Cubs 3, Astros 2
CHICAGO (AP)—The Houston Astros must like drama.
The offense wasted several scoring opportunities and reliever Mike Gallo gave up a two-run homer to Jeromy Burnitz in the seventh inning, giving the Chicago Cubs a 3-2 victory Sunday that cut Houston’s NL wild-card lead to one game over Philadelphia.
Derrek Lee also connected for the Cubs, who took two of three from the Astros.
“I think we want to take it down to the wire,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “That’s the way we’ve been playing it, so that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve just got to buckle down and play good ball now. We’re still in control of our destiny.”
The Astros have an off day before a two-game series in St. Louis, then finish the season with four home games against the Cubs. The Phillies host the New York Mets for three games before traveling to Washington for their last three.
“(The Phillies) are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. But we still feel good about what we’re doing, too,” Andy Pettitte said. “We feel like we’re strong, we feel like we’re going to be able to pull through this and get it done.”
Pettitte waited out a third-inning rain delay and pitched a gem, walking none and scattering two hits over six innings. The Astros couldn’t give him any support while he was in the game, but they took a 2-1 lead on Willy Taveras’ sacrifice fly in the seventh and turned it over to the bullpen, which hadn’t given up a run since Wednesday.
But Chad Qualls got in trouble quickly, allowing a leadoff single to Lee. With two outs, Gallo (0-1) relieved. He hadn’t allowed a run in 5 1-3 innings spanning eight outings, but Burnitz sent a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center for his 24th homer.
“It was a fastball, eye-level. Just above the letters. I’ve been getting guys swinging at that pitch all year long,” Gallo said. “I just left it in a spot that wasn’t high enough.”
It was Burnitz’s first homer in more than a week, and it snapped an 0-for-12 streak.
“I’ve been battling lately,” Burnitz said. “Today I was just trying to really stay on the ball a little bit more. It was a high fastball and I got under it and put a good swing and hit it really good.”
Corey Patterson robbed Michael Lamb of what would have been at least a base hit in the eighth with a snowcone catch, and Ryan Dempster retired pinch-hitter Jeff Bagwell with a runner on for his 31st save.
Jerome Williams (6-9) allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings, walking a season-high six and striking out three.
“We had some other opportunities and couldn’t break through,” Garner said. “When your big guys go to the mound, you’ve got to win them. We just didn’t put enough runs on the board.”
Pettitte had won his last seven starts, matching his career best, and was impressive against the Cubs. His only mistake was Lee’s first-inning homer, his 45th of the season.
As well as Pettitte pitched, though, the Astros couldn’t get him any runs. They stranded six runners in the first four innings, including three in the second, when they loaded the bases with none out.
In the fourth inning, Lane was picked off at third when he took too big a lead.
“I was just trying to do too much. Stupid play,” Lane said. “Bad mistake at a bad time.”
As soon as Pettitte was pulled, though, the Astros found some offense. Orlando Palmeiro, pinch-hitting for the left-hander, tripled into the corner in right, scoring Everett and tying the game at 1. Taveras followed with a sacrifice fly, and the Astros had a 2-1 lead.
But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
“We still need to win some games and try to close this thing out,” Pettitte said. “Hopefully, we can do that sooner rather than later.”
Rain delayed the game for 58 minutes in the top of the third. … Berkman drew two walks, giving him 18 in the last 12 games. … With a crowd of 38,121, the Cubs topped the 3 million mark for the second straight year. … Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton, who once called games for the Cubs, worked his last game at Wrigley Field. Hamilton, in his 21st season with the Astros, will do only home games next season.