Cubs 11, Astros 6

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HOUSTON (AP)—After being plunked between the shoulders, Michael Barrett offered a few words of advice for Roy Oswalt when the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros meet again next week.

Watch your back.

Aramis Ramirez hit a three-run homer, Moises Alou also connected and the Cubs beat Houston 11-6 Sunday in the testy conclusion of a three-game series between the NL Central rivals.

Oswalt, Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and manager Dusty Baker were ejected from the game after the right-handers plunked four players.

“I was a little disappointed in Roy,” said Barrett, nailed in the back by Oswalt in the third inning after allowing the homer to Ramirez. “I thought he was better than that. We’re going to see him again.”

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.

Wood, returning from a five-game suspension for arguing with an umpire, was ejected in the bottom of the fifth 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.

Plate umpire Bill Hohn threw Wood out of the game, and the two argued. Baker came out to argue the ejection and also was tossed by Hohn. The Cubs were leading 10-2 at the time, and Wood finished two outs short of earning his eighth win.

Wood denied intentionally trying to throw at Kent, saying he simply lost control of the pitch.

“Considering that I’m two outs away from the easiest win of my career, obviously I’m not trying to hit the guy,” Wood said. “If I was going to hit somebody, I would have got him a lot better than that.”

John Leicester (4-0) got the win for the Cubs, allowing three runs on four hits in 3 2-3 innings. He had one strikeout and one walk.

The Cubs (67-56) took two of three from the Astros (61-62) in a key series as both teams remain in the thick of the NL wild-card race. They meet again for a four-game series at Wrigley Field starting Thursday.

If this series was any indication, Houston is going to have a tough time overtaking the Cubs in the standings. Chicago was only a ninth-inning rally on Saturday away from a sweep.

“This puts us in a bind,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “We’re not out of it, but it’s going to be tough.”

Wood, who served his suspension from Tuesday through Saturday, got more than enough offensive help in his short outing.

He allowed two runs on five hits in 4 1-3 innings before he was chased. Wood also had four strikeouts and three walks.

Lamb sent Wood’s 86-mph slider just over the right-field fence in the second to give the Astros the early lead.

From there, it was all Cubs.

In the third, Todd Walker hit a ground-rule double to score Corey Patterson. Walker scored on a fielding error by Lamb to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

Alou was then walked, Sammy Sosa doubled and Ramirez followed with his 25th homer, a shot to center field that dropped into the balcony along the outfield wall.

Oswalt (13-9) hit Barrett on the next pitch, putting the wraps on his first loss in seven starts. In his shortest outing of the season, Oswalt allowed five runs on four hits.

Oswalt adamantly insisted that he didn’t hit Barrett intentionally, and also was also upset that Wood got three chances to plunk batters and he only got one.

“I don’t see why he gets three chances and I get one,” Oswalt said. “I only wanted to pitch inside. It’s part of the game.”

Across the Astros’ clubhouse, though, first baseman Jeff Bagwell was skeptical.

“I’d have thrown Roy out,” Bagwell said. “That’s about as obvious as it can be.”

Baker noted that Oswalt didn’t put up much of a protest to his ejection, heading to the dugout almost immediately after hitting Barrett.

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

The Cubs also ended Oswalt’s streak of 13 consecutive victories in August, which had been the most for any pitcher in a single month without a loss since 1920. He is undefeated—including 3-0 this year—in the year’s eighth month.

Walker and Patterson had RBI singles, Barrett and Ramon Martinez added run-scoring doubles in the fifth, and Alou had a solo homer in the sixth for his team-leading 29th.

Craig Biggio and Eric Bruntlett hit solo homers, Jose Vizcaino went 4-for-5 with an RBI single in the fourth. Lance Berkman scored on a throwing error and Kent on a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Notes

Biggio hit the first pinch-hit homer of his career. It was the Astros’ fourth of the season. … Biggio also moved one hit (2,598) away from tying Steve Garvey for 68th place on baseball’s career list. … Oswalt was ejected for the second time this season. … Astros OF Lance Berkman had his career-high 108th walk in the third.

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