Astros 3, Cubs 2

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CHICAGO (AP)—Carlos Beltran wasted little time showing his new Houston teammates—and the Chicago Cubs—what an impact he can have.

“We’re not playing the way we want to, but we will,” Beltran promised Wednesday after his two-out homer in the ninth inning sent the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Cubs.

“I think it’s my job to go out there and try to have fun and do the best I can to help this club win games. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been doing the little things to help. I’m just happy.”

Beltran’s homer off LaTroy Hawkins came in just his fifth game since being traded from Kansas City and was his second in as many games.

After Roger Clemens’ bid for his 11th victory was blown by the Astros’ bullpen, Beltran won it.

Craig Biggio earlier homered twice for Houston, atoning for a costly error the previous day.

“Knowing what kind of player he was over there and knowing how he is now— much stronger, more mature—he’s just a tremendous player,” Clemens said of his new teammate. “He fits in real nice here. It’s a nice bonus for us.”

Brad Lidge (2-3), who worked out of a bases-loaded jam after the Cubs tied the game in the eighth, got the win by getting the final six outs. Hawkins (1-1) took the loss.

“Beltran’s got a short compact swing with the strength to hit it out,” said Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, who tied the game with an eighth-inning homer and also made a sparkling defensive play.

“As a staff, we’re learning him.”

And Beltran and Clemens are learning a new league.

In his third start against the Cubs this season, Clemens pitched seven solid innings, allowing five hits and leaving with a 2-1 lead.

“I was trying to be as stingy as possible and aggressive when I had to,” Clemens said. “They left guys on base and we left guys on base and fortunately we were able to pull it out.”

Barrett’s homer off reliever Dan Miceli leading off the bottom of the eighth tied it at 2.

After Barrett’s homer, third baseman Morgan Ensberg’s throwing error helped the Cubs load the bases before Lidge struck out Ramon Martinez on a 3-2 pitch.

Barrett’s ninth homer came right after he made a great block of home plate and prevented Ensberg from scoring an insurance run in the top of the eighth that would have given the Astros a 3-1 lead.

Running on the pitch, Ensberg tried to score all the way from first on pinch-hitter Michael Lamb’s single to center. But Barrett held on to Todd Walker’s relay throw as Ensberg ran over him at the plate.

Making up for a glaring error Tuesday night when he dropped a fly ball that led to the Cubs’ 7-5 victory, Biggio hit his 37th career leadoff homer in the first off Matt Clement.

He broke a 1-all tie with another solo shot, his 11th homer of the season, off Jon Leicester in the seventh.

“Biggio showed why he’s a leader after what happened last night,” Lidge said.

The Cubs tied it in the fifth on Walker’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly, minutes after home plate umpire Jim Joyce ejected Chicago hitting coach Gary Matthews.

Derrek Lee doubled over Lance Berkman’s head in right for the Cubs’ second hit and Corey Patterson walked. When Martinez bunted in the air, Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell dove and missed the catch, but from his knees threw to third to force out Lee on a close play.

“At first I hesitated. I thought he was going to catch it. Then I saw him drop it, so I took off,” Lee said of the key play, which could have loaded the bases with no outs.

“I looked at replay. I beat it pretty good. I thought I got there.”

Lee and Cubs manager Dusty Baker both argued with third-base umpire Dana DeMuth before Lee finally left the base. With pinch-hitter Jose Macias batting, Joyce tossed Matthews, prompting a heated argument near the plate with Baker.

Macias then worked Clemens for a walk to load the bases and Walker hit hissacrifice fly to tie the game.

Notes

Astros 2B Jeff Kent did not play after straining a hamstring running the bases Tuesday night. … Biggio’s 37 career leadoff homers put him third place on the all-time list behind Rickey Henderson (80) and Brady Anderson (44). … Beltran’s first-inning infield single extended his hitting streak to 14 games, matching a career high set in 2001 with the Royals. He’s hit in all five games since joining the Astros. …Houston’s victory was its first overthe Cubs after losing the last five to Chicago.

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