Astros avoid danger, keep Cubs on losing path

Unsung hero: Woody Williams squirmed out of bases-loaded jams in the first and third innings, giving up only one run, and went six innings for the win.

Figure this: The Cubs have lost both games since Alfonso Soriano went down but have dropped five of their last six.

Quotable: "It's never easy to replace a guy like [Alfonso] Soriano. He brings a lot to the club. You don't replace him. All you can do is go out and pick up the pieces and do the best you can." -- Cubs outfielder Matt Murton

-- ESPN.com news services

Astros 5, Cubs 2

HOUSTON (ESPN.com news services) -- The Chicago Cubs are missing Alfonso Soriano's bat.

Craig Biggio drove in the go-ahead run in a four-run sixth inning and the Houston Astros beat Chicago 5-2, the second straight game the Cubs have lost since Soriano went on the disabled list because of a torn right quadriceps.

In those games, the Cubs have scored three runs.

"Any time you lose a guy like that, there's going to be some affect on your team," reliever Kerry Wood said. "Even if it doesn't affect you on the field, mindset-wise it's going to bother you. You hate to see a guy like that go out. Hopefully he'll be back real soon."

Matt Murton, who led off the seventh with his second home run of the year, agreed.

"It's never easy to replace a guy like Soriano," Murton said. "He brings a lot to the club. You don't replace him. All you can do is go out and pick up the pieces and do the best you can."

Sean Marshall (5-6) lost for the third time in his last four starts. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs and seven hits, striking out two.

Marshall, who retired nine straight batters before managing to get only one out in the sixth, doesn't think the loss of Soriano is the problem.

"I don't think that's bothering us," Marshall said. "Good teams go through droughts. The Brewers went through one last month. We just have to bounce back tomorrow and swing the bats."

Manager Lou Piniella would like to see that. He also questions how much the loss of Soriano is affecting his team.

"It's hard coming by runs right now," Piniella said. "Everybody's just got to do their part. I don't think anybody's being asked to carry more of the load than they can.

"We just need a game where we swing the bats and score some runs and then go from there."

It was the third straight loss for the Cubs, who have dropped five of their last six. They stayed a game behind the Brewers who lost to the Rockies 11-4 on Tuesday night.

The hit was Biggio's 3,023rd, tying him with Lou Brock for 22nd on the all-time hit list.

Woody Williams (6-12) went six innings, allowed one run and four hits. He struck out seven, walked two and retired the final 10 batters he faced.

Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his seventh save, all of which have come since he was activated from the disabled list July 12.

Williams got off to a rough start, loading the bases with a pair of walks and a single before retiring a batter. He then walked Cliff Floyd to force in Ryan Theriot for a 1-0 lead.

Williams walked only one more the rest of his outing. He got out of the first without additional damage by striking out Mark DeRosa, getting Jacque Jones to pop out, and retiring Jason Kendall on a fly out.

"I thought [the plate] was moving around in the first inning," Williams said. "I wasn't reaching out and finishing my pitches. After the first inning they were digging in and swinging from the heels. I was fortunate enough to make some good pitches."

Manager Phil Garner was sticking with Williams, regardless.

"I was worried in the first inning," Garner said. "He was just off the plate and he persevered and got through it. He was going to have to get us out of it. The bullpen has been taxed."

Jason Lane tied it with his seventh home run of the season in the second inning.

Brad Ausmus doubled to lead off the sixth and was sacrificed to third. Biggio then punched a low bouncer up the middle on the drawn-in infield to break the 1-1 tie.

"The first two times I squared the bat on the ball the third baseman made a good play and the shortstop made a good play," Biggio said of his first two at-bats. "You get one through and you get lucky sometimes."

Mark Loretta singled on a slow roller that stopped an inch off the base line halfway to third and Lance Berkman's single drove in Biggio for a 3-1 lead.

The Astros weren't done. Carlos Lee drove in a run with a double off the visitors bullpen screen in left center and Ty Wigginton singled, the fifth straight Astros hit to make it 5-1.

Eric Patterson, the brother of Corey Patterson, made his first major league start in place of Soriano in left. He went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Game notes
Williams got his 1,500th career strikeout in the third inning when Derrek Lee was called out on strikes. ... His six innings pitched gave him 145 for the season, the fifth straight year he has hit the 145-inning mark. ... Cubs starters have not lost consecutive games since June 16-17 when Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill did it. ... Chicago failed to get a double for the first time in seven games. ... Wood pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.