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Updated: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:48 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
San Francisco Giants
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
6 8 0
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
3 11 0
W Nathan (11-4)
L Wagner (1-4)
S Worrell (37)
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SAN FRANCISCO 6, HOUSTON 3
 

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Pedro Feliz and Ray Durham did the Chicago Cubs a big favor.

Feliz and Durham belted back-to-back homers against All-Star closer Billy Wagner in the top of the ninth inning as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Houston Astros , 6-3.

The Astros dropped into a first-place tie with the idle Cubs atop the National League Central Division standings. Both teams have six games remaining.

"We're tied for first with six games left. We're basically where you'd like to be when you get together in spring training," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "We've had some tough games the last three days, but we're still in the hunt."

The game was tied, 3-3, when Wagner (1-4) gave up a single to Jose Cruz Jr. with one out in the ninth. Feliz, a late-inning defensive replacement for Edgardo Alfonzo at third base, sent Wagner's 3-2 offering over the wall in right field to give San Francisco the lead. Durham followed by belting a 1-1 pitch into the left field seats to make it 6-3.

"It was a fastball to Feliz. It was a good fastball but it wasn't well located," Wagner said. "I haven't thrown a pitch where I wanted it the last three or four outings. I can't establish the inside corner, and the hitters can get pretty confident when you can't do that. Everything I threw was in a funnel right down the middle."

"I think that it's my lucky day," Feliz said. "It's not easy to hit a home run off him. He throws so hard. I was looking for a fastball away and I got a fastball away. I hit it good and made my teammates happy."

Wagner - who allowed back-to-back homers for just the second time in his career and for the first time since September 21, 1996 at Florida - had been nearly unhittable since July 1, yielding just one earned run in 37 innings. He had not lost since June 18 vs. Arizona.

"He's human, just like you guys," Williams told the media. "That can happen. (The Giants) have won 96 games. You've got to earn your victories against them. I thought he threw the ball good - he just got beat."

Joe Nathan (11-4) struck out two batters in the eighth inning to get the win. Tim Worrell pitched the ninth to pick up his 37th save in 44 opportunities.

Giants superstar Barry Bonds did not reach base via a hit or walk, snapping the National League-record 58-game streak that he shared with Duke Snider , who set the mark in 1954. Bonds, who grounded into an innning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the third, also accomplished the feat bridging the 2001-02 seasons.

Marquis Grissom and Andres Galarraga homered against Astros starter Ron Villone in the first and second inning, respectively, to open up a 2-0 lead.

Houston trailed, 2-1, before Lance Berkman rapped a one-out single against Giants starter Jerome Williams in the fourth. Richard Hidalgo hit a fly ball that Grissom dropped at the foot of Tal's Hill in center field, allowing him to reach third base and scoring Berkman. The play was ruled a triple.

Brad Ausmus gave Houston its only lead with a squeeze that plated Hidalgo.

The Giants tied the score in the seventh. With two outs, Astros reliever Brad Lidge walked Galarraga and Cruz, and Octavio Dotel followed with consecutive walks to pinch hitter J.T. Snow and Durham on nine pitches.

"Certainly they're not trying to walk them intentionally," Williams said. "Was it uncharacteristic? Yes. But we had the right guys in there. I didn't think they were overthrowing. Their velocity was consistent to me."

"Dotel was a little wild, and Lidge was, too," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "(Lidge) has got great stuff. Maybe the pressure of being in the middle of the race did something to him. The walks kind of opened the opportunity for us to get back into the game."

The Giants, who are percentage points ahead of the Atlanta Braves for home-field advantage throughout the NL postseason, improved to 12-1 all time at Minute Maid Park.

"It's a six-game race now," Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell said of their battle with the Cubs. "May the best team win. This is all you can ask for. We've got to play as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may."


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