Geovany Soto, Kerry Wood sink Astros as Cubs continue surge

HOUSTON -- Kerry Wood knew it has been over a year since the last time he earned a save. With Cubs closer Carlos Marmol given the day off, Wood was one of the freshest arms in the Chicago bullpen, and he delivered in the ninth.

Geovany Soto had three hits and two RBIs and Wood pitched a hitless ninth as the Chicago Cubs won for the 12th time in 15 games with a 4-3 win over the Houston Astros Monday night.

Rodrigo Lopez (4-3) pitched an effective 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and the bullpen held on for Chicago.

"I felt good," Lopez said. "I made a couple mistakes here and there, but I was able to get out of some jams. I thought I threw a good pitch, but it was a double. I let the bullpen take care of it, and I was OK with that."

Wood's last save came on June 29, 2010 against Toronto while he was with Cleveland, but he had his club record tying streak of eight straight strikeouts dating back to Aug. 5 broken by Jason Michaels, who flew out to begin the ninth. Wood struck out the last two batters.

"In a situation like that, I wanted to get outs and more importantly get us the W," Wood said. "Rodrigo pitched great, and the guys after him pitched great. It was a nice win for us."

Henry Sosa (0-2) allowed four runs on seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings for Houston. He set down nine in a row at one point before Marlon Byrd walked with one out in the fourth.

"I felt good," Sosa said. "I tried to do the best that I can there in the first inning, but it's never worked here. I think I will try to do something different in my next start."

Carlos Pena had two hits and two RBIs, and Aramis Ramirez had three hits for the Cubs, while J.D. Martinez was 2 for 3 with two runs scored and Matt Downs had two doubles and two RBIs for Houston.

"It was a nice night for Soto," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "Lopez gave us what he had, and the bullpen was unbelievable."

Quade said it was good for Wood to get the save, but he might have a few more if it weren't for Marmol. "He's throwing the ball real well, and he has been," Quade said. "When you commit to giving Marmol a day off, it's nice to have him in the back. It's a good situation."

Of the Cubs' 12 wins, nine have been by one run. Houston has now lost seven in a row and 11 of 12.

Soto extended the Cubs' lead to 4-1 with a two-out two-run double in the sixth scoring Byrd and Reed Johnson, who had reached on back-to-back singles.

"Sosa's outing tonight was similar to his last outing (at Arizona)," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "He gave up those first inning runs tonight, but came back and really threw the ball extremely well. That 3-1 slider that backed up on him and got over the plate that Soto was able to get there in the sixth, turned out to be a really huge hit."

Pena gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-run double off the hill in deep center that scored Darwin Barney, who had walked, and Ramirez, who had singled.

Martinez scored in the fourth to cut the lead to 2-1. After Martinez singled to start the inning, Downs knocked a one-out double to right. Tyler Colvin's throw to second to try to get Downs bounced off the base far enough for Martinez to score from third.

The Cubs got out of the inning as Brian Bogusevic flew out to Byrd, who fired an on-target throw to third to get Downs trying to advance.

Downs closed the gap to 4-3 with a two-run double in the sixth that scored Jose Altuve and Martinez and chased Lopez.

Game notes
Houston acquired 19-year-old OF Domingo Santana from Philadelphia as the player to be named later in the July 30th trade that sent OF Hunter Pence to the Phillies. Santana, who was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in the Phillies' organization, had been playing at Class A Lakewood for the Phillies, and has been assigned to the Astros' Class A Lexington team. ... Cubs recalled LHP Scott Maine from Triple A Iowa Monday to fill the empty roster left after RHP Carlos Zambrano was placed on the disqualified list Saturday. ... RHP Ryan Dempster (10-8) takes on RHP Brett Myers (3-12) Tuesday in the second game of the three-game series. Dempster is 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 12 starts since June 8, while Myers is looking to snap a career-long six game losing streak.