CHICAGO (AP) - The Houston Astros had their chances, but just couldn't capitalize.
A very similar story for the team with the major leagues' worst record.
Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano hit fifth-inning homers and the Chicago Cubs beat the Astros 4-2 on Friday.
The Astros (33-66) loaded the bases with nobody out in the second and third innings against Carlos Zambrano but managed only one run, scored on a double play.
``We had 10 hits, but it seemed like they didn't come quite when we would have liked if we had our choice,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``(Michael) Bourn swung the bat really well, three knocks. We weren't able to capitalize.'
Bourn had three hits and two stolen bases in the leadoff spot, but never made it past second base.
The Astros loaded the bases with nobody out in the second on Carlos Lee's walk and back-to-back singles by Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson.
Zambrano fell behind Clint Barmes 3-0, but induced a double-play grounder to short, scoring Lee with the game's first run. Zambrano escaped further damage by getting Humberto Quintero on a bouncer to second.
The Astros again loaded the bases with no outs in the third.
Norris and Bourn singled and Zambrano hit Jose Altuve in the shoulder with a pitch.
Zambrano fell behind Hunter Pence 3-0, but Pence lined sharply to shallow left. Lee flied out to about the same spot, leaving the bases loaded with two outs for Wallace, who also flied to right to end the inning.
``Hunter hit the ball well in the third inning, but it was right at (Soriano),' Mills said. ``Anytime you have those opportunities to score and you only get one it's tough.'
Zambrano knew he got away with one, too.
``I got lucky on the pitch to Pence,' he said. ``He hit it hard, but right at Soriano. Sometimes it's good to have luck, too.'
Bud Norris (5-7) took the loss in his first career start at Wrigley Field. He gave up nine hits in 6 1-3 innings, allowed four runs and struck out five.
Norris eluded trouble in the first four innings, but gave up four runs in the fifth.
Soriano cut Houston's lead to 2-1 with a leadoff homer. Chicago tied it when Darwin Barney singled, went to second on Zambrano's bunt hit, stole third and scored on Starlin Castro's sacrifice fly.
Ramirez then hit his 18th homer of the season, a two-run shot, into the left-field bleachers to put the Cubs up 4-2.
His 13 homers since June 24 are the most in the majors.
``I didn't execute that pitch to Ramirez,' Norris said. ``Trying to get a fastball up and in, definitely left it out and over, and that's what a good hitter does to it. It's unfortunate that's how the game gets decided sometimes, but that's the way it's been for us this year.'
Zambrano (7-5) won for just the second time since May 26 and improved to 16-8 against Houston, the most wins against the Astros by an active pitcher.
Zambrano allowed nine hits and two runs in six innings. He struck out three and walked one. Five relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings.
Sean Marshall pitched the ninth for his third save. Carlos Marmol, the Cubs' closer for most of the season, struck out the only two batters he faced in the eighth. He could soon regain the role of Chicago closer.
NOTES: Houston activated OF Jason Bourgeois from the 15-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Brian Bogusevic to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Bourgeois, on the DL since June 29 because of a strained right quad, struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. ... Henry Sosa, acquired by the Astros from the San Francisco Giants for infielder Jeff Keppinger on Tuesday, threw seven shutout innings in his debut with Double-A Corpus Christi on Thursday night. He allowed four hits and struck out five. ... The Cubs snapped a nine-game streak with at least one error, their longest since June 4-13, 1987. Chicago has 87 errors this season, 15 more than the Astros, who have the second-most in the National League.
The Associated Press News Service
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