Frustration builds as Wood gets little support
If the eagerly anticipated pitching matchup of Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens comes to pass during the New York Yankees' visit this weekend, the two right-handers will have quite a bit in common: pitch velocity, home state and frustration.

While Clemens was failing in his second try for career win No. 300 Sunday, Wood (4-4) was losing his third straight decision and making his sixth consecutive start without a win.

A crowd of 37,787 watched the Cubs' NL Central lead again shrink to one game with a 9-3 battering by the Houston Astros.

Wood's frustrations didn't end inside the park. He was involved in a confrontation with fans as he was leaving Wrigley Field in his car after an unidentified individual reportedly spit on Wood's car, apparently not knowing it was Wood's.

The Cubs pitcher got out and exchanged heated words with a cluster of people, but a police officer intervened and no punches were thrown.

Punchless also would apply to the Cubs' offense behind Wood. The Cubs have produced a total of seven runs while Wood was on the mound during his last six starts.

Sunday he struck out 11 but failed to get past the sixth inning, when the Cubs had scored just one run while every Houston blooper seemed to fall in.

"It just seems the past week or so we've been hitting balls right at guys [while] the opposing team has some flares and broken bats drop in for them," Wood said. "It gets frustrating after a while, but we know that's going to turn around."

Woods cruised through three hitless innings with five strikeouts and only one ball out of the infield. He struck out the side in the fourth, but even so the inning was pure nightmare, Houston batting around and scoring four times.

Wood walked leadoff man Orlando Merced before striking out Geoff Blum and Jeff Bagwell. But Jeff Kent singled and Lance Berkman doubled to score Merced. Wood then walked Colin Porter to load the bases and was touched for an infield single by Jose Vizcaino that scored Kent.

Gregg Zaun's single to center drove in Berkman and Porter to make it 4-0 before Wood struck out pitcher Jeriome Robertson for the final out.

The stings continued in the fifth as Merced led off with a single and took third on a Kent single. Berkman walked to load the bases and Wood wild-pitched Merced home for a 5-0 deficit.

The Cubs got one run in the sixth when pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin singled, was balked to second, stole third and scored on an infield out. It was only the third run the Cubs had scored in the last 35 innings.

Eric Karros' fifth home run of the season with Sammy Sosa aboard brought the Cubs within 5-3 in the seventh. But Damian Miller, representing the tying run, grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Houston then put the game away in the eighth with two-run homers by Berkman and pinch-hitter Morgan Ensberg. It was the Astros' fourth four-run inning in the last three games.

"This is a bad stretch for [Wood] right now," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It seems like whoever pitches against him pitches their best game. We're not giving him a lot of run support. And as a team we've got to stay away from the big inning."