Chicago (65-55) at Houston (60-60)

Light Rain Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Fri Aug 20, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Chicago Cubs are near the top of the NL wild-card race. The Houston Astros are simply trying to work their way back into the playoff picture.

The NL Central rivals will both try to improve their postseason chances when they open a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Cubs, who are a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race, have won two straight following a stretch in which they dropped four of five.

Greg Maddux recovered from a four-run first inning Thursday to earn his 301st career victory, and Sammy Sosa hit his 27th homer of the season to lead the Cubs to a 9-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sosa’s homer, the 566th of his career, moved him within seven of Harmon Killebrew for seventh on the all-time list. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez also homered for Chicago.

The Cubs have scored 16 runs in their last two games.

“Runs make you look good, and we got a lot of runs today,” Maddux said.

Houston, which is looking for its first five-game winning streak of the season, is fifth in the wild-card race—5 1/2 games behind San Francisco.

The Astros return home after going 5-4 on a road trip to New York, Montreal and Philadelphia.

Eric Bruntlett, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman homered during a seven-run rally in the seventh inning Thursday to help Houston recover from a five-run deficit and complete a three-game sweep of Philadelphia with a 12-10 victory.

“We need wins more than anything, but this also shows how we can come back,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “Emotions are real high right now.”

The Astros also turned their first triple play since Aug. 4, 1991 when Phillies catcher Todd Pratt hit a bases-loaded grounder to third baseman Morgan Ensberg in the fifth.

“It’s nice to win three in a row here and this was a huge win for us,” Bruntlett said. “They’re all huge now.”

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Starting Pitchers

G. Rusch Col vs. P. Munro Min
6-2 Record 4-7
3.47 ERA 5.15
90 K 63
33 BB 26
1.23 WHIP 1.46