Cubs sneak by Astros on Lee’s homer



CHICAGO – Derrek Lee found his power stroke quickly this year.

Lee hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh, Carlos Zambrano struck out seven in seven innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the Houston Astros 3-2 Sunday.

Lee connected against Oscar Villarreal (0-2) for his third homer of the season. The Cubs first baseman finished 2-for-3 with a walk and his one out was a long fly to deep center. He didn’t hit his first homer last season until the 21st game and finished the season with only 22.

The Astros had tied it when Miguel Tejada hit his first homer with Houston leading off the seventh.

Slumping Alfonso Soriano homered and made a great throw for the Cubs, and Zambrano (1-0) avoided the cramping that forced him out of the season opener. He allowed two runs and seven hits with no walks.

Kerry Wood pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in as many chances, striking out Tejada to end it.

Soriano was 1-for-24 this season when he lifted a 1-1 pitch from Brandon Backe over the left-field wall in the fifth to put the Cubs ahead 2-1.

He also bailed Zambrano out of a first-inning predicament by catching Carlos Lee’s fly ball and throwing out speedy Michael Bourn at the plate for an inning-ending double play.

Zambrano was forced to leave his opening-day start in the seventh with a forearm cramp. Also bothered by cramping last season, he’d been advised by the team’s training staff to cut back on his pregame caffeine intake and drink more water. He threw 105 pitches against Houston.

Bourn led off with a single and made it to third on a double by Hunter Pence. Zambrano fanned Darin Erstad before Lee lifted a fly to left and Soriano made a perfect throw. Soriano had 19 outfield assists last season.

Backe went six innings, giving up six hits and two runs with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Zambrano’s bases-loaded double play grounder put the Cubs ahead 1-0 in the second. The Astros tied it with Darin Erstad’s two-out single in the third inning.