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Astros Soar Past Cubs In Last At-Bat


The Astros expect to win in their last at-bat. They've done it 21 times this season.
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  • This time, they needed a little help. Terry Mulholland's throwing error off the glove of first baseman Mark Grace allowed pinch-runner Tim Bogar to score with two outs in the 11th inning, and Houston overcame a four-run deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 Saturday night.

    "All I had to do was stay calm, but I got excited and didn't wait for Grace," Mulholland said. "That's why they call them errors. This one was just bigger than most. There are no excuses. I got in a hurry and didn't make a crisp throw."

    Mulholland (3-3) walked Sean Berry leading off the 11th and Brad Ausmus sacrificed. One out later, Craig Biggio was intentionally walked and Ricky Gutierrez was walked unintentionally, loading the bases.

    Derek Bell followed with a chopper back to the mound that Mulholland (3-3) threw off the top Grace's glove. Bogar was running for Berry, who injured his foot going back to second on a pickoff attempt.

    Bell, with a career .555 average against Mulholland, just wanted to get the ball out of the infield.

    "I was just trying to get it in the gap," Bell said. "But I really hustled down the first-base line, and I think he saw that he had to make a quick throw."

    Sammy Sosa failed to homer and remained at 46, one behind major-league leader Mark McGwire. Sosa was 2-for-5 and drove in a run, giving him 118 RBI, one short of his career high and one behind Juan Gonzalez, who leads the majors. Sosa has failed to homer in his last 16 at-bats.

    Moises Alou homered twice, raising his season total to 5 with his third multihomer game this season, the 12th of his career. He tied the score with a ninth-inning homer off Rod Beck, who blew a save for the sixth time in 41 chances.

    "I am a very positive person and I like to be on the spot when the pressure is on," said Alou, acquired from Florida during the off-season. "Coming to the Astrodome gave me confidence because I like hitting here."

    Billy Wagner (3-3) pitched two perfect innings and struck out five.

    The Astros had chances to pull ahead in the seventh and eighth before Alou's ninth-inning homer finally got them into extra innings.

    "We were lucky to ein, but they were lucky to get four runs in the third-inning too," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "But all of their luck came in one inning. I felt we kept the pressure on and won with luck until it got to the point where we could win with skill."

    Cubs starter Kevin Tapani allowed three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. Houston's Mike Hampton, who has one win in his last eight starts, gave up four runs and eight hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking three.

    Sosa hit an RBI single to drive in the first run, his first hit off Hampton in 25 career at-bats. Glenallen Hill had a two-run single that went off the tip of Jeff Bagwell's glove at first, and Jose Hernandez doubled in a run.

    Alou homered in the bottom half, Bell hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Berry hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Carl Everett was thrown out at the plate by Manny Alexander when he tried to score on Ausmus' grounder to second.

    "That was an unfortunate way to lose, but we were fortunate not to lose it a few innings earlier," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "We were dodging bullets all night long."

    Notes

  • Sosa hit cleanup for the 23rd time this season. He's been in the No. 3 spot 97 times.
  • Hampton is 3-1 against the Cubs in his last five starts.
  • Tapani has nine hits and nine RBI this season.
  • A baserunning blunder by Gutierrez may have cost the Astros more runs in the sixth. With one out, Gutierrez took off for second base on Bagwell's fly to right and was thrown out by Sosa, who recorded his 12th assist of the season.

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