CHICAGO (AP) -- J.R. Towles did a handstand at home plate. And that was BEFORE he hit a home run.
Towles' fourth-inning homer and Miguel Tejada's go-ahead triple in the eighth carried the Houston Astros over the Cubs 4-3 Friday and sent Chicago to its third loss in four games.It was a game that sent Towles head over heels.He wound up in the handstand after getting hit above the knee by a pitch during the second inning. He had never performed one before, so he wasn't trying to show off his gymnastics skills. His momentum carried him over."I was actually up there so long -- or it seemed a long time -- I was like `Man, I'm actually on my hands, I better get down,' " he said.Did he practice the move?"I've never. I've tried, but the only thing I can do is stand on my head. That's about it," he said. "When I got hit, I was just trying to get out of the way and I started to fall over. So I put my hands down, and when I put my hands down, my momentum just carried me over. I don't know how I stayed on my hands that long. Hopefully that will make ESPN. That was a highlight."His manager, Cecil Cooper, was impressed."I've never seen that before," Cooper said. "That was kind of funny looking. That shows me he's pretty athletic too."The home run trot came two innings later and put Houston ahead 2-0. Rich Hill walked Mark Loretta with two outs in the fourth, and Towles followed with a drive down the left-field line for his second major league homer, the first since Sept. 20 at St. Louis."I was thinking, 'Man this is pretty cool to be at Wrigley,' " he said. "Not because of the field but because of some of the history. I thought it would be pretty cool if I hit a home run, but I didn't think that would be happening today."Hill allowed just two runs and four hits in six innings, but he walked three and hit Towles. Asked whether the walk or homer bothered him more, Hill said, "The walk. Definitely the walk. Just because there are two outs, that doesn't mean the inning's over."Houston's 2-0 lead held until Geovany Soto's tying, two-run single in the seventh. Houston immediately got two runs in the eighth off Jon Lieber (0-1), thanks to shoddy defense.Second baseman Mark DeRosa booted Lance Berkman's grounder leading off the inning, and Tejada tripled on a ball down the left-field line that caromed off the bullpen wall past Alfonso Soriano. Ty Wigginton followed with a sacrifice fly.The Cubs installed a new field surface in the offseason, and Soriano said the ball took a faster bounce than he anticipated."Now, I'm ready for the next one," he said.DeRosa homered in the ninth off Jose Valverde, who earned his first save of the year after leading the major leagues last season with 47 for Arizona.Wesley Wright (1-0), a 23-year-old rookie left-hander, got his first major league decision in relief of Chris Sampson. Wright, who made his big league debut Monday at San Diego, entered following Soto's two-out single in the seventh and got Felix Pie to ground into a forceout.Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee singled against Doug Brocail with two outs in the eighth, but Aramis Ramirez struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch with runners at the corners.Sampson retired 13 of the first 14 batters and did not allow a runner past first until the sixth inning. He threw just 71 pitches and allowed six hits, struck out one and did not walk a batter in 6 2/3 innings -- a big improvement after compiling a 9.17 ERA in spring training.
Tired of questions about the lineup, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had a suggestion for reporters: "I'm going to ask you all to call me before you write your articles and I'll give you some pointers." ... Astros CF Michael Bourn made a nice catch in the fourth, racing to his right and lunging to snag Soriano's line drive. ... INF Kaz Matsui (anal fissure) will see a doctor when the Astros return to Houston on Monday and could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Tuesday. "He's feeling good," Cooper said.