Kent's two-run double sparks Astros in win

CHICAGO (AP) -- Jeff Kent again delivered against Kerry Wood,
sending the Houston Astros to a victory in the opener of a crucial
four-game series.

Kent hit a two-run double, and Houston got strong pitching from
Wade Miller and two relievers as the Astros beat the Chicago Cubs
3-1 Monday night.

"You just try to get as many scrape runs as you can because
he's not going to give you very many," said Kent, who went 1-for-4
and is now 11-for-23 with 12 RBI in his career against Wood.

"He's a heck of a pitcher. We had to have our `A' game against
him today," Kent added.

Craig Biggio homered for the Astros, who maintained their
two-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central after the Cardinals
beat the Pirates 6-4. The third-place Cubs fell 3{ back.

Miller (9-10) gave up five hits and a run in six innings,
striking out nine. Octavio Dotel pitched two scoreless innings, and
Billy Wagner worked the ninth for his 34th save in 37 chances.

"It gets your blood flowing to face a top pitcher like that,"
Miller said. "You try to minimize their runs because you know he's
going to pitch well."

Wood (11-9) allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings.
He also struck out nine, reaching 1,000 career strikeouts in his
134th game -- faster than any major league pitcher.

"I got outpitched. This means nothing right now," Wood said of
his strikeouts. "We're chasing a pennant and we lost a big game."

Kent became the 1,000th strikeout victim in the seventh, but
wasn't fazed.

"I heard about it, but what's the big deal if he's got 999
versus 1,000?" Kent said. "I don't think it matters."

Kent, broke a scoreless tie in the fifth. After singles by Geoff
Blum and Jeff Bagwell, he drove a ball over Doug Glanville's head
in center.

Sammy Sosa doubled in the sixth, moved to third on a single by
Aramis Ramirez and scored on an RBI single by Eric Karros.

Biggio's 10th homer, a drive off Kyle Farnsworth that hit the
left-field foul pole, made it 3-1 in the ninth.

Brad Ausmus had three hits for the Astros.

Game notes
Cubs SS Augie Ojeda stayed in the game after colliding with
Doug Glanville as they chased Ausmus's bloop double in the sixth.
Ojeda started in place of slumping Alex Gonzalez, who struck out
looking as a pinch-hitter in the ninth and is in a 2-for-46 slide.
... Kenny Lofton sat out with a jammed right wrist. ... In his last
appearance at Wrigley Field on May 30, Miller pitched a two-hitter
and struck out 14. ... According to research historian Ed Hartig,
Roger Clemens needed 143 games to reach 1,000 strikeouts, Dwight
Gooden 145 and Hideo Nomo 147. Nomo got 1,000 strikeouts in 927 2-3
innings, Sam McDowell in 932 2-3 and Pedro Martinez in 933 2-3. It
took Wood 853 innings. Wood also reached 200 strikeouts in a season
for the fourth time. ... Houston RF Richard Hidalgo made a heads-up
play in the eighth. After dropping Ramirez's fly ball for an error,
he picked the ball up quickly and threw to first to catch Ramirez,
who had strayed too far off the bag.