Kevin Hart won his third straight start, Jake Fox and Milton Bradley hit back-to-back homers and the Chicago Cubs beat the Houston Astros 12-3 Thursday for their 11th win in 14 games since the All-Star break.
Kosuke Fukudome, who reached base five times, and Ryan Theriot had four RBIs apiece for the Cubs. Chicago began the day one-half game behind St. Louis in the NL Central.
Hart (3-1), in only his fourth major league start, allowed six hits and three runs in six innings, including homers to Carlos Lee and Kaz Matsui.
The Cubs drove Russ Ortiz (3-6) out in a five-run third inning that started with consecutive homers from Fox and Bradley. Alfonso Soriano then singled and scored on Mike Fontenot's triple into the right field corner before Koyie Hill's sacrifice fly made it a five-run lead.
After Hart singled and Fukudome doubled him home for a 9-3 lead, Ortiz was replaced. He gave up nine hits and nine runs in 2 1-3 innings in his second straight shaky outing. Against the Mets five days ago, he yielded five hits and six runs in 4 1-3 innings.
Fukudome hit a two-run bases-loaded single with two outs in the second and Theriot followed with a two-run double to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. Fukudome added a run-scoring triple in the seventh and scored on Theriot's RBI grounder for a 12-3 lead. The Cubs beat the Astros 12-0 Wednesday.
Michael Bourn's leadoff double and Matsui's fourth homer quickly cut the lead to 4-3 in the third before the Cubs came up with five in the bottom half.
Lee's 17th homer, a solo shot leading off the second, was his 19th career at Wrigley Field and put the Astros ahead 1-0 in the second.
The Astros then loaded the bases on a single and two hit batsmen before Ortiz hit into an inning-ending double play with Cubs' first baseman Derrek Lee making a leaping catch of a high throw from second baseman Mike Fontenot and tagging out the Astros' pitcher.
NOTES: Ortiz is 0-5 in his last 10 starts. ... Fox started at third and batted cleanup as the Cubs gave Aramis Ramirez a day to rest. ... Home plate umpire CB Bucknor had a rough top of the second. First, he got hit with a high pitch from Hart that initially knicked Astros' batter Hunter Pence. Two batters later, he was jarred by a foul ball off the bat off Humberto Quintero. Both times play had to be stopped momentarily.