. Pence had a leadoff walk and scored on Berkman's one-out RBI double. Carlos Lee was walked intentionally and one out later Wigginton also walked to load the bases before Burke popped out.

Notes

  • The Cubs rested LF Alfonso Soriano, and C Jason Kendall didn't start but entered the game in the eighth.
  • Houston RHP Brandon Backe, who had elbow surgery last September, is scheduled to make his first start of the season Tuesday in Milwaukee. He has made five rehab starts for Triple-A Round Rock.
  • Rodriguez is 1-3 at Wrigley Field where he had an 11.08 ERA in three previous starts entering the game. Earlier this month, he pitched well against the Cubs in Houston, allowing a run and four hits over eight innings but getting a no-decision.
  • The Cubs are 13-21 against left-handed starters.
 
Copyright 2014 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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Hunter Pence drives in a career-high five with two homers. The rookie has 14 dingers this season.  (AP)
Hunter Pence drives in a career-high five with two homers. The rookie has 14 dingers this season. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

H. Pence
AB 4
R 3
H 2
HR 2
RBI 5
Houston

W. Rodriguez
IP 6.0
H 4
ER 0
BB 3
K 5
 
Houston Astros
Hunter Pence, CF4325120 .325
Craig Biggio, 2B5020021 .256
    Luke Scott, RF0000000 .256
Lance Berkman, 1B4021100 .280
Carlos Lee, LF3000203 .302
Mark Loretta, SS5010025 .278
Ty Wigginton, 3B4100131 .272
Chris Burke, RF-2B4110004 .227
Brad Ausmus, C2100201 .231
Wandy Rodriguez, P2000002 .122
   a- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1000001 .234
    Dave Borkowski, P0000000 .000
    Trever Miller, P0000000 .000
Totals3468679  
a-flied out for Rodriguez in the 7th
Batting
2B - Lance Berkman 2 (19, Marshall, Wuertz), Mark Loretta (22, Wuertz)
HR - Hunter Pence 2 (14, Marshall, Wuertz)
SH - Wandy Rodriguez (11)
RBI - Hunter Pence 5 (52), Lance Berkman (86)
2-OUT RBI - Hunter Pence 3 (21)
SB - Brad Ausmus (6, 2nd base off Wuertz/Blanco)
CS - Craig Biggio (3, 3rd base by Wuertz/Blanco)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
DP - Loretta-Biggio-Berkman
E - Chris Burke (5, Dropped fly)
Houston Astros
Wandy Rodriguez (W,8-12) 6400350 4.49
Dave Borkowski 1.2311020 5.19
Trever Miller 1.1000020 4.83
Pitches-Strikes - Wandy Rodriguez 102-58, Dave Borkowski 30-22, Trever Miller 19-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Wandy Rodriguez 2-11, Dave Borkowski 2-1
Batters Faced - Wandy Rodriguez 25, Dave Borkowski 8, Trever Miller 4
Chicago Cubs
Ryan Theriot, SS5010000 .281
Mark DeRosa, 2B3000111 .289
Derrek Lee, 1B4000022 .307
Aramis Ramirez, 3B4130000 .316
Craig Monroe, RF-LF3010102 .223
Matt Murton, LF2010111 .270
    Kerry Wood, P0000000 .000
   a- Daryle Ward, PH1011000 .330
    Scott Eyre, P0000000 .000
Henry Blanco, C3000014 .190
   b- Cliff Floyd, PH1000002 .286
    Jason Kendall, C0000000 .251
Jacque Jones, CF-RF4000010 .273
Sean Marshall, P1000010 .071
    Michael Wuertz, P1000010 .000
    Felix Pie, CF2000010 .211
Totals3417139  
a-singled for Wood in the 8th
b-popped out for Blanco in the 8th
Batting
RBI - Daryle Ward (14)
2-OUT RBI - Daryle Ward (8)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
E - Aramis Ramirez (7, Misplayed grounder)
Chicago Cubs
Sean Marshall (L,7-7) 3.2541431 3.98
Michael Wuertz 2.1322221 3.77
Kerry Wood 2000120 3.18
Scott Eyre 1000020 5.02
IBB - Lee by Sean Marshall
WP - Sean Marshall (4), Michael Wuertz (5)
Pitches-Strikes - Sean Marshall 84-45, Michael Wuertz 47-23, Kerry Wood 34-20, Scott Eyre 13-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Sean Marshall 7-2, Kerry Wood 1-3
Batters Faced - Sean Marshall 21, Michael Wuertz 11, Kerry Wood 7, Scott Eyre 3
Game Information
Attendance - 41297
Game Time - 3:06
Temperature - 71
Umpires - Home - Greg Gibson, First Base - Larry Vanover, Second Base - Tony Randazzo, Third Base - Gerry Davis