Astros 3, Cubs 1

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HOUSTON (AP)—This time, Tim Redding wasn’t rusty at all.

Redding allowed just two hits in seven strong innings and Jeff Bagwell homered as the Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1 Saturday.

After a strong start before the All-Star break, Redding lasted only 2 1-3 innings in his previous outing—a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh.

“My last start before the All-Star break was dynamite, it was the same way I pitched today,” Redding said. “I didn’t pick up the ball all three days of the All-Star break. I figured I’d have time after the All-Star break to get ready.

“I won’t make that mistake again.”

Redding (7-9) didn’t allow a hit until Aramis Ramirez tripled with one out in the fifth inning. Ramirez also singled in the seventh for the other hit off the right-hander.

“Redding spotted his fastball and he was staying away from our hitters,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “He was keeping it away. We didn’t hit many balls hard. They say good pitching beats good hitting. That’s what you saw today.

“People will ask about our hitting, well, he threw a good game. If it wasn’t for Ramirez we wouldn’t have had any hits at all.”

Lance Berkman had an RBI double for the NL Central-leading Astros, who took a 3-1 lead on Bagwell’s 22nd homer in the sixth.

Jeff Kent, the next batter, objected to a strike call by plate umpire Matt Hollowell and was ejected with two strikes.

Kent had to be restrained, and Astros manager Jimy Williams rushed out and was ejected as well.

Before leaving the field, Williams kicked dirt on home plate and shook his index finger in Hollowell’s face to the delight of the sellout crowd of 42,679.

“It was just shocking to me that he (Hollowell) couldn’t handle a non-threatening situation,” Kent said. “There were no curse words said, no challenges, no questions.

“When you’re in the big leagues, you’ve got to be able to handle a non-threatening situation.”

Morgan Ensberg took the third strike for Kent, who was ejected for the first time this season. It was Williams’ second ejection of the year.

Ramirez tripled to the hill in center field in the fifth. Craig Biggio tried to run up the hill to catch the ball and fell down as Ramirez went into third standing.

It was Biggio’s second fall on the hill this season.

“You just can’t prepare for that incline,” Biggio said. “I hit it twice as hard as the last time. I felt like I was being blindsided by Warren Sapp. Somebody’s going to get hurt on it. It’s part of the ballpark.”

Ramirez scored on a two-out error by third baseman Geoff Blum, cutting Houston’s lead to 2-1.

Redding allowed one unearned run, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.

Brad Lidge and Billy Wagner completed the two-hitter, with Wagner getting four outs for his 31st save in 34 opportunities.

The Astros scored in the first inning for the second straight game, getting two runs off Juan Cruz (1-4), who made his first start of the season after 18 relief appearances.

Biggio singled to center to open the game. After Blum walked and Bagwell grounded out, Kent’s RBI grounder scored Biggio and Berkman’s double made it 2-0.

“Both pitchers threw really well, but the first inning was the ballgame,” Baker said. “We had one ball that could have been a double play and then a broken-bat ball that was too slow for the double play. We should have been out of the inning.”

Cruz went six innings. He allowed four hits, three runs and three walks,striking out five.

Notes

Biggio reached base for the 30th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the NL. … Before the game, the Cubs optioned pitcher Todd Wellemeyer to Triple-A Iowa and recalled Cruz. … In 14 games at Minute Maid park with Chicago, Moises Alou is hitting .350 against his former team with 13RBIs and five extra-base hits.

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