Astros' wild-card lead down to one after loss

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Houston Astros must like drama.

The offense wasted several scoring opportunities and reliever
Mike Gallo gave up a two-run homer to Jeromy Burnitz in the seventh
inning, giving the Chicago Cubs a 3-2 victory Sunday that cut
Houston's NL wild-card lead to one game over Philadelphia.

Derrek Lee also connected for the Cubs, who took two of three
from the Astros.

"I think we want to take it down to the wire," Houston manager
Phil Garner said. "That's the way we've been playing it, so that's
what we're going to do. We've just got to buckle down and play good
ball now. We're still in control of our destiny."

The Astros have an off day before a two-game series in St.
Louis, then finish the season with four home games against the
Cubs. The Phillies host the New York Mets for three games before
traveling to Washington for their last three.

"[The Phillies] are feeling pretty good about themselves right
now. But we still feel good about what we're doing, too," Andy
Pettitte said. "We feel like we're strong, we feel like we're
going to be able to pull through this and get it done."

Pettitte waited out a third-inning rain delay and pitched a gem,
walking none and scattering two hits over six innings. The Astros
couldn't give him any support while he was in the game, but they
took a 2-1 lead on Willy Taveras' sacrifice fly in the seventh and
turned it over to the bullpen, which hadn't given up a run since

But Chad Qualls got in trouble quickly, allowing a leadoff
single to Lee. With two outs, Gallo (0-1) relieved. He hadn't
allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings spanning eight outings, but Burnitz
sent a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center for his 24th homer.

"It was a fastball, eye-level. Just above the letters. I've
been getting guys swinging at that pitch all year long," Gallo
said. "I just left it in a spot that wasn't high enough."

It was Burnitz's first homer in more than a week, and it snapped
an 0-for-12 streak.

"I've been battling lately," Burnitz said. "Today I was just
trying to really stay on the ball a little bit more. It was a high
fastball and I got under it and put a good swing and hit it really

Corey Patterson robbed Michael Lamb of what would have been at
least a base hit in the eighth with a snowcone catch, and Ryan
Dempster retired pinch-hitter Jeff Bagwell with a runner on for his
31st save.

Jerome Williams (6-9) allowed two runs and four hits in seven
innings, walking a season-high six and striking out three.

"We had some other opportunities and couldn't break through,"
Garner said. "When your big guys go to the mound, you've got to
win them. We just didn't put enough runs on the board."

Pettitte had won his last seven starts, matching his career
best, and was impressive against the Cubs. His only mistake was
Lee's first-inning homer, his 45th of the season.

As well as Pettitte pitched, though, the Astros couldn't get him
any runs. They stranded six runners in the first four innings,
including three in the second, when they loaded the bases with none

Lance Berkman and Lamb drew walks, and Jason Lane singled. But
Williams worked out of the jam, striking out Adam Everett and
Pettitte and getting Brad Ausmus on a popup.

In the fourth inning, Lane was picked off at third when he took
too big a lead.

"I was just trying to do too much. Stupid play," Lane said.
"Bad mistake at a bad time."

As soon as Pettitte was pulled, though, the Astros found some
offense. Orlando Palmeiro, pinch-hitting for the left-hander,
tripled into the corner in right, scoring Everett and tying the
game at 1. Taveras followed with a sacrifice fly, and the Astros
had a 2-1 lead.

But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead.

"We still need to win some games and try to close this thing
out," Pettitte said. "Hopefully, we can do that sooner rather
than later."

Game notes
Rain delayed the game for 58 minutes in the top of the
third. ... Berkman drew two walks, giving him 18 in the last 12
games. ... With a crowd of 38,121, the Cubs topped the 3 million
mark for the second straight year. ... Astros broadcaster Milo
Hamilton, who once called games for the Cubs, worked his last game
at Wrigley Field. Hamilton, in his 21st season with the Astros,
will do only home games next season.