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HOU@CHC: Baker lines a walk-off single to left field

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Mike Quade knew putting together his team's first three-game winning streak of the season wasn't going to be without its challenges.

And it was anything but simple as the Cubs defeated the Astros, 5-4, in 10 innings on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Marlon Byrd tripled and scored on a pinch-hit, walk-off single by Jeff Baker that ended a back-and-forth thriller.

After Byrd's leadoff triple, Geovany Soto struck out, but the Cubs accepted two intentional walks by reliever David Carpenter (0-1) to set the stage for Baker, who smacked a 3-2 pitch to left field.

"It was big," Baker said. "It's been frustrating. The year hasn't really gone the way we wanted. To finally get three together -- and it's in our division -- hopefully we get rolling. Why not four?"

Byrd's triple was a high fly ball to right field. Hunter Pence tracked the ball but lost it in the sun as it dropped a few feet away from him.

It looked as if Pence would be able to make a play on the ball, but when it hit the ground, Byrd was already rounding second.

"I let everyone down," Pence said. "I saw the ball off the bat and was running, and it never came out of the sun. I was looking, looking, looking, and I heard it hit the ground. I was trying to get there. I really don't know what I could have done better on that play. All it was, was sun on my face. But there's no excuse. It's a Major League ballgame."

The drama began when Cubs starter Matt Garza exited the game with a 3-2 lead after giving up two runs on five hits through seven innings. Jeff Samardzija took over and walked Pence before giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Lee, giving the Astros a 4-3 lead.

"I can't walk Pence there -- that's the big at-bat," Samardzija said. "What Lee did is what he gets paid to do, hit home runs, but Pence, you have to make him put the ball in play, and that way if Lee does hit one, it's just a one-run home run."

The blast took away the win from Garza, who has now had six wins taken from him after he exited the game while leading.

Garza has given up two earned runs or less in 10 starts this season and was only concerned with the positives after this one.

"I did all I can control," Garza said. "There's nothing else I can do once I'm out of the ballgame. All I can do is cheer and hope for the best. ... Every time you contribute it's a plus."

Garza's record may be 4-7, but those numbers say little about how he has pitched lately. He is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in his last seven home starts, including a 1.20 ERA in his last four.

"I think records for pitchers are kind of wishy-washy," Baker said. "There's nothing you can do. What else could he have done today? He went out there and battled his tail off. He's done that numerous starts here and we just haven't been able to pick him up."

Quade felt the same.

"We won a ballgame because he gave us seven great innings," Quade said. "After knowing where we were bullpen-wise, that became even more important. You feel terrible he didn't get the win, but a big part of that win is on him."

The Cubs tied the game in the eighth on a single from Alfonso Soriano to force extra innings.

"You knew it wasn't going to be easy," Quade said of winning three in a row. "Unfortunately, we couldn't tack on some runs in a few situations, too, but they keep playing, they do that." Comments