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Updated: Sunday, July 27, 2003 9:44 PM EDT
MLB RECAP
Chicago Cubs
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
5 10 0
Houston Astros
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
3 6 1
W Estes (7-8)
L Robertson (10-4)
S Borowski (19)
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CHICAGO CUBS 5, HOUSTON 3
 

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Shawn Estes halted his streak by ending Jeriome Robertson 's.

Estes allowed two runs in five innings and won for the first time in eight starts as the Chicago Cubs jumped on Robertson early and posted a 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros .

Estes (7-8) went 4-1 in May but has struggled since, winning just once in 10 appearances. He was coming off a horrible start in Atlanta on Monday in which he was ripped for five runs and seven hits in three-plus innings.

But in the rubber game of the three-game series, Estes struck out six and pitched effectively after being staked to a 3-0 lead. The veteran lefthander also was backed by a solid outing by the bullpen.

Joe Borowski retired the final three batters for his 19th save in 22 opportunities.

"Estes held them down for five innings today and the bullpen took it from there and did an outstanding job," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We never really feel comfortable in this ballpark because anyone can hit it out and change the game with one swing of the bat.

"The pressure today was just to go out there and have a good outing more than anything," Estes said. "Every time I go out there I just want to do what I can to help us win. I knew I wanted to work on some mechanical things and to throw my breaking ball a little harder at times to give them a different look. I think my curveball was a lot better today because of it."

Estes was aware of his winless stretch. "I am just trying to go one game at a time now," he said. "That's all I can do for now. I can't look back."

"Estes changed speeds on us and he doesn't give in," said Houston center fielder Craig Biggio , who was 0-for-5. "We never really got anybody on."

Robertson (10-4) lasted just 1 2/3 innings as the rookie lefthander had his nine-game winning streak snapped. He had won six straight starts but surrendered homers to Sammy Sosa and Eric Karros .

Both homers had historical significance to them.

Sosa's homer was his 521st, tying Willie McCovey and Ted Williams for 12th place on the all-time list, while Karros homer gave him 1,000 career RBI.

Sosa's homer - his 22nd of the season - left him 20 shy of Ernie Banks ' team record of 512. Sosa's first 29 homers came in the American League.

After Karros opened the second with his ninth homer of the season, Robertson rebounded to strike out Ramon Martinez . Damian Miller singled and was bunted over by Estes. Kenny Lofton made it 3-0 with a long triple to right field.

Lofton's triple ended Robertson's night and he fought manager Jimy Williams about coming out.

"His problem today was more location that anything," Williams said. "His stuff was about what it's been all season. ... I think the starter definitely sets the tone for the rest of the game and when he's not having a good game, you have to protect him. He didn't want to come out."

"I felt great when I went out there," Robertson said. "My arm felt good and my stuff was sharp coming out of the bullpen. Even when they got some hits, I felt good. I threw a couple of good pitches and they still ended up getting some hits. This game is over. I will do some evaluating and try to make some adjustments for next time."

Kirk Saarloos replaced Robertson and got Mark Grudzielanek to bounce out. The Astros then drew within 3-2 in the third when Morgan Ensberg singled and Jeff Bagwell launched his 23rd homer.

Grudzielanek homered off Saarloos in the fifth to extend Chicago's lead to 4-2 but Richard Hidalgo countered for Houston with a solo homer off Dave Veres in the sixth.

Lofton used his speed to give Chicago an insurance run in the seventh. The Cubs center fielder led off with a double, took third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.

"That was vintage Kenny Lofton out there today," Baker said. "We know he is the guy that can drive in some runs for us, he runs the bases well and he plays outstanding defense."

"I felt really comfortable out there today," Lofton said. "Before the game, Dusty was telling me that I looked a little tight out there. He told me just to go out there relax, and have a little fun. He told me just to go out there, be myself and have a little fun. He told me that I know how to do what I do and he said just to have some fun doing it."

Chicago is 4 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the National League Central Division.


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