- Associated Press - Saturday, September 17, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) - Even though the Chicago Cubs aren’t in a pennant race, Bryan LaHair and Rodrigo Lopez have plenty to play for this year.

LaHair homered and Lopez pitched six strong innings as the Cubs beat the Houston Astros 2-1 on Saturday.

The win marked the Cubs‘ 4,000th victory since moving into Wrigley Field in 1915. Only the Yankees at the original Yankee Stadium and Red Sox at Fenway Park have won more games in one ballpark than the Cubs have taken at their ivy-covered home.

It also sent the Astros to their 100th loss for the first time in franchise history.

LaHair broke a 1-all tie with a solo shot to center field leading off the fourth inning. It was the 28-year-old’s second homer since being promoted on Sept. 2.

“When he squares it up, it’s pretty impressive,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “Big, strong kid. We like what we’ve seen so far, that’s for sure.”

LaHair, picked as the 2011 Pacific Coast League Player of the Year, has hit safely in 10 of 11 games since being called up and has a .433 average and .541 on-base percentage.

He drew two walks in addition to the home run.

“Just the same as anything else, you earn at-bats and keep putting good at-bats together, and all of a sudden you find yourself in there,” said LaHair, who led all minor leaguers with 38 homers at Triple-A Iowa. “It’s part of my plan. I’m trying to get good pitches to hit and hit them hard like I’ve been doing all year.”

Lopez (6-6) tossed six innings for just the second time in his last 10 starts. He didn’t allow an earned run and held the Astros to four hits in six innings while striking out seven.

“We really needed six out of Rodrigo, that was huge,” Quade said. “He’s had a handful of outings where he’s been able to do that, but we really need it from him today.”

Lopez matched his season high with five strikeouts in just three innings. He reached his season high in the fourth and finished his most whiffs since July 22, 2010.

“It’s important for me to go home and make a case for getting a job next year,” the 35-year-old Lopez said. “I’m trying to do a job this year and trying to find a spot somewhere. Free agency, they just look at your numbers.”

The Astros, who began play in 1962 as the Colt .45s, dropped to 51-100. Minnesota has the second-most losses in the majors this season with 91.

Colorado and the Angels are the only remaining franchises that have never lost 100 games in a season.

Sean Marshall held on in the ninth for his fifth save.

Clint Barmes’ one-out double put runners on second and third, then Marshall intentionally walked J.D. Martinez to load the bases. But Jose Altuve struck out and pinch-hitter Humberto Quintero grounded out to end the game.

“(Lopez) hit his spots,” Barmes said. “He attacked the zone and threw the ball pretty well. Nothing surprising. He didn’t miss very many pitches over the heart of the plate and that made him effective today.”

Astros starter Henry Sosa (2-5) recovered from first-inning control problems to throw six innings, holding Chicago to four hits and two runs with five walks and five strikeouts.

The Astros threatened in the eighth, but Kerry Wood struck out J.B. Shuck looking with runners on the corners to end the inning.

NOTES: The last six games played between the Cubs and Astros have been decided by one run. … Starlin Castro doubled to lead off the fifth. He’s reached base in 30 straight games, the most by a Cubs shortstop since Ernie Banks in 1960. … Quade gave CF Marlon Byrd the day off. As he continues to mix and match between the veterans and young players on his expanded September roster, Quade said 3B Aramis Ramirez would likely get Sunday’s game off. … Altuve did not start and later entered as a pinch-runner. Astros manager Brad Mills noted that the second baseman was “going through a rough time.” Altuve was hitting .125 over his last 11 games and has drawn just four walks in 200 plate appearances since coming the big leagues. … Ryan Dempster will make his 32nd start of the season for the Cubs in Sunday’s series finale and will attempt break a personal four-game losing streak. He’ll face Houston’s Brett Myers, who has a 1.19 ERA in 22 2-3 innings over his last

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