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Cubs hit six homers; Grudzielanek has two

HOUSTON (AP) -- Nomar Garciaparra and the Chicago Cubs proved at
least one team is ready for the NL wild-card race.

Garciaparra and Sammy Sosa each hit one of Chicago's season-high
six homers, and the Cubs ended Houston's four-game winning streak
Friday night with a 9-2 victory over the Astros.

Mark Grudzielanek homered twice, and Moises Alou and Corey
Patterson each had a two-run shot. Sosa's 567th homer moved him
within six of Harmon Killebrew for seventh place on the career
list.

Chicago remained just a half-game behind San Francisco in the
wild-card standings.

"We had a good enough team to win the wild card without him,"
Grudzielanek said, nodding his head toward Garciaparra. "But now
we're a better team with the addition of him.

"We should be in the wild card. I can't see us not winning
it."

Glendon Rusch (6-1) won for the first time since July 15, making
a successful return to the rotation after working in relief for the
past month. The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits in seven
innings. He struck out two and walked two.

Ryan Dempster and Kyle Farnsworth finished with scoreless
relief.

The Cubs were particularly enthusiastic after their latest win,
showering Garciaparra with praise following their highest-scoring
game in two weeks.

"We know we have a good team," Alou said. "We've been trying
to be more patient because we know we can get it going ... we are
on the right path now. Anyway you put this lineup, it's a good
lineup and has good chemistry."

Said Cubs manager Dusty Baker: "It sets the lineup with
(Garciaparra) in the middle. He makes everybody else better."

Meanwhile, the Astros' return home after a nine-game East Coast
road trip couldn't have gone much worse.

Houston, coming off a three-game sweep of Philadelphia, tied a
club record by allowing six home runs. Starting pitcher Pete Munro
(2-5) gave up four of them in his worst outing of the season.

The Astros (60-60) fell six games out in the chase for the wild
card.

"The disappointing thing was the way we lost it," Morgan
Ensberg said. "If we had put up more of a competitive game, it
would have been better. You don't want to get blown out. You never
want to lose like this."

The crowd of 41,071 -- almost evenly divided between Astros and
Cubs fans -- seemed to come together to serenade Munro with boos as
he left the mound at the end of the fourth.

Munro gave up season highs of six runs and eight hits. He had
only one strikeout and no walks.

"Put the blame on me," Munro said. "It's my loss. I didn't do
my job."

Garciaparra singled and Alou homered to left-center in the
first, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Sosa followed by sending Munro's
pitch deep into the Astros' bullpen.

It was the 28th homer of the season for Sosa, who also tied
Mickey Mantle for 40th place on the career RBI list with 1,509.

Ensberg's two-run double in the bottom half closed the gap to
3-2, but the Astros never scored again and Munro kept struggling.

Derrek Lee led off the third with a single and Garciaparra sent
a drive into the left-field seats for his third homer with Chicago
since being traded by the Red Sox. Grudzielanek added a solo shot
in the fourth, giving the Cubs a 6-2 lead.

Chad Harville replaced Munro for the fifth, but didn't fare much
better, giving up homers to Grudzielanek and Patterson in the
sixth.

Grudzielanek doubled his season total with two home runs, his
first two-homer game since April 2001 against San Francisco. He
didn't hit his first homer this season until June 25.

Game notes
Sosa got his 1,509th RBI in his 2,102nd game. Mantle
accomplished the feat in 2,401 games. ... The Cubs hit back-to-back
homers for the ninth time this season. ... The Astros had their
17th sellout of the season.