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Astros move within game of first-place Cubs

5/30/2003

CHICAGO (AP) -- The way Wade Miller threw the ball it didn't
matter who the Chicago Cubs had in their lineup.

His fastball sizzling through the strike zone, Miller pitched a
two-hitter Friday -- the fewest hits he's ever allowed in a complete
game -- and struck out a career-high 14.

He simply overpowered the Cubs and spoiled Sammy Sosa's return
to their lineup as the Houston Astros rolled to a 9-1 victory.

"It was good to finally pitch a game like that. When you start
getting guys out, you start to get on a roll a little bit and start
picking up the pace of the game and throwing strikes," Miller
said.

"I was throwing them chest high and they were swinging through
it, so I got lucky on those they were swinging at," he said.

A rusty Sosa, activated Friday from the disabled list after
missing 17 games with a toe injury, went 0-for-4 and struck out
three times.

"It was all about pitching and he was on. You got to get ready,
he's throwing 96 mph," Sosa said. "It was my first game, I've
been out for three weeks and my timing is not there yet. I don't
feel comfortable yet. It could take a couple more games."

Miller (3-6), gave up a third-inning single to Damian Miller and
Corey Patterson's 11th homer in the fifth. He walked one and the
only other baserunner came when Mark Grudzielanek reached on a
third-strike wild pitch in the ninth.

Miller was looking again like the pitcher who'd won 31 games the
previous two seasons.

"His stuff has been good and if there have been any challenges
in his starts, it's probably been being wild in the strike zone,"
Houston manager Jimy Williams said.

"But today he was locating very well, changing speeds and he
stayed consistent throughout the whole game."

Just five days ago, Miller had given up eight hits and five runs
in just five innings, losing to the Cubs in Houston.

The difference?

"I think just location," Miller said. "I felt today I was
throwing the ball where I wanted to, where it needed to go."

Houston moved within a game of first-place Chicago in the NL
Central, using a pair of four-run innings, the first highlighted by
Brad Ausmus' three-run double.

Morgan Ensberg hit his sixth homer in the second to give Houston
a 1-0 lead off Shawn Estes (5-4), who had a four-game winning
streak snapped.

Houston loaded the bases in the fourth on Lance Berkman's
single, Ensberg's walk and an infield hit by Brian Hunter.

Ausmus, batting .196 and 0-for-9 on the Astros' current road
trip, then doubled into the gap in left center, clearing the bases.

Ausmus moved up on an infield out and scored on a wild pitch by
Estes.

"I gave up a bases-clearing double to Ausmus and that's pretty
much what happened. The way Miller pitched that was enough," Estes
said.

Houston added four more in the fifth. Berkman had an RBI single
to finish Estes, who gave up seven hits and eight earned runs in 4
1-3 innings. After reliever Juan Cruz walked Ensberg to load the
bases again, Hunter hit a two-run double to make it 8-0.

Ausmus then hit a grounder to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who threw
wide to the plate as Ensberg scored.

Game notes
Miller had twice before pitched three-hitters, most
recently last September against the Cardinals. ... Miller now has
seven career double-digit strikeout games ... An angry Moises Alou
was ejected in the fifth following a called third strike. The Cubs
outfielder was called out on a check swing on an appeal to first
base umpire Bruce Dreckman. Alou dropped his bat and helmet and was
thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Brian Gorman.
...Houston's Roy Oswalt, who's been on the disabled list with a
strained right groin and hasn't pitched since May 15, will be
activated and start Saturday against the Cubs. Houston will send
reliever Brandon Puffer to Triple-A New Orleans ... The Astros have
won every season series against the Cubs since 1993. Since 1996,
they are 28-13 at Wrigley Field. ... Left-hander Phil Norton was
sent to Triple-A Iowa to make room on the roster when Sosa was
activated.