HOUSTON (AP) – Nomar Garciaparra homered one inning before leaving the game with a stiff lower back, and starter Carlos Zambrano homered and went 8 1-3 innings in the Chicago Cubs’ 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Garciaparra was said to be day-to-day after hitting his second homer of the season and then leaving in the fifth inning. The shortstop was making his 10th start since returning after tearing his left groin in April.

Garciaparra has played in 26 games this season, batting .242 with two homers and seven RBIs.

In the bottom of the fourth, Garciaparra had to stretch to take a feed from first baseman Derrek Lee on a potential double play grounder. Garciaparra got the force, but his relay was wide of first base and it rolled into the camera well. Garciaparra, who finished the inning, was charged with a two-base error as the Astros scored two runs on the play to cut the lead to 3-2.

Zambrano (10-5) allowed three hits, three walks and struck out 10 for his third win in four starts. He is 6-1 in his last 10 starts.

Ryan Dempster came on with one out and one on in the ninth. Mike Lamb reached on a fielder’s choice and after another out, Adam Everett walked to load the bases. Dempster earned his 18th save by getting Brad Ausmus to ground out to end the game.

Roy Oswalt (14-10) gave up four runs and eight hits in seven innings. After a stretch of going 9-2, Oswalt is 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA in his last four starts.

Aramis Ramirez had a sacrifice fly for Chicago in the first. Zambrano homered in third, his first of the year, and Garciaparra made it 3-0 with his solo shot.

The Cubs added another run in the seventh on Michael Barrett’s sacrifice fly.

The loss continued a disappointing homestand for Houston, which is 4-5 in its 13-game stay at Minute Maid Park. When the Astros came off the road on Aug. 7, they returned with the best home record in the majors.

Atlanta and Boston are now the top home teams in baseball with Houston’s 40-20 mark ranking third.

Notes: After allowing just two home runs in six starts during July, Oswalt has given up seven in his three August starts. … The Cubs have homered in nine straight games, one shy of their season-best mark. … Two of Zambrano’s four career homers have come at Minute Maid Park. … Craig Biggio of the Astros is three doubles shy of 600 for his career.

AP-ES-08-17-05 2138EDT

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