Victory comes with (big) catch

Corey Patterson finally had something go right Sunday, saving himself and the Cubs from another in a series of embarrassing moments.

Despite taking a zigzag route on Mike Lamb's eighth-inning fly to deep center, Patterson recovered to make an over-the-shoulder, snow-cone catch and help preserve a 3-2 victory over Houston at Wrigley Field.

"I thought I had it for sure all the way, but I snow-coned it," Patterson said. "But I was able to make the catch. It was good for myself and the team."

With Philadelphia beating Cincinnati, the Astros are now only one game ahead of the Phillies in the National League wild-card race.

"We have a lot to play for too," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Just not as much as they do. We're playing for pride, and also to get to .500 and have a winning record.

"Last year they knocked us out. We knew we were going to be one of the deciding factors on if they go to the playoffs or not. It's another reason why you have to play your best lineup against teams that are contending."

With a 77-79 record, the Cubs must go 5-1 in their final six games to post a winning record for the third straight season, something they haven't accomplished since 1972.

On a soggy afternoon on the North Side, Jeromy Burnitz's two-run, seventh-inning homer off reliever Mike Gallo gave the Cubs a one-run lead. But Houston had the tying run on first with one out in the eighth when Patterson made his big catch.

"It saved the day for us," Baker said.

Jerome Williams walked six in seven innings but got out of jams repeatedly to improve to 6-9. It was the fifth time in his last seven starts that Williams had allowed two or fewer runs in seven or more innings.

In a strange scene, Williams tried to call his own rain delay in the middle of a downpour in the third inning, though crew chief Larry Poncino wasn't about to let a player tell him how to do his job.

"I was trying to tell the umpires to stop it," Williams said. "The whole infield was just like a pool. I'm not worried about myself. I'm worried about my teammates."

Williams said Poncino told him: "Don't worry about it. Go back on the mound and pitch."

That remark got Williams even more upset.

"I took that as a little motivation," he said.

But eventually the rain flooded the infield so badly that Poncino had no other choice but to delay the game.

Williams was able to come back strong after the 58-minute delay, giving himself a fighting chance to return to the rotation in 2006.