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Hernandez grabs first win in nearly two years

CHICAGO (AP) -- With tensions running high at Wrigley Field, the
Houston Astros kept their cool and climbed back into playoff
contention.

Lance Berkman homered and Carlos Hernandez earned his first
major league win in almost two years, leading Houston over the
Chicago Cubs 10-3 Sunday in the final meeting of their testy season
series.

Jeff Bagwell capped a big weekend with three hits for the
Astros, who took three of four from Chicago. They have won 11 of 14
overall and are just four games back in the NL wild-card race.

"We came in here with our backs to the wall," manager Phil
Garner said. "I wouldn't say we're leading the pack, but we
certainly put ourselves in the thick of this thing. I think right
now the way we're playing, people are going to have to take
notice."

Houston star Carlos Beltran left with a bruised knee after he
was hit by a pitch in the eighth and is day-to-day. Later in the
inning, Berkman appeared to be plunked in the helmet by Cubs
reliever Mike Remlinger.

Berkman went to the ground and stayed down for several minutes,
clutching his helmet. He said the ball hit him, but Remlinger and
the Cubs believe Berkman was pulling a stunt.

"It hit me square. I was more stunned by the whole ... whenever
you see a ball like that. I hit the ground real hard, too. To be
honest with you, it was just kind of a confusing deal for me from
the get-go," Berkman said. "I know in that instance he certainly
wasn't trying to throw up and in like that, but when a ball gets
away from a guy like that it's really. ... I mean that's a scary
deal."

On the replay, the ball appeared to sail over Berkman's helmet
and possibly hit him in the hand. Remlinger thought the whole thing
was an act after he watched it again.

"I thought it was pretty chicken," Remlinger said. "You hit
somebody and it turns out that you look at the tape and Berkman
didn't even get hit. (He) was pretending he got hit in the face and
thinking maybe you put somebody in the hospital and then you find
out he's faking it. That speaks for itself, pretty poor."

The benches emptied for the second time in the four-game series
when new Astros reliever Dan Wheeler hit Derrek Lee in the back
with a pitch in the ninth. Wheeler and Garner were ejected and the
game was delayed for about three minutes, but no punches were
thrown.

After all that, the Astros left Chicago feeling pretty good
about their postseason chances.

"This is something we really needed to do is to come in here
and win three out of four games, and our guys did it. We lost the
first game and found a way to win. The next thing you know,
hopefully we'll have something to play for in September," Bagwell
said.

The Cubs dropped into a tie with San Diego for the wild-card
lead and lost starter Matt Clement (9-12) to a strained neck and
upper back.

Clement doesn't expect to miss a start.

"I could've probably battled through it, but I think it was
just wise not to mess around with it," he said.

Corey Patterson and Moises Alou each hit a solo homer for
Chicago, which has dropped three straight after winning eight of
nine.

There was trouble between the Cubs and Astros all week. Roy
Oswalt hit Chicago catcher Michael Barrett with a pitch last Sunday
in Houston after Aramis Ramirez's home run.

Barrett got into a couple of heated verbal exchanges with Oswalt
and other Astros players Friday at Wrigley Field. Cubs reliever
Kent Mercker also plunked Oswalt in that game.

Houston scored five times in the eighth inning to add to its 5-3
lead.

Ryan Dempster hit Beltran with a pitch, and Remlinger nailed
Berkman with the bases loaded to force in a run. Jeff Kent, Mike
Lamb and Jose Vizcaino followed with consecutive RBI singles.
Remlinger walked Orlando Palmeiro with the bases loaded, making it
10-3.

Beltran, who has hammered Cubs pitching since he was traded to
Houston by Kansas City in June, went 1-for-2 with two stolen bases
and two walks before limping off in the eighth. Berkman stayed in
the game after he was hit, and both benches were warned.

Hernandez missed the entire 2003 season because of shoulder
surgery. Making his fourth big league start of the year, he allowed
three runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. Hernandez (1-1) struck
out two and walked four in his first major league win since Sept.
7, 2002, at Los Angeles.

"He's had to learn how to pitch since he's come back from his
injury because he hasn't had that good, blazing fastball every time
he goes out there," Garner said.

Game notes
Bagwell went 10-for-18 with seven RBI in the series. ...
Patterson hit his third career leadoff homer. ... Clement pitched 4
1-3 innings, giving up four runs and seven hits. ... The Cubs won
the season series 10-9. ... Astros LF Craig Biggio had his
scheduled day off. He pinch-hit in the seventh. ... Cubs 3B Ramirez
was out with a strained left groin. He missed 11 games in July with
the injury. ... Astros 3B Morgan Ensberg missed his second straight
game with back spasms.