Alou's three-run homer gives Cubs big win over AstrosPosted: Wednesday August 13, 2003 5:41 PM
Updated: Wednesday August 13, 2003 7:53 PM
Alou hit a three-run homer against his former team and Chicago's bullpen blanked Houston over the final 4 2/3 innings as the Cubs beat the first-place Astros 6-4 Wednesday.
"Last year was a terrible year for me and the team," Alou said. "I was hurting most of the time and we were playing badly. It was a nightmare. ... This year is different."
The Cubs moved within 1 1/2 games of the Astros in the NL Central. Second-place St. Louis, which began the day one game back, played at Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Alou had three of his greatest seasons with the Astros in 1998, 2000 and 2001, sitting out 1999 with a torn knee ligament.
He still talks fondly of his days with Houston and beating them holds no special significance, he said.
"It would mean the same if it had been the Dodgers. It means more because they are the team we are chasing, not because I played there," Alou said.
Alou, who had 15 homers and 61 RBIs all of last season, now has 18 homers and 75 RBIs with nearly seven weeks left.
"It was a tough blow for us, a three-run homer that gave them the lead," Houston's Craig Biggio said. "He is a great hitter and we played with him for four years. We all know what he can do. He's a clutch hitter and once again he came up big, especially with the wind blowing straight in."
Cubs starter Shawn Estes lost his control in the fifth and walked the first two batters. After Jeff Bagwell struck out, Jeff Kent grounded to shortstop, but Gonzalez's throw got by third baseman Aramis Ramirez for an error loading the bases.
Guthrie got the final out of the inning and Antonio Alfonseca, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Remlinger and Joe Borowski combined to hold Houston scoreless the rest of the way. Borowski pitched the ninth for his 22nd save in 26 chances.
"We had a bases-loaded situation and Guthrie got us out of it. They got a run, but we'll trade a run for an out there," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Houston got two singles in the ninth with two outs before Borowski got Kent on a fly ball to end it.
"Everybody stepped up and did what they had to do to hold the lead," Borowski said.
Hidalgo hit his 21st homer, a solo shot in the first, to give the Astros an early lead.
Ramirez doubled in a run and Damian Miller had a two-run double as the Cubs scored three in the second.
Morgan Ensberg's double, a walk to Bagwell and Kent's RBI single cut it to 3-2 in the third and the Astros had a potential big inning ended when Bagwell was thrown out trying to steal third with Berkman batting.
Notes: Sosa was 0-for-4 and struck out three times. ... Houston's club record for wins by a rookie left-hander is 12, set by Jim Deshaies in 1986. The Astros' overall rookie record is 14, established two seasons ago by Roy Oswalt. ... Augie Ojeda got his fourth straight start for the Cubs -- two at shortstop, two at second -- but was 0-for-4 and is hitless in 14 at-bats since being called up Aug. 3. ... Miceli is pitching for his fourth team this season. He started with the Rockies and also spent time with the Indians and Yankees before joining the Astros on July 29. He had pitched nine scoreless innings for Houston before giving up Alou's homer. ... Guthrie's win was his first since July 26, 2002, when he was with the Mets.