CHICAGO (AP)—With tensions running high at Wrigley Field, the Houston Astros kept their cool and climbed back into playoff contention.
Jeff Bagwell capped a big weekend with three hits for the Astros, who took three of four from Chicago. They have won 11 of 14 overall and are just four games back in the NL wild-card race.
“We came in here with our backs to the wall,” manager Phil Garner said. “I wouldn’t say we’re leading the pack, but we certainly put ourselves in the thick of this thing. I think right now the way we’re playing, people are going to have to take notice.”
Houston star Carlos Beltran left with a bruised knee after he was hit by a pitch in the eighth and is day-to-day. Later in the inning, Berkman appeared to be plunked in the helmet by Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger.
Berkman went to the ground and stayed down for several minutes, clutching his helmet. He said the ball hit him, but Remlinger and the Cubs believe Berkman was pulling a stunt.
“It hit me square. I was more stunned by the whole … whenever you see a ball like that. I hit the ground real hard, too. To be honest with you, it was just kind of a confusing deal for me from the get-go,” Berkman said. “I know in that instance he certainly wasn’t trying to throw up and in like that, but when a ball gets away from a guy like that it’s really. … I mean that’s a scary deal.”
On the replay, the ball appeared to sail over Berkman’s helmet and possibly hit him in the hand. Remlinger thought the whole thing was an act after he watched it again.
“I thought it was pretty chicken,” Remlinger said. “You hit somebody and it turns out that you look at the tape and Berkman didn’t even get hit. (He) was pretending he got hit in the face and thinking maybe you put somebody in the hospital and then you find out he’s faking it. That speaks for itself, pretty poor.”
The benches emptied for the second time in the four-game series when new Astros reliever Dan Wheeler hit Derrek Lee in the back with a pitch in the ninth. Wheeler and Garner were ejected and the game was delayed for about three minutes, but no punches were thrown.
After all that, the Astros left Chicago feeling pretty good about their postseason chances.
“This is something we really needed to do is to come in here and win three out of four games, and our guys did it. We lost the first game and found a way to win. The next thing you know, hopefully we’ll have something to play for in September,” Bagwell said.
The Cubs dropped into a tie with San Diego for the wild-card lead and lost starter Matt Clement (9-12) to a strained neck and upper back.
Clement doesn’t expect to miss a start.
“I could’ve probably battled through it, but I think it was just wise not to mess around with it,” he said.
Barrett got into a couple of heated verbal exchanges with Oswalt and other Astros players Friday at Wrigley Field. Cubs reliever Kent Mercker also plunked Oswalt in that game.
Houston scored five times in the eighth inning to add to its 5-3 lead.
Ryan Dempster hit Beltran with a pitch, and Remlinger nailed Berkman with the bases loaded to force in a run. Jeff Kent, Mike Lamb and Jose Vizcaino followed with consecutive RBI singles. Remlinger walked Orlando Palmeiro with the bases loaded, making it 10-3.
Beltran, who has hammered Cubs pitching since he was traded to Houston by Kansas City in June, went 1-for-2 with two stolen bases and two walks before limping off in the eighth. Berkman stayed in the game after he was hit, and both benches were warned.
Hernandez missed the entire 2003 season because of shoulder surgery. Making his fourth big league start of the year, he allowed three runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. Hernandez (1-1) struck out two and walked four in his first major league win since Sept. 7, 2002, at Los Angeles.
“He’s had to learn how to pitch since he’s come back from his injury because he hasn’t had that good, blazing fastball every time he goes out there,” Garner said.
Bagwell went 10-for-18 with seven RBIs in the series. … Patterson hit his third career leadoff homer. … Clement pitched 4 1-3 innings, giving up four runs and seven hits. … The Cubs won the season series 10-9. … Astros LF Craig Biggio had his scheduled day off. He pinch-hit in the seventh. … Cubs 3B Ramirez was out with a strained left groin. He missed 11 games in July with the injury. … Astros 3B Morgan Ensberg missed his second straight game with back spasms.