MLB

Downs helps Astros top Cubs 4-3

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HOUSTON (AP)

Matt Downs hit a go-ahead two-run single, Mark Melancon wriggled out of a jam in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Wednesday to take the series between the worst teams in NL Central.

Brian Bogusevic, who hit a game-winning grand slam for Houston on Tuesday night, had a two-run double in the third inning against Casey Coleman, who was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to replace Carlos Zambrano in the rotation.

Bud Norris (6-8) allowed three runs and six hits in his first win since July 6. The right-hander was 0-1 with a 3.91 ERA in his previous four starts.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer and Geovany Soto had a solo shot for the Cubs, who had won four straight series. Ramirez, Soto and Darwin Barney each had two hits.

Chicago had several chances but struggled with runners in scoring position all day long.

The Cubs' last opportunity came in the ninth, when Barney hit a leadoff single against Melancon and moved to third on Ramirez's perfectly placed grounder up the middle.

Melancon retired Carlos Pena on a popup before pinch-runner Tony Campana swiped second to put runners on second and third with one out. Soto then tapped to shortstop Clint Barmes, who threw to third to catch Barney in a rundown. Marlon Byrd grounded out to end the game, giving Melancon his 12th save.

Coleman (2-5) allowed four runs and a career-high 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings while filling in for Zambrano, who was placed on the disqualified list Saturday following a meltdown in Atlanta last week when he talked about retirement and left the team.

Ramirez extended his major league lead by hitting his 11th first-pitch home run of the season in the third, a drive to left-center field that gave Chicago a 2-0 lead. It was his second consecutive game with a home run and the 40th of his career against the Astros.

Bogusevic's sharp grounder down the right-field line tied it, but Soto connected in the fourth to put the Cubs in front again.

The Astros responded in the bottom half. With two out and a runner on first, Jose Altuve singled, J.B. Shuck took third on a wild pitch and J.D. Martinez walked to load the bases.

Downs then singled to center to give Houston a 4-3 lead.

The Astros didn't get another hit after the fourth inning and Chicago's relievers retired 10 in a row after Jason Michaels walked with two outs in the fifth.

Chicago hit back-to-back two-out singles in the eighth inning, but Starlin Castro grounded out to end the scoring threat.

Norris hit Barney to start the fifth inning before loading the bases with consecutive walks to Ramirez and Pena. But the Cubs came away with nothing when Norris retired the next three batters, striking out two.

NOTES: The Cubs optioned LHP Scott Maine to Iowa to make room for Coleman. Maine was recalled from Iowa on Monday, but did not make an appearance before being sent back to Triple-A. ... Houston OF Jordan Schafer, on the disabled list since July 20 with an injured left middle finger, started a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. If his rehabilitation goes well, he could join Houston on Monday in Colorado. Schafer was acquired from Atlanta in the Michael Bourn trade. ... Both teams are off Thursday before Houston hosts the San Francisco Giants and the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals. ... Ramirez has 22 home runs and 63 RBIs at Minute Maid Park, which rank first among opposing players.

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Kristie Rieken can be reached at http://twitter.com/kristieAP.

Tagged: Cubs, Astros, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Carlos Zambrano, Geovany Soto, Mark Melancon, Bud Norris, Casey Coleman, Darwin Barney

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