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Updated: Thursday, August 14, 2003 8:42 PM EDT
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
1 5 1
Chicago Cubs
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
7 6 2
W Clement (10-10)
L Fernandez (1-2)
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CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Alex Gonzalez is breaking out of a prolonged slump at the right time for the Chicago Cubs .

Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs and Matt Clement pitched effectively into the sixth inning as the Cubs tightened the race in the National League Central with a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros .

Entering the game with just five hits in his last 64 at-bats, Gonzalez delivered an RBI double in the fourth inning and added a two-run homer in the eighth off reliever Brad Lidge .

"I think there's a feeling that anybody in our lineup can win a game for us, and that's what it's gonna take to win this thing," Gonzalez said. "It doesn't hurt to win three out of four in this series, and now it's going to be an exciting end of the season."

The Astros lost the final three games of the four-game series and dropped into a first-place tie with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central, one-half game ahead of the Cubs.

"This was a big series for us," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "There is a big difference between being six (games) out or just a half-game."

The Astros had been in sole possession of first place since July 9.

"We knew that no matter what happened in this series, there would still be some games to play, and it will go down to the last weekend," said Houston center fielder Craig Biggio , who was 0-for-5.

The Cubs defeated the Astros, 3-0, on Tuesday with the help of a two-run homer by Gonzalez. Gonzalez has hit 16 homers, two shy of his career high set last year.

Clement (10-10) lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run and three hits. He walked four, including a bases-loaded free pass to Adam Everett in the sixth, and struck out eight.

Four relievers followed with Joe Borowski pitching the ninth.

Houston knuckleballer Jared Fernandez (1-2) lasted four innings, allowing four runs and five hits.

The Cubs jumped on Fernandez for two runs in both the first and fourth. Kenny Lofton singled in the first and stole second before Gonzalez walked. Sammy Sosa struck out and Moises Alou flied out before rookie Hee Seop Choi delivered a two-run double to left-center.

Augie Ojeda was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fourth and went to third on a single by Paul Bako . Clement struck out before Lofton hit a sacrifice fly to left. Gonzalez followed with a double to left field to make it 4-0.

Rick White , signed as a free agent after being let go by the Chicago White Sox , replaced Fernandez and ran into immediate trouble in his Astros debut. The righthander hit two batters and also walked a pair, including Paul Bako with the bases loaded to force in a run and make it 5-0.

"I had some jitters coming to a new team, a pennant race and all, so I was glad to get out of that inning with one run," White said.

The home run by Gonzalez in the eighth followed a walk to lofton.

The series attracted 159,040, the most ever for a four-game set at Wrigley Field.

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