The Chicago Cubs are having fun on the road.
They scored a total of eight runs in the first four innings on Saturday night as they beat the Houston Astros 8-3 in the second game of the final series of the 2010 season.
They improve the record of their current season-ending road trip to 5-1 and they will get a chance to sweep their division arch-rivals Sunday afternoon.
Aramis Ramirez produced four runs with a grand slam in the fourth inning. Marlon Byrd also had a three-RBI night.
The Cubs offense gave their starter Carlos Zambrano a two-run cushion in the first even before he (11-6) went onto the mound for his 20th start of the season.
The lead-off Jeff Baker received a walk from the Astros starting pitcher, J.A. Happ. Starlin Castro followed with a double that advanced Baker to third. Byrd drove in Baker on a groundout to shortstop.
The inning continued; Ramirez received a walk. After Xavier Nady’s strikeout, Alfonso Soriano doubled to left field to score Castro from second base.
The Cubs scored another pair of runs in the second to make it 4-0 in the following inning. Both Zambrano and Baker tallied on Byrd’s left-field single.
And in the fourth inning, the Cubs doubled their four-run lead.
Baker, who opened the inning, was save at first on Astros third baseman Chris Johnson’s throwing error. Castro then singled a ground ball to Happ and Byrd’s base hit to center field loaded the bases with no out.
The following batter, Ramirez, crushed Happ’s changeup and turned it into his 26th home run of the season which went over the left-field wall.
Putting the Astros to an eight-run deficit, Happ (6-4) was forced to exit the game early right after Ramirez’s ninth grand slam of his career. The southpaw gave up eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in three-plus innings. He walked five of the 22 batters he faced and struck out three.
The Astros tried hard from the beginning to overcome the deficit but they chose the wrong day to do so as the red hot Zambrano was starting for the Cubs.
The right-hander, who was 7-0 in nine starts since the August 14, pitched another gem for his last start of the year. He three-hit the home side in 6.1 innings giving up three runs (two earned). He also struck out five and only walked three. In the first sixth innings, he allowed three base runners only.
Houston scored all of their runs in the seventh inning off Zambrano. But four Cubs relievers combined to blank the opponents for the rest of the game and preserved the Cubs victory.
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