Series: Game 2 of 4

Chi Cubs leads 2-0 (as of 6/15)

Game 1: Monday, June 14
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Game 2: Tuesday, June 15
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Game 3: Wednesday, June 16
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Game 4: Thursday, June 17
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Cubs 4

(35-29, 17-15 away)

Astros 2

(33-30, 15-15 home)

    8:05 PM ET, June 15, 2004

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

    123456789 R H E
    CHC 001000003 4 7 0
    HOU 000002000 2 9 1

    W: K. Farnsworth (1-3)

    L: O. Dotel (0-4)

    S: L. Hawkins (6)

    Dotel blows third save

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Ramon Martinez had been waiting anxiously in the dugout for an opportunity just like this: the game tied, bases loaded and the opposing crowd on its feet.

    The Chicago Cubs shortstop baseman didn't miss his chance to send Octavio Dotel and the Houston Astros sinking a little further down the NL Central standings.

    Martinez's two-run single capped a three-run ninth inning, helping the Chicago Cubs rally past the Astros 4-2 on Tuesday night.

    "I like to be in those situations," said Martinez, who also hit his first homer of the season in the third. "When you want to be in those situations, it helps you come through."

    The Astros helped things along by completely falling apart in the ninth for their fourth loss in five games.

    They've now dropped into a fourth-place tie with Milwaukee in the Central division, a remarkable disappointment for a team that was a preseason favorite to go to the World Series.

    "It's just something we're going through," Houston's Craig Biggio said. "We've got to turn it around and get on a roll."

    Tom Goodwin started off the ninth by reaching first base on an error by Astros left fielder Lance Berkman, who let the ball bounce off his glove as he dropped back to make the catch. Goodwin went to third after Moises Alou flied out to center.

    Aramis Ramirez followed that by hitting the tying, RBI single off Dotel and Derrek Lee was intentionally walked to load the bases.

    Martinez then sent a 3-2 pitch to left field, scoring Goodwin and Ramirez for the go-ahead runs.

    Cubs closer LaTroy Hawkins got three outs for his sixth save of the season.

    "He is a clutch man," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Martinez. "That hit was big. We dodged a lot of bullets tonight."

    Kyle Farnsworth (1-3) got the win, allowing only one hit in the eighth.

    Dotel (0-4) blew his third save in 15 chances, and was mercilessly booed off the field by the crowd of 38,007.

    "I feel 100 percent confident. This could happen to anybody," Dotel said defiantly after the game. "You can't keep bad things in your mind. I can't keep killing myself because of this."

    The Astros nearly pulled off the win by scoring two runs in the sixth off struggling starter Carlos Zambrano.

    Zambrano led off the inning by walking Berkman and giving up a double to Jeff Kent. Morgan Ensberg followed with a single that scored both players, putting the Astros up 2-1.

    Zambrano found himself in another jam later that inning, giving up a single to Orlando Palmeiro and a double to Jason Lane. An intentional walk of Brad Ausmus loaded the bases with only one out.

    But Zambrano forced Wade Miller to pop up to second baseman Todd Walker, and Ramirez made a great play on Craig Biggio's hit to third base and threw him out to end the inning.

    The Cubs replaced Zambrano with reliever Kent Mercker to start the seventh.

    "Every time you leave the game tied and your team comes back to win," Zambrano said, "you feel good because you know you've done your job by keeping your team in there."

    Miller, who tossed six shutout innings in his start last week against Seattle, was almost as good this time around. But it wasn't enough to overcome Houston's sputtering offense.

    He gave up only the homer to Martinez and four hits in 6 1-3 innings, allowing the Astros to stay in the game despite Zambrano's strong effort.

    The Astros seemed headed for their second shutout loss in the past eight games before Zambrano started to struggle in the sixth.

    The Astros, forced to juggle their starting lineup because of recent injuries to Jeff Bagwell, Adam Everett and Richard Hidalgo, finished with nine hits but left 12 men on base.

    "We had an awful lot of opportunities to score runs," Houston manager Jimy Williams said. "Unfortunately it came back to haunt us."

    Miller gave up a solo homer to Martinez in the third on a 3-2 pitch. The ball landed deep in the left-field seats and bounced into the concourse, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

    Houston -- the NL's top-hitting offense -- has failed to score more than five runs in 14 consecutive games.

    Game notes

    The Cubs improved to 19-19 all-time at Minute Maid Park. ... Astros LHP Andy Pettitte, who's been on the DL since May 27 with a strained left forearm, will make a rehab start Friday at Double-A Round Rock. ... Miller didn't record a decision for the first time in 13 starts this season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press