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SAMMY BACK BUT CUBS LOSE

The way Wade Miller threw the ball it didn't matter who the Chicago Cubs had in their lineup.

His fastball sizzling through the strike zone, Miller pitched a two-hitter Friday -- the fewest hits he's ever allowed in a complete game -- and struck out a career-high 14.

He simply overpowered the Cubs and spoiled Sammy Sosa's return to their lineup as the Houston Astros rolled to a 9-1 victory.

"It was good to finally pitch a game like that. When you start getting guys out, you start to get on a roll a little bit and start picking up the pace of the game and throwing strikes," Miller said.

"I was throwing them chest high and they were swinging through it, so I got lucky on those they were swinging at," he said.

A rusty Sosa, activated Friday from the disabled list after missing 17 games with a toe injury, went 0 for 4 and struck out three times.

"It was all about pitching and he was on. You got to get ready, he's throwing 96 mph," Sosa said. "It was my first game, I've been out for three weeks and my timing is not there yet. I don't feel comfortable yet. It could take a couple more games."

Miller (3-6), gave up a third-inning single to Damian Miller and Corey Patterson's 11th homer in the fifth. He walked one and the only other baserunner came when Mark Grudzielanek reached on a third-strike wild pitch in the ninth.

Miller was looking again like the pitcher who'd won 31 games the previous two seasons.

"His stuff has been good and if there have been any challenges in his starts, it's probably been being wild in the strike zone," Houston manager Jimy Williams said.

"But today he was locating very well, changing speeds and he stayed consistent throughout the whole game."

Houston moved within a game of first-place Chicago in the NL Central, using a pair of four-run innings, the first highlighted by Brad Ausmus' three-run double.

Griffey the man for Reds

MIAMI -- Ken Griffey Jr. hit a game-tying solo homer in the ninth inning and a go-ahead shot in the top of the 11th to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Florida Marlins.

Griffey won the game with a 402-foot drive to right field with two outs in the 11th against Armando Almanza (3-4). Griffey's second multi-homer game of the season gave him six overall this year.

"Things happen," Griffey said. "I was fortunate enough to capitalize on two pitches that I got good looks at."

All of the last four homers Marlins pitchers have allowed the past five games were hit by Griffey.

"Those were beautiful at-bats," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "He shortened his swing and it was lightning quick. That's the swing we saw in spring training."

Starter Paul Wilson allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings for the Reds.

Around the horn

Kenny Lofton homered to extend his hitting streak to 26 games and Jeff Suppan snapped his five-game losing streak as the Pirates beat the Cardinals, 7-3. Lofton hit his sixth homer on the first pitch of the third from Garrett Stephenson (3-4) to match Boston's Nomar Garciaparra for the longest hitting streak in the major leagues this season. . . . Jim Thome homered and drove in four runs, leading the Phillies to a 12-5 victory over the Expos. Mike Lieberthal walked twice with the bases loaded and Bobby Abreu did it once to force in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning as the Phillies won for just the second time in six games. . . . Eric Young hit a leadoff homer and Richie Sexson added a tiebreaking two-run shot as the Brewers beat longtime nemesis Hideo Nomo and the Dodgers, 5-3. . . . Curt Schilling had a problem with comebackers Friday night, not the strike zone. In his first start since attacking a machine used to evaluate umpires, Schilling left after 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the Diamondbacks beat the Padres, 8-3.

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