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Houston at Chicago

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Houston (72-66) «000200010370
Chi. Cubs (85-53)000000000042

Oswalt tosses eight-plus shutout innings, helps Astros win 6th straight

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- Roy Oswalt is pitching like an ace again and the Houston Astros are on a roll headed into the final month of the season.

Oswalt allowed four singles -- all the Chicago Cubs seem to able to hit these days -- and came within two outs of a shutout as the Astros won their sixth straight with a 3-0 victory Monday at Wrigley Field.

"I didn't do anything different from the beginning of the year. I'm just having better results," said Oswalt (13-9), who's won seven of his last eight decisions after an 0-3 start this season.

Oswalt ignored a torn finger nail to shut down the Cubs, who have struggled to score during a three-game losing streak. They hadn't dropped three straight at home since August of last year.

"I kind of tore the finger nail off the side," Oswalt said. "I could feel it when I threw breaking pitches more than anything. It wasn't something to come out over, it just started splitting a little worse."

Chicago's last 27 hits are all singles, and the Cubs haven't had extra base hit since Alfonso Soriano homered in the seventh inning of Friday's game against the Phillies.

"There is still a long way to go. We're not relaxing or anything. We just haven't scored for a few days here," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "It's happened to us a couple of times before and we'll turn it around."

The Cubs remained 4½ games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central after Milwaukee lost 4-2 to the Mets.

"We didn't do much today. I'll tell you that," Chicago manager Lou Piniella said, hinting he might make some changes to his lineup.

Oswalt was mainly responsible for the Cubs' woes.

He took a two-hit shutout into the ninth. But pinch-hitter Daryle Ward and Soriano hit back-to-back singles with one out before Jose Valverde was summoned from the bullpen.

Valverde got his 38th save in 44 chances when Kosuke Fukudome hit into a forceout and Lee flied out to the right field warning track to end the game.

Manager Cecil Cooper wanted Oswalt to finish but saw enough after the two hits.

"When we got to the ninth, I said, `I'm going to give him a chance to close it out'. When they got a couple guys on, I didn't want to leave him in past that. I thought he did a good job at that point and decided to go to the big boy," Cooper said.

Miguel Tejada tripled to start the fourth against Jason Marquis (9-8) when he hit a line drive off the ivy-covered left-field wall and Soriano couldn't retrieve the ball before it rolled toward the infield and into the bullpen. Lance Berkman walked and Geoff Blum hit a liner to center for a sacrifice fly with Berkman alertly taking second on the throw. Berkman then stole third and scored on Hunter Pence's RBI single for a 2-0 lead.

"I was thinking two. When I put my head up at second base, I saw the ball kept going and I just took my chance and took third," Tejada said. "You never see something like that, especially here when you have the ivy on the wall."

Soriano was also surprised by the carom in what became a key play.

"I've seen that a couple of times in practice, but never in the game," he said.

The Tejada/Berkman combination struck again in the seventh when Tejada singled and went to third on Berkman's single. Tejada scored on rookie Jeff Smardzija's wild pitch and Berkman made it all the way to third on an error by Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, who threw wildly past Samardzija as he covered the plate.

But the rally fizzled when Hunter Pence walked and was thrown out trying to steal.

Marquis went six innings and allowed five hits and two runs with a season-high eight strikeouts.

Notes

  • The Astros lead the season series 7-6.
  • Houston has the fewest errors in the majors this season (58).
  • Carlos Zambrano, scratched from his Sunday start to get extra rest for a tired arm, will pitch Tuesday night against Houston's Brandon Backe.
  • Houston 2B Kaz Matsui, on the 15-day disabled list since August 13 with an irritated disk in his back, went through pregame drills. Manager Cecil Cooper is optimistic Matsui can return in the next few days.
  • Battling the sun, Astros right fielder Pence made a great sliding catch of Mark DeRosa's sinking liner in the eighth.
 
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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Roy Oswalt is heating up late in the season, winning seven of his past eight decisions.  (AP)
Roy Oswalt is heating up late in the season, winning seven of his past eight decisions. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

M. Tejada
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
Houston

R. Oswalt
IP 8.1
H 4
ER 0
BB 0
K 3
 
Houston Astros
Darin Erstad, CF-LF5000021 .287
Ty Wigginton, LF3000101 .300
    Michael Bourn, CF0000000 .221
Miguel Tejada, SS4220000 .283
Lance Berkman, 1B2120200 .338
Geoff Blum, 3B3001025 .240
Hunter Pence, RF3021110 .266
Jose Castillo, 2B4000024 .239
Brad Ausmus, C4000013 .220
Roy Oswalt, P4010030 .179
    Jose Valverde, P0000000 .000
Totals32372411  
Batting
2B - Hunter Pence (28, Marquis)
3B - Miguel Tejada (3, Marquis)
SF - Geoff Blum (5)
RBI - Geoff Blum (45), Hunter Pence (70)
SB - Lance Berkman (16, 3rd base off Marquis/Soto)
CS - Hunter Pence (9, 2nd base by Wuertz/Soto)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Castillo-Tejada-Berkman
Houston Astros
Roy Oswalt (W,13-9) 8.1400030 3.91
Jose Valverde (S,38) 0.2000000 3.71
Pitches-Strikes - Roy Oswalt 106-77, Jose Valverde 5-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roy Oswalt 12-9, Jose Valverde 1-1
Batters Faced - Roy Oswalt 28, Jose Valverde 2
Chicago Cubs
Alfonso Soriano, LF4010002 .288
Kosuke Fukudome, RF4000001 .263
Derrek Lee, 1B4000012 .291
Aramis Ramirez, 3B3000000 .279
Mark DeRosa, 2B3000000 .291
Jim Edmonds, CF3000010 .231
Geovany Soto, C3010000 .292
Ryan Theriot, SS3010001 .312
Jason Marquis, P0000000 .196
   a- Mike Fontenot, PH1000011 .291
    Jeff Samardzija, P0000000 .000
    Michael Wuertz, P0000000 .000
   b- Daryle Ward, PH1010000 .232
Totals2904003  
a-struck out for Marquis in the 6th
b-singled for Wuertz in the 9th
Batting
SH - Jason Marquis (3)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Theriot-Lee
E - Aramis Ramirez (13, Misplayed grounder), Geovany Soto (5, Throwing)
Chicago Cubs
Jason Marquis (L,9-8) 6522380 4.46
Jeff Samardzija 1.2211120 1.29
Michael Wuertz 1.1000010 3.43
IBB - Berkman by Jason Marquis
WP - Jeff Samardzija (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Jason Marquis 111-67, Jeff Samardzija 32-17, Michael Wuertz 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jason Marquis 5-5, Jeff Samardzija 1-2, Michael Wuertz 2-0
Batters Faced - Jason Marquis 26, Jeff Samardzija 8, Michael Wuertz 3
Game Information
Attendance - 40670
Game Time - 2:38
Temperature - 77
Umpires - Home - Gary Cederstrom, First Base - Field Culbreth, Second Base - Jim Reynolds, Third Base - Tim Timmons