Astros 15, Cubs 7

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CHICAGO (AP)—Don’t blame Carlos Beltran if the Houston Astros miss the playoffs.

The All-Star center fielder had another big day at Wrigley Field, hitting two home runs to lead Houston over Kerry Wood and the Chicago Cubs 15-7 Friday. Beltran finished with four hits, and he has homered in five consecutive games.

In two series at Wrigley Field since coming over from Kansas City in June, Beltran is 11-for-21 with seven homers and 11 RBIs in five games.

“I think that’s a coincidence,” he said. But, he added: “Every time I come here, I feel good.”

Beltran had plenty of help Friday as the Astros chased Wood early and snapped Chicago’s five-game winning streak in a game that featured more trouble between Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt and Cubs catcher Michael Barrett.

Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman hit back-to-back solo shots off Wood, and Jeff Kent added a home run to help Houston win for the ninth time in 12 games. The Astros moved within six games of Chicago in the NL wild-card race.

“The last 10 days we’ve been playing good baseball,” Beltran said. “We’ve been doing things right and that’s real important for us to keep moving up.”

Beltran hit a solo homer in the first inning off Wood and a three-run shot in the ninth to punctuate a six-run inning against Kyle Farnsworth. In between, the Astros had plenty of offense, finishing with 17 hits off five Cubs pitchers.

“When bats get hot like theirs were today, like ours had been, it doesn’t matter who you throw out there,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Tempers flared again between Barrett and Oswalt, five days after Oswalt was ejected for hitting Barrett with a pitch following a Cubs homer.

Both benches emptied after Barrett jawed with Oswalt when the pitcher came up to bat in the second—an exchange that continued after Oswalt grounded out. There was no further trouble, even after Oswalt was later hit by a pitch, prompting a warning to both sides from plate umpire C.B. Bucknor.

Barrett said he had been waiting for the chance to “speak my piece” to Oswalt, citing not only last Sunday’s beaning but similar previous incidents involving the pitcher.

“I felt like he was wrong and I wanted him to know that,” Barrett said. “To hit someone intentionally, especially the way he did it, I think it’s wrong.”

Oswalt (15-9) allowed six runs in eight innings for the win on a hot, muggy day, retiring 13 batters in a row from the fourth inning until yielding a single and a two-run homer to Nomar Garciaparra with two outs in the eighth.

Oswalt said Barrett clearly was trying to fire up the crowd, and perhaps get him ejected, but said he had a right to say something if he thought he’d been thrown at.

“I thought he handled it a little worse than a regular person would, guys that have been in the league for a while, but he’s got a right to do what he wants to do,” Oswalt said. “He’s got to go out there and play every day. It’s all good.”

Houston jumped on Wood (7-6) for four runs in the first and never trailed, battering him for eight runs on nine hits in 4 1-3 innings, including the four homers.

“It was just a bad day,” Wood said. “Most of those balls would have got out (even) if the wind was blowing in. The ball was up and they were whacking it.”

Beltran’s first-inning homer into the right-field bleachers was his 19th since being traded to the Astros on June 25 and his 34th overall. Wood then gave up a run-scoring single to Kent and a two-run double to Morgan Ensberg to make it 4-0 after just six batters.

Garciaparra hit a run-scoring single into the ivy on the left-field wall in the bottom of the first and Moises Alou’s sacrifice fly later in the inning made it 4-2.

Bagwell and Berkman both homered to left, the 20th for each, in the third inning, but Derrek Lee got the two runs back in the bottom of the inning on a shot to center, his 28th. Houston added single runs in each of the next three innings on Bagwell’s RBI single, Kent’s 17th homer and Kent Mercker’s wild pitch following a hit batsman, Beltran’s single and a walk, making it 9-4.

After Chicago closed the gap to three runs in the eighth, Houston came right back in the ninth with run-scoring hits by Mike Lamb, Jose Vizcaino and Jason Lane, plus Beltran’s shot.


The Astros designated reliever David Weathers for assignment after the game. Weathers pitched the ninth and gave up a run on Barrett’s RBI triple, raising his ERA to 4.52. He was acquired in a June trade with the New York Mets for right fielder Richard Hidalgo. … Ensberg left with back spasms in the fourth inning and said he would sit out Saturday’s game. … Garciaparra’s homer was his fourth with the Cubs and ninth of the season overall.

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