'Team game' takes over

Tribune staff reporter

Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Corey Patterson and Todd Hundley went a combined 0-for-12 with six strikeouts Sunday.

So how in the name of Roy Oswalt were the Cubs able to eke out a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros in the Wrigley Field sauna?

"It's a team game, you know," reminded Sosa, who is 6-for-35 since the All-Star break. "The first two months of the season was all me. Now, if I don't get a pitch to hit, I once in a while miss it.

"And Mark Bellhorn is swinging the bat real well. Freddy [McGriff] and Billy [Mueller] ... if I don't do it, somebody has to pick me up. It's not going to be that long, but they've got to pick me up."

The Cubs took two of three from the Astros and are now 8-4 under manager Bruce Kimm.

Bellhorn and McGriff hit solo home runs in the fifth inning as Oswalt tired.

And Alex Gonzalez came through in the clutch again with an RBI double in the sixth off reliever Tim Redding for the game-winner.

Oswalt, who started and struck out eight in five innings, was charged with two runs on five hits while walking three.

Oswalt appeared to weaken after running the bases in the top of the fifth following his single and a subsequent base hit by Julio Lugo.

The Astros brought a water bottle out to the mound to try to cool him off in the bottom of the fifth, but he had run out of steam.

"The whole team made Oswalt work," Kimm said. "And they were working him and they were battling him and we got him to throw a lot of pitches [97 in five innings]. This was a complete team win."

Jon Lieber started for the Cubs and also lasted five innings.

Lieber gave up two runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked none.

Jeff Fassero (4-6) earned the victory when he tossed a scoreless sixth.

Tom Gordon and Antonio Alfonseca (13th save) were impressive in shutting down the Astros in the final three innings.

After Craig Biggio's first-inning single, Lance Berkman hit a two-run homer to center to move ahead of Sosa with 30 for the season.

Bellhorn led off the fifth with a homer, his 13th, to make it 2-1.

"It can't be just one or two guys doing it every day," Bellhorn said. "It's got to be the whole team. You look at all the winning teams and it's not just one or two guys. It's everyone down the lineup doing their job."

McGriff tied the game 2-2 with his 20th home run. The blast to center field gives McGriff 15 seasons of 20 or more homers in his career, matching Barry Bonds among active players.

"I pride myself in trying to be consistent," said McGriff. "That one year [1998] in Tampa I didn't quite make it. I had 19."

Kimm lifted Lieber after five innings in favor of Fassero.

"I was just being a little bit careful with [Lieber]," said Kimm. "This is a guy who really has had a lot of innings in the last two years. And the bullpen was really fresh."

The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the sixth when Gonzalez doubled off Redding (3-6) to tally pinch-runner Darren Lewis.

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