Monday, July 25, 2011
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Cubs sweep Astros on Baker's pinch-hit single

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[July 25, 2011]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Before the game, Jeff Baker and some of his teammates had some laughs about the inability to win three straight games. It almost became a no laughing matter after the Cubs nearly blew another impressive start from Matt Garza.

Baker's pinch-hit game-winning single in the 10th inning helped Chicago complete its first three-game sweep at Wrigley Field in nearly two years as the Cubs beat the Houston Astros 5-4 on Sunday afternoon.

It's Chicago's first three-game winning streak this season.

"We were joking around today, trying to loosen guys up, saying there is no way we can win three," said Baker. "It was big, obviously it's frustrating the year hasn't gone the way we want. To finally to get three together, it's in our division, hopefully we get rolling. Why not four?"

Marlon Byrd led off the 10th inning with a deep fly ball to right-center. Astros right fielder Hunter Pence was in the area to catch it but apparently lost it in the sun. Byrd ended up on third with a triple.

"Today, my performance was awful. I let everyone down. I never even saw the ball. I saw the ball off the bat. I was running, but it never came out of the sun. I was looking, looking, looking, and I heard it hit the ground. I was trying to get there. I really don't know what I could have done better on that play because of the sun in my face, but there's no excuse. It's a Major League ballgame," said Pence. "It's not the first time I've made a horrendous play in this outfield. No fly ball is easy here. It's the toughest one I've ever played in.

Astros reliever David Carpenter (0-1) then struck out Geovany Soto, after intentional walks to Tony Campana and Darwin Barney, Baker ended the game with a liner down the left-field line.

Cubs reliever John Grabow (2-0) pitched a scoreless 10th inning to earn the win.

Chicago had to come back after the Cubs bullpen blew another impressive start by Garza. In his third straight start, Garza left after seven innings with the lead only to have it blown by the bullpen.

On Sunday, Garza was done in by reliever Jeff Samardzija. With a 2-1 lead, Samardzija allowed a leadoff walk to Pence in the eighth, then gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Lee to give the Astros a 4-3 lead. Lee has hit 36 home runs in his career against the Cubs with 101 RBIs.

"He (Garza) has plenty to show for it. We won a ballgame because he gave us seven great innings," said Cubs manager Mike Quade. "You feel terrible he didn't get the win, but a big part of that win is on him. It ain't going on the stat sheet, but we all know that and he damn well better know it and he does."

Quade gave Garza an option if he wanted to continue pitch in the eighth, but after a long seventh and a pitch count at 107, Garza decided against it.

"Quade gave me the choice after the seventh if I wanted to keep going, being a competitor it is always yeah right out of the gates, but then I sat down and thought about it a little bit before the inning started then I said No. If it's a long inning get someone out there because I will cool off if it is short I will go. Then a pitching change it lengthen it out ... It is what it is," said Garza.

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The Cubs rallied in the bottom of the eighth. Byrd led off with a single off Astros reliever Wilton Lopez and he advanced to third on Soto's single. Alfonso Soriano tied the game with a broken-bat single to left.

Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol pitched out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the ninth. He struck out Pence then ended the inning by getting Lee to pop out to center.

Soto and Barney had a pair of RBI doubles for the Cubs, who swept an opponent at home for the first time since taking three straight from Cincinnati on July 24-26, 2009.

The last time the Cubs won three straight overall was at San Diego and Houston on Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2010.

Garza allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings, while striking out nine. He hasn't won since July 27.

Clint Barmes also hit a solo home run for the major-league worst Astros, who have lost seven straight on the road.

Astros starter Jordan Lyles rebounded after a three-run second inning to pitch six innings. The 20-year-old allowed three runs and nine hits while striking out five.

Trailing 1-0 in the second inning, Byrd led off with a double and scored on Soto's double to center field. After Soriano struck out, Barney doubled down the right-field line to score Soto. Garza followed with a single to right to score Barney to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. It was Garza's first RBI in the majors.

Barmes' first inning home run ended Houston's streak of 27 consecutive hits without an extra base hit. Barmes connected on Garza's 1-1 pitch in the first inning for his sixth of the season.

"We went out there and battled, battled, battled. Lyles kept us in the game and pitched a great game. The bullpen has been great for us. It's one of those situation that seems like nothing goes right, no matter what. Always something is going to happen. It doesn't matter how good we play," said Lee.

NOTES: Astros C Carlos Corporan, who left the game after getting hit on the right foot by a pitch on Saturday, suffered a bruise, but isn't expected to miss extended time.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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