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Sampson pitches well as Astros hold off Cubs

Astros 4, Cubs 2

CHICAGO (AP) -- Houston's Chris Sampson needed only 64 pitches
for five shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs, who seem to be
numbed by the cold -- at the plate and in the field.

If Sampson's calf muscle hadn't tightened up while he was
running the bases, he could have pitched a little longer on another
windy day at Wrigley Field.

"Believe me I didn't want to come out of the game, but for the
long run it was the best decision," Sampson said after the Astros'
4-2 win. "It's fine. Pitching, walking, all that doesn't bother
it. When I try to run on it that's when it starts getting pretty
sore."

Sampson (1-0) allowed three singles in his fourth major league
start, his first this season, and the Astros beat the Cubs for a
second straight day. The game featured three errors by Chicago
shortstop Cesar Izturis, a former Gold Glove winner.

"It was tough today. It's part of the game, errors," Izturis
said. "You have to forget about today and come back tomorrow with
a new mind."

Getting a boost when the Astros scored three in the first
inning, Sampson extended his scoreless streak against the Cubs to
12 innings dating to last season, giving up six hits.

And the starter's role seems to suit him. In his first four
major league starts, Sampson is 2-1 and has allowed just one earned
run in 19 2/3 innings.

"Sampson did a nice job of making good pitches and our hitters
put some runs on the board early," Astros manager Phil Garner
said. "They're talking about Chicago's offense hasn't broken out.
Well, our offense hasn't broken out, either."

Blanked on three hits through eight innings by Sampson, Rick White and Chad Qualls, the Cubs scored two runs in the ninth with
four hits off Dan Wheeler. Derrek Lee and Mark DeRosa had RBI
singles before pinch-hitter Matt Murton's game-ending popout with
two on.

Even before the loss, which dropped the Cubs to 3-5, Chicago
manager Lou Piniella predicted the team would play better once the
weather warms. It was 47 degrees Tuesday.

"I was telling our general manager today, the way we're put
together as a team, if we play in 40-degree [weather] all year, I
don't think we're going to do very well because we don't have that
type of team," Piniella said. "We have more power in our lineup.
We need to bang it a little more, and once the weather warms up, we
will."

After the game, Piniella wanted to make sure his comments
weren't misinterpreted. He said the Cubs are more a fly-ball team
than a small-ball group but still should be able to win
cold-weather games.

In their first two games at home, the Cubs have managed five
runs.

"We got to play in cold weather the same way the other team
does, and we got to win our share of ballgames in cold weather, the
same way the other team does," Piniella said.

"Look, it's not the easiest thing in the world to swing a bat
in cold weather," he said. "If you gave me my preference, hitting
in 40-degree weather and hitting in 80-degree weather, I'm going to
take 80-degree weather all the time. I know it's a tough thing to
do, believe me. At same time, you have to be selective and got to
make the other pitcher pitch, and I think that's what we did in the
ninth."

Houston bunched four straight hits in the first inning to take a
3-0 lead against Jason Marquis (0-1). In his first start for the
Cubs at Wrigley Field, Marquis allowed four runs, four hits and
four walks in five innings. He is 1-4 in the Cubs' home park.

On a day with the wind blowing in at 15 mph, Morgan Ensberg
doubled with one out, Lance Berkman singled, Carlos Lee hit an RBI
single and Luke Scott followed with a two-run double that went over
Alfonso Soriano in center when the new Cubs star appeared to
initially misjudge the ball.

"When I hit it, I saw him, he just kind of froze. The ball was
hit right at him," Scott said. "It had a little backspin and
fortunately it was able to go over his head."

Izturis, who won a Gold Glove in 2004 with the Dodgers, made
back-to-back errors in the fourth. He made a low throw on Chris
Burke's grounder, then dropped Marquis' throw at the bag on an
attempt to start a double play.

In the fifth, Izturis fumbled Craig Biggio's leadoff grounder
for his third error. Izturis made six errors in 54 games with Los
Angeles and the Cubs last season.

After the third error, Marquis loaded the bases with walks to
Berkman and Carlos Lee, and Scott hit an RBI bouncer that made it
4-0.

Game Notes
In his first major league start last June, Sampson got his
first major league win by shutting out the Cubs on three hits for
seven innings. ... White was like a goalie in the seventh. He took
a line drive off his stomach, picked up the ball and threw Michael
Barrett out at first. He then grabbed DeRosa's liner to end the
inning.