CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella has spent most of his life in baseball. Still, there are things he can't explain, such as why his Chicago Cubs have struggled to hit homers.
When Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run, tie-breaking homer and Derrek Lee added a later solo shot Saturday to lead the Cubs to a 4-3 win over the Houston Astros, Piniella was hoping there might be a carryover.
Ramirez's 19th homer, off Houston rookie lefty Troy Patton, marked the first time since Aug. 18 that the Cubs had homered with a man on base.
"Nothing is shocking. It is surprising to hear that," Piniella said. "We've been through this drought and we've been holding onto first place. Maybe September is the month we start hitting the ball out of the park with regularity."
Chicago started the day leading the NL Central by 1½ games. Houston, now nine games back, had a three-game winning streak snapped.
The Cubs have only 108 homers in 134 games and came into Saturday 25th in the league in homers. Ramirez hadn't hit one since Aug. 15 and has only four since the All-Star break. Ramirez hit 38 home runs last year, his third straight year with at least 30.
"We hit a couple today, but we don't hit many and we're still in first place," Ramirez added. "I don't think we have one guy with 20 home runs and we're at the top of the division."
Lee hit his 16th in the eighth inning off reliever Chris Sampson, who was pitching for the first time since coming off the disabled list this week.
"I haven't hit them," Lee said of his low number of homers. "No rhyme or reason. If there was maybe I could fix it and turn it around."
Patton, in his second major league start, allowed just one hit over the first five innings.
"I'd like to keep the ball in the yard better. But today I had good control. One hit through five innings, they weren't making a lot of solid contact," he said.
"And (Ramirez) is a good hitter and I just didn't get it in enough and he hit a home run."
Jason Marquis (11-8) went 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs and five hits. Relievers Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry combined for 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief. Ryan Dempster pitched around Carlos Lee's 27th homer in the ninth for his 24th save in 26 chances.
Patton (0-2) was staked to an early lead on Luke Scott's 16th homer, a solo shot in the second. He lasted six innings, allowing three runs and three hits.
Scott also had an RBI grounder in the seventh to score Carlos Lee, who had doubled and moved up on an infield out, to make it 3-2.
Alfonso Soriano walked with two outs in the third and tied the game at 1-1 with some alert baserunning after Ryan Theriot's double, Chicago's first hit. Soriano was initially held up at third but when center fielder Hunter Pence's relay throw got by the infielders for an error, catcher Brad Ausmus went up the third base line to stop the ball. Soriano raced by him to score with a hard slide, beating Ausmus' throw to Patton at the plate.
I was just trying to get the ball in. You know, it just happened to get by both of them," Pence said. "If Soriano is healthy, I have no idea where he's at, he's probably going home right there. So I just tried to hit the cut-off man. I made a mistake and it cost us the game. It was very frustrating."
- Patton got his first major league hit, a single in the third.
- Ramirez's homer was the first for the Cubs with a runner on base since Daryle Ward hit a grand slam Aug. 18.
- Piniella said Steve Trachsel, acquired Friday in a trade from Baltimore, would start against the Dodgers on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
- Carlos Lee now has 21 career homers against the Cubs.