Houston (64-63) at Chicago (71-56)

Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 49° F
  • Game info: 3:20 pm EDT Fri Aug 27, 2004
  • TV: KNWS, WGN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros are fighting for the National League wild card—literally.

After an uneventful start to this four-game series, things could intensify significantly as Chicago’s Kerry Wood and Houston’s Roy Oswalt square off at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are atop the wild card standings, with the Astros seven games back. The clubs have just three regular season meetings remaining, including Friday’s matchup which will doubtlessly stir memories of last Sunday’s brawl when Wood and Oswalt were both ejected.

Oswalt was tossed in the third inning for hitting Michael Barrett in the back after allowing a three-run homer to Aramis Ramirez. Both benches emptied as Barrett jawed at Oswalt and approached the mound, but no punches were thrown and the field was quickly cleared. Afterward, a warning was issued to both teams.

“I was a little disappointed in Roy,” Barrett said. “I thought he was better than that. We’re going to see him again.”

Wood, who was returning from a five-game suspension for arguing with an umpire, was also ejected for hitting Jeff Kent with a pitch on the left arm. The right-hander had already hit two other Astros—Mike Lamb and Carlos Beltran.

Oswalt adamantly insisted that he didn’t hit Barrett intentionally, but Cubs manager Dusty Baker thought otherwise.

“I thought he did it on purpose,” said Baker, who was ejected with Wood. “After he did it, he was nowhere to be found.”

Oswalt was tagged with Sunday’s 11-6 home loss against the Cubs, giving up five runs, four hits and three walks in 2 2-3 innings, his shortest outing this season. It was Oswalt’s first loss in seven starts, ending his streak of 13 consecutive victories in August, which had been the most for any pitcher in a single month without a loss since 1920.

Oswalt, who turns 27 this Sunday, is 14-1 with a 1.70 ERA all-time in August— both numbers being his best of any month during his three-year career.

Wood didn’t receive the decision against Oswalt and the Astros on Sunday, allowing two runs, five hits and four strikeouts over 4 1-3 innings. He has won four of his last six decisions.

The Cubs took the series opener 8-3 on Thursday, winning their fifth in a row and eighth in nine games.

Sammy Sosa, who voluntarily moved to the fifth spot in the batting order last week, hit his 29th homer of the season and 568th of his career. The All-Star right fielder, who had driven in three runs in his previous eight games, finished 1-for-4 with three RBIs.

The Astros got homers from Beltran and Jeff Bagwell, losing for just the third time in 11 games.

“We’re in a situation where we really have to win every day,” Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Oswalt Col vs. K. Wood ChC
20-10 Record 8-9
3.49 ERA 3.72
206 K 144
62 BB 51
1.24 WHIP 1.27