Chicago at Houston

Chi. Cubs
W: R. Harden (3-1) L: M. Hampton (1-3)
S: K. Gregg (5)
HR: CHC - A. Ramirez (4)   HOU - L. Berkman (7)

Harden, Johnson fuel Cubs to fifth win in past six tries wire reports

HOUSTON -- Reed Johnson hasn't had much luck at the plate lately. So when he saw speedy center fielder Michael Bourn chasing his fly ball in the first inning, he figured he'd catch it.

Instead Bourn's diving attempt came up just short and Johnson ended up with a bases-loaded triple to help the Chicago Cubs past the Houston Astros 6-3 on Wednesday night.

 Boone makes first visit to park; Astros hitting coach to have tumor removed

Rich Harden pitched into the eighth inning and Aramis Ramirez added a solo home run for the Cubs, who have won five of six.

"I really actually thought he would [catch it], especially the way things have been going for me lately with runners in scoring position," said Johnson, who was 0-for-4 in the last two games and had one RBI before Wednesday. "I haven't been taking good at bats and when I do, I would hit them right at somebody. I was thinking when I hit it, if anyone can run it down, he can."

Harden (3-1) allowed his first run with two outs in the fourth before retiring the next 10 batters.

"He did a heck of a job," manager Lou Piniella said. "He maintained his velocity. We thought if we get seven we were going to be pleased."

Harden didn't give up another hit until Bourn singled in the eighth, and Lance Berkman followed with a home run.

Johnson put the Cubs ahead in the first against Mike Hampton (1-3). Johnson scored on a passed ball by Ivan Rodriguez to make it 4-0.

The Astros had an emotional day in their return from a rain-soaked road trip filled with delays. Third baseman Aaron Boone visited the team for the first time since open heart surgery before the team learned that hitting coach Sean Berry has what is likely a cancerous tumor on his kidney.

"Definitely a difficult day," manager Cecil Cooper said. "That's pretty tough news today. Kind of a roller coaster day because we get the news on Sean and we see Aaron today. We've gone through four or five days that have been really tough for us, travel days and long days at the ballpark. [But we] cannot make excuses. We still got to go out and play."

Harden made his longest start of the season, surpassing his previous high of six innings. Carlos Marmol relieved Harden in the eighth after a single by Carlos Lee and retired three batters.

Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save.

Hampton hit an RBI single in the fourth that made it 4-1.

Johnson walked to start the sixth, Micah Hoffpauir doubled and Aaron Miles walked to load the bases. Johnson scored on a passed ball by Rodriguez -- his second of the night -- to push Chicago's lead to 5-1.

It was the first time since 2003 that Rodriguez had two passed balls in a game.

"Things happen," Rodriguez said. "It was a bad day for me behind the plate. I feel like I was jumping a little bit behind the plate, trying to reach for the pitch instead of waiting for the pitch and [receiving] it."

Hampton struck out Harden in the sixth before he was replaced by Alberto Arias, who was called up from Triple-A Round Rock earlier in the day. Arias struck out Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot to end the inning.

Hampton allowed seven hits and five runs with four walks in 5 1/3 innings.

Ramirez homered in the seventh inning off Arias.


  • Houston RHP Brandon Backe is scheduled to make his third rehab outing on Friday at Double-A Corpus Christi. Backe has been on a the disabled list all season with a strained muscle in his left side.
  • Astros closer Jose Valverde, who had fluid drained from his right calf on Friday, began therapy for the injury on Tuesday. He is expected to be out three to five weeks.
  • The Cubs selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Chad Fox from Triple-A Iowa and optioned fellow right-hander Jeff Samardzija to Iowa. The 38-year-old Fox had a 1.59 ERA and two saves in 11 appearances for Iowa this season. The nine-year veteran was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three appearances for Chicago last season before a right elbow injury ended his season. He missed all of 2006 and 2007 after elbow surgery in 2005. Samardzija had an 8.10 ERA in five appearances for the Cubs since being recalled April 23.
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Rich Harden picks up his third win and lasts seven innings for his longest outing of the season.  (AP)
Rich Harden picks up his third win and lasts seven innings for his longest outing of the season. (AP)

Players of the Game

R. Johnson
AB 3
R 2
H 1
HR 0

L. Berkman
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 1

Related Video

Chicago Cubs
Alfonso Soriano, LF5110035 .270
Ryan Theriot, SS5000015 .305
Milton Bradley, RF5110002 .135
    Kevin Gregg, P0000000 .000
Aramis Ramirez, 3B4121102 .344
Geovany Soto, C3100112 .159
Reed Johnson, CF-RF3213110 .234
Micah Hoffpauir, 1B4010011 .295
Aaron Miles, 2B3010100 .203
Rich Harden, P4010022 .250
    Carlos Marmol, P0000000 .000
    Joey Gathright, CF0000000 .154
2B - Micah Hoffpauir (3, Hampton), Aaron Miles (4, Hampton)
3B - Reed Johnson (1, Hampton)
HR - Aramis Ramirez (4, Arias)
RBI - Aramis Ramirez (15), Reed Johnson 3 (4)
2-OUT RBI - Reed Johnson 3 (3)
Team LOB - 7
DP - Theriot-Miles-Hoffpauir
Chicago Cubs
Rich Harden (W,3-1) 7833341 4.83
Carlos Marmol (H,7) 1000000 4.85
Kevin Gregg (S,5) 1000010 4.61
WP - Rich Harden (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Rich Harden 99-66, Carlos Marmol 10-8, Kevin Gregg 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Rich Harden 7-9, Carlos Marmol 2-1, Kevin Gregg 2-0
Batters Faced - Rich Harden 31, Carlos Marmol 3, Kevin Gregg 3
Houston Astros
Kazuo Matsui, 2B5020011 .274
Michael Bourn, CF4110012 .299
Lance Berkman, 1B3112101 .194
Carlos Lee, LF3010101 .294
Miguel Tejada, SS4000004 .287
Hunter Pence, RF4120001 .310
Geoff Blum, 3B3000112 .272
Ivan Rodriguez, C4000002 .247
Mike Hampton, P2011010 .273
    Alberto Arias, P0000000 .000
   a- Darin Erstad, PH1000000 .148
    Wesley Wright, P0000000 .000
    Jeff Fulchino, P0000000 .000
   b- Jason Michaels, PH1000010 .286
a-flied out for Arias in the 7th
b-struck out for Fulchino in the 9th
2B - Hunter Pence (6, Harden)
HR - Lance Berkman (7, Harden)
RBI - Lance Berkman 2 (16), Mike Hampton (3)
2-OUT RBI - Mike Hampton (2)
Team LOB - 7
DP - Tejada-Matsui-Berkman
PB - Ivan Rodriguez 2 (2)
E - Geoff Blum (1, Throwing)
Houston Astros
Mike Hampton (L,1-3) 5.1753440 4.91
Alberto Arias 1.2111031 5.40
Wesley Wright 1000020 7.45
Jeff Fulchino 1000000 5.91
WP - Alberto Arias (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Mike Hampton 107-66, Alberto Arias 25-18, Wesley Wright 11-8, Jeff Fulchino 15-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mike Hampton 7-5, Alberto Arias 3-0, Wesley Wright 1-0, Jeff Fulchino 2-1
Batters Faced - Mike Hampton 27, Alberto Arias 7, Wesley Wright 3, Jeff Fulchino 3
Game Information
Attendance - 29415
Game Time - 2:49
Temperature - 83
Umpires - Home - Wally Bell, First Base - Adrian Johnson, Second Base - Marvin Hudson, Third Base - John Hirschbeck