Alou's three-run shot sparks Cubs to win

CHICAGO (AP) -- Moises Alou is healthy and productive. And the
Chicago Cubs finally have the player they were expecting when they
signed him as a free agent before last season.

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{ 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.

Houston lefty Jeriome Robertson (11-6), bidding to become the
first rookie this season with 12 wins, entered the fifth with a 4-3
lead before giving up singles to Kenny Lofton and Alex Gonzalez.

Dan Miceli relieved and struck out Sammy Sosa before Alou lofted
a long drive to left, sending the Cubs ahead 6-4.

Alou, who had 15 homers and 61 RBI all of last season, now has
18 homers and 75 RBI 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.

Estes then walked Richard Hidalgo on four pitches to force in
the tying run before Lance Berkman greeted reliever Mark Guthrie
(1-3) with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3.

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.