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Astro Wild-Card Lead Slips a Bit

From Times Wire Reports

The Houston Astros were being aggressive even though they had the lead in the National League wild-card chase. And it cost them.

Charles Gipson was cut down at home plate for the last out after Luke Scott’s double into the right-center gap, and the Chicago Cubs beat Houston, 3-2, on Thursday night at Houston to cut the Astros’ lead over Philadelphia to two games going into the final weekend of the regular season.

Gipson was waved home by third base coach Doug Mansolino, and when the speedy pinch runner headed toward home, he saw the relay throw to the plate. He tried to knock over Henry Blanco, but the catcher applied the tag and held on.

“No question about it, he’s got to send him,” Astro Manager Phil Garner said. “I’d been upset if he hadn’t sent him. If the throw’s off at all, he’s got a chance to be safe.”

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Instead, the Cubs made two perfect throws to end the game.

Ryan Dempster walked Orlando Palmeiro with one out, Gipson pinch ran and pinch-hitter Mike Lamb struck out before Scott pinch hit. Center fielder Corey Patterson cut off Scott’s drive and threw to second baseman Jose Macias, who made the relay to Blanco, well ahead of Gipson.

The Astros (87-72) still have a commanding position over the Phillies (85-74) with three games to go.

Philadelphia, which was off Thursday, begins a series tonight at Washington.

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Houston finishes the regular season against the Cubs, with Andy Pettitte (17-9) trying to win his eighth straight decision tonight. Roger Clemens (12-8) and Roy Oswalt (19-12) are the scheduled starters over the weekend.

If the Astros and Phillies finish tied, the tiebreaking game would be Monday in Philadelphia.

San Diego 1, San Francisco 0 -- Damian Jackson singled to left to score David Ross from second in the 11th inning and give the NL West champion Padres the victory at San Diego. The Padres (80-79) moved a game above .500.

Brian Lawrence held the Giants to three hits in nine innings. Scott Cassidy pitched two innings of hitless relief to earn the victory.

Milwaukee 2, Cincinnati 0 -- Gary Glover gave up two hits over seven innings and struck out a career-high 10 to lead the Brewers at Milwaukee.

New York 11, Colorado 0 -- David Wright hit two homers, Mike Piazza had another and Tom Glavine pitched a two-hitter for the Mets at New York.

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The Cincinnati Reds extended Manager Jerry Narron’s contract through the 2006 season, with a mutual option for 2007. Narron began this season as a bench coach and was appointed interim manager when Dave Miley was fired June 21.... Emmis Communications Corp. will put about $100 million into an investment group that is bidding for the Washington Nationals and is led by Chief Executive Jeffrey Smulyan.

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