Jeff Keppinger smacked a broken-bat walk-off RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning to lift the Houston Astros to a 3-2 victory Tuesday night over the Cubs, evening the series at one win apiece.
Ivan Rodriguez was safe on an infield single that handcuffed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to lead off the 10th against Neal Cotts (0-1) and advanced on Lance Berkman's single. Cotts exited, and Kevin Gregg got pinch-hitter Jason Michaels to fly out. Miguel Tejada was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Keppinger delivered a single to left to score the game-winner.
"It's a situation where you do what you can to get out of the inning," Gregg said. "The fly ball [by Michaels] was fine. Now it's a situation where we've got the bases loaded and you have to get your ground ball, ground ball or strikeout. I got my ground ball, but he just didn't hit it at anybody."
Keppinger's broken-bat hit wasn't as impressive as Alfonso Soriano's monster game-tying home run in the eighth, which landed on top of the 65-foot wall in left. It didn't matter to Gregg.
"I don't care how it happens -- if you break a bat or he hits a laser in the gap, it still counts the same," Gregg said. "It's obviously disappointing."
The Cubs were trying to go 2-0 for the first time since they opened the 1995 season with a four-game winning streak. Instead, they now have to deal with the first injury to a key player. Catcher Geovany Soto had to leave the game in the sixth inning because of soreness in his right shoulder. His status is day-to-day, but he most likely will not play Wednesday in the series finale.
"His shoulder was sore, and he said he felt he couldn't throw, so we had to get him out of the ballgame," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Day-to-day, maybe Milwaukee, we'll see. We'll know more tomorrow."
Soriano definitely looks healthy. He didn't lead off with a home run as he did Monday but connected with one out in the eighth, launching an 0-2 pitch from LaTroy Hawkins off the train tracks to tie the game at 2.
"I saw it," Soriano said, "but it counts for one. No matter how far it goes, it counts for one."
He's the eighth Cubs player to homer in the first two games of the season, and first since Scott Servais did so in 1996. And Soriano was a little mad at himself for striking out his first three at-bats.
"I feel very comfortable at home plate," he said. "I got a homer, but I had three strikeouts. I have to work on my swing."
Cubs starter Ryan Dempster did not give up a hit until Tejada singled with two outs in the fourth, and scattered six over six innings, striking out five.
"Dempster did a nice job, really did," Piniella said. "He pitched well and gave us six good innings. We just didn't score runs."
"I felt good and ready to go," Dempster said. "For the most part, I liked the way I threw the ball. I wish the results were a little better and it was a victory, not a loss. We were right there, and unfortunately the ball didn't go our way and they walked away with the 'W.'"
Ryan Theriot had two hits and scored on Derrek Lee's two-out single in the third to go ahead 1-0. The Astros tied it on Hunter Pence's leadoff homer in the fifth into the Little Pumas' section in center field. The Pumas are Lance Berkman's fan club, but they still cheered for Pence.
The season is only two games old, but the bullpen has looked solid, with the Astros' 10th-inning run the only one in 6 1/3 innings.
"[Cotts] pitched well," Piniella said. "He gave up a couple balls that found some seams. He did a job getting out of the previous inning. Base hit by Keppinger broke his bat, and he found a seam, too. What are you going to do?"
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.