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Chicago at Houston

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Chi. Cubs (74-71) «020100000380
Houston (63-82)000000101281

Cubs hold off Astros, pull into tie with Brewers for NL Central lead

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- The Chicago Cubs got just the kind of win they needed for their playoff drive.

Rich Hill allowed three hits over seven innings and the Cubs moved into a tie with Milwaukee for the NL Central lead with a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Hill (9-8) struck out seven and walked three as the Cubs won for the third time in seven games and snapped a four-game losing streak at Minute Maid Park. They entered the day one game behind the Brewers, who lost 7-4 at Pittsburgh.

"This type of game really should get us on a roll," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "You have to think that the worm has turned. You've got to start feeling like things are going to go your way."

Ryan Dempster, who lost Tuesday's game in the 11th inning when he gave up a walk-off triple, earned his 26th save in 29 chances despite allowing a run in the ninth inning.

Cliff Floyd hit a solo homer in the second and tripled in the fourth off Houston starter Matt Albers (4-8). Ryan Theriot had two RBI, snapping an 0-for-14 stretch with an infield single that scored Floyd.

The Cubs came in averaging 3.24 runs per game when Hill pitches, the lowest run support for any starter in the majors. Hill didn't need much help in this one, baffling every Astro but Mark Loretta, who had three hits, two against Hill.

"I'm really proud of the way our young left-hander pitched," Piniella said. "It was a pressure game for him to pitch in. And he responded as well as or better than you can expect."

The 27-year-old settled down after giving up a hit and two walks in the first two innings. He had a quick chat with catcher Jason Kendall in the dugout, then gave up only Loretta's single and a walk to Craig Biggio between the third and sixth innings.

"After that second inning, I regrouped and just talked with Jason," Hill said. "He said, 'You're fine. Just keep throwing the ball the way you're throwing it."'

Hill's biggest mistake came in the seventh, when Loretta led off with a homer into the left-field porch, his third of the season and first since June 29. Piniella visited the mound and gave Hill a quick pep talk.

"I said, 'That's part of the game,"' Piniella said. "I said, 'You're throwing the ball well. Stay composed, stay within yourself, trust your stuff. Give me this inning and this will be it."'

Hill then struck out Ty Wigginton and Humberto Quintero and got Luke Scott to fly out.

"Every game is big," Hill said. "You go out there and leave it all out there. As long as you go out there and throw the ball with conviction and confidence, things will work themselves out."

The Astros have lost six of their last seven games and nine of 14 since Cecil Cooper replaced Phil Garner as manager on Aug. 27. With the loss, Houston is guaranteed to finish below .500 for the first time since 2000 and for just the second time since 1991.

Loretta led off the ninth with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Josh Anderson. Mike Lamb tripled to right-center to make it 3-2. Dempster then got Scott, who had the game-winning hit Tuesday, to ground out. He walked pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro then Munson grounded into a double play that ended it.

"We needed that," Floyd said. "We needed that bad."

Floyd led off the second with a homer into the upper deck in right field, his sixth of the season. Mark DeRosa and Kendall followed with singles before Theriot's sacrifice fly made it 2-0.

Hill walked Loretta and Wigginton to open the second, then struck out four of the next seven Astros he faced.

Floyd led off the fourth with a triple that rookie center fielder Hunter Pence misjudged. Floyd scored on Theriot's high-bouncing infield single to put Chicago up 3-0.

Loretta reached on an infield single with one out in the fourth, but Wigginton grounded into a double play. Hill needed only 11 pitches to retire the Astros in order in the fifth.

Notes

  • The Cubs have won five of the last six games Hill has started. ... Floyd's triple was his first since May 21, 2006.
  • Albers started in place of rookie LHP Troy Patton, who was scratched Tuesday with a sore shoulder.
  • Pence led off the game with a single to center, Houston's only other hit off Hill.
 
Copyright 2015 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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Redemption is sweet for Ryan Dempster, who closes the door one night after taking the loss.  (AP)
Redemption is sweet for Ryan Dempster, who closes the door one night after taking the loss. (AP)

Players of the Game
Chicago

C. Floyd
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
Houston

M. Loretta
AB 3
R 1
H 3
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Chicago Cubs
Alfonso Soriano, LF5000013 .290
Jacque Jones, CF-RF4010001 .274
Derrek Lee, 1B3000111 .312
Aramis Ramirez, 3B4000002 .316
Cliff Floyd, RF4221011 .290
    Felix Pie, CF0000000 .212
Mark DeRosa, 2B4120002 .289
Jason Kendall, C4010002 .247
Ryan Theriot, SS2012100 .274
Rich Hill, P3010022 .140
    Bob Howry, P0000000 .000
   a- Daryle Ward, PH1000001 .333
    Ryan Dempster, P0000000 .000
Totals3438325  
a-flied out for Howry in the 9th
Batting
2B - Mark DeRosa (26, Albers)
3B - Cliff Floyd (1, Albers)
HR - Cliff Floyd (6, Albers)
SF - Ryan Theriot (2)
RBI - Cliff Floyd (41), Ryan Theriot 2 (44)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Theriot (11)
SB - Ryan Theriot (26, 2nd base off Borkowski/Quintero)
CS - Derrek Lee (5, 2nd base by Albers/Quintero)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Alfonso Soriano 1
DP - Ramirez-DeRosa-Lee, Lee-Theriot-Dempster
Chicago Cubs
Rich Hill (W,9-8) 7311371 3.91
Bob Howry (H,21) 1300000 3.42
Ryan Dempster (S,26) 1211100 3.97
Pitches-Strikes - Rich Hill 116-80, Bob Howry 13-10, Ryan Dempster 18-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Rich Hill 6-7, Ryan Dempster 2-0
Batters Faced - Rich Hill 26, Bob Howry 5, Ryan Dempster 5
Houston Astros
Hunter Pence, CF4020010 .326
Craig Biggio, 2B3010112 .252
Lance Berkman, 1B4010002 .276
Carlos Lee, LF4000014 .295
Mark Loretta, SS3131100 .280
    Josh Anderson, PR0100000 .000
Ty Wigginton, 3B2000111 .278
   a- Mike Lamb, PH1011000 .292
Luke Scott, RF4000013 .257
Humberto Quintero, C3000010 .204
   b- Orlando Palmeiro, PH0000100 .240
    Eric Bruntlett, PR0000000 .240
Matt Albers, P2000012 .083
    Brian Moehler, P0000000 .200
   c- Chris Burke, PH1000000 .227
    Dave Borkowski, P0000000 .000
   d- Eric Munson, PH1000001 .233
Totals3228247  
a-tripled for Wigginton in the 9th
b-walked for Quintero in the 9th
c-fouled out for Moehler in the 8th
d-grounded into a double play for Borkowski in the 9th
Batting
3B - Mike Lamb (2, Dempster)
HR - Mark Loretta (3, Hill)
RBI - Mark Loretta (36), Mike Lamb (39)
SB - Hunter Pence (10, 2nd base off Hill/Kendall)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
E - Craig Biggio (10, Misplayed grounder)
Houston Astros
Matt Albers (L,4-8) 6733131 5.79
Brian Moehler 2100020 4.33
Dave Borkowski 1000100 5.68
Pitches-Strikes - Matt Albers 102-63, Brian Moehler 25-19, Dave Borkowski 18-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Albers 4-10, Brian Moehler 3-2
Batters Faced - Matt Albers 25, Brian Moehler 8, Dave Borkowski 4
Game Information
Attendance - 33115
Game Time - 2:54
Temperature - 74
Umpires - Home - Mike Reilly, First Base - Jeff Kellogg, Second Base - Eric Cooper, Third Base - Andy Fletcher