Astros 4, Cubs 3

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HOUSTON (AP)—Jason Lane took an unusual post-game batting practice with hitting coach Gary Gaetti after a disappointing performance Friday night.

It paid off for Lane and the Houston Astros on Saturday night.

Lane’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning led the Astros to their fifth win in six games, rallying for a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

“Last night, I was horrible in my one at-bat and it came at a time when we might have gotten something going if I would have done something,” said Lane, who grounded into a fielder’s choice as a pinch hitter with runners on first and second early in the Astros’ 9-2 loss Friday.

“So I stayed after the game and worked on my hitting,” Lane said.

Lane worked with Gaetti for about 45 minutes.

“We worked on little things and made some progress,” Lane said. “I just was more comfortable at the plate tonight.”

Jeff Kent led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and moved to third when Morgan Ensberg reached on a throwing error by third baseman Jose Macias. Kent scored on Jose Vizcaino’s single to tie it.

After pinch-hitter Mike Lamb reached on an intentional walk to load the bases, Lane singled to right, scoring Ensberg with the winning run.

“The guys ahead of me did a great job, Morgan getting the bunt down and Viz coming up with the big hit. I just felt I had to do my part,” Lane said. “Once I got it to 2-0, I felt I could be more aggressive. I didn’t get the pitch I wanted, but I was able to get the bat on it.”

Lane has played sparingly in his first full season in the majors.

“I think that every at-bat he gets is a confidence booster. He has been a run-producer in the minor leagues and used to being the man who drives in the big runs,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “Not playing every day has been hard on him, but clearly he belongs in this league. That was a really big hit.”

Brad Lidge (4-6) earned the win, striking struck out three in 1 1-3 innings. He gave up two runs on three hits.

LaTroy Hawkins (2-4) allowed two runs on three hits in 1-3 of an inning and took the loss.

“Lane hit a good pitch, I can live with that,” Hawkins said. “We’ve been playing too good to let one loss get us down.”

Chicago’s Aramis Ramirez led off the eighth with a single, and pinch-runner Macias then scored on Michael Barrett’s triple. Ramon Martinez drove in Barrett with a sacrifice fly, giving the Cubs their first lead of the game at 3-2.

Brandon Backe struck out four and walked three, while holding the Cubs to four hits over seven innings in his first major league start. Only two Chicago baserunners reached second.

A walk to Kent, an intentional walk to Vizcaino and a walk to Brad Ausmus loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning for Houston. Backe then bounced a two-run single up the middle for the first hit of the game, giving the Astros an early lead.

It was Backe’s first major league hit in just his third plate appearance.

“His pitching and his hitting were outstanding. He did a great job of using all of his pitches and going inside,” Garner said. “Look at all the bats he snapped off with inside pitches. He pitched like he’s been pitching against these guys for a long time.”

Chicago moved within 2-1 in the eighth when reliever Dan Miceli allowed a single to Corey Patterson and walked Derrek Lee. Patterson scored on a single by Moises Alou.

Miceli was lifted in favor of Brad Lidge, who struck out Sammy Sosa to end the rally.

“In close games like that, it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes,” Patterson said. “And tonight, it was them.”

Notes

Craig Biggio is three hits away from becoming the first Astros player to reach 2,600 career hits. … Carlos Beltran stole his 30th base and needs one homer to record his first 30-30 season and the 45th in major league history. … The Cubs have hit at least one homer in 31 of their last 38 games … Moises Alou has 21 home runs in 384 at-bats against Houston, his former team.

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