Chicago (30-53) at Houston (42-42)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Wed Jul 5, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Houston Astros seek their eighth straight win over the Chicago Cubs as the teams conclude their three-game series Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.

Houston (42-42) has won all seven meetings since it was routed 8-0 in the first game of the season series June 5, outscoring Chicago 36-13 over that span. Astros starting pitchers are 6-0 with a 1.85 ERA and have lasted at least five innings in every outing.

Roger Clemens opened this series by notching his first win since his return to the big leagues in a 7-2 victory Monday, and Andy Pettitte followed suit Tuesday when he allowed one run in six innings of a 7-2 decision.

“Well, it was a win,” said Pettitte, who collected his first victory since defeating the Cubs on June 13. “That’s always a good thing.”

The win was the fourth straight for the Astros, who clinched their first home series since taking three of four games from Atlanta on June 8-11.

The Cubs (30-53), meanwhile, lost their third series in a row and have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

Mike Lamb and Lance Berkman had third-inning RBI singles off Chicago right-hander Mark Prior, who struck out seven in six innings, but uncorked a wild pitch and made a throwing error that led to two more runs in the sixth.

Prior fell to 0-4 since returning from a strained right shoulder that sidelined him until June 18.

Like Clemens and Pettitte, Roy Oswalt looks to contain the Chicago offense when he starts in Wednesday’s finale.

A 20-game winner the last two seasons, Oswalt (6-4, 3.27 ERA) has just one victory since May 3, which came in a 5-4 decision over the Cubs on June 14 at Wrigley Field.

The right-hander allowed three runs in six innings and struck out two in that game in his return from the 15-day disabled list following a back strain.

“Oswalt is Oswalt, he’s a great pitcher,” said Cubs left fielder Matt Murton. “I don’t care what day it is. He hasn’t won all those games by luck. The guy’s a good pitcher, you have to battle against him and hopefully get enough runs to win the ballgame.”

Oswalt went the distance in his last outing Friday, but took the loss in a 3-1 defeat at Texas, where he gave up nine hits and struck out five.

He is 10-6 with a 3.91 ERA in 19 games—18 starts—versus the Cubs in his career, including a 5-2 record and 4.24 ERA at home.

Opposing Oswalt is Sean Marshall (4-7, 5.19), whose struggles continued Friday in a 6-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

The 23-year-old rookie gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings to drop to 1-6 with a 6.17 ERA in his last eight starts. He has struck out 25, walked 22 and allowed opponents to hit .320 in 42 1-3 innings during that stretch.

Marshall lost twice to the Astros in June, allowing one run in seven innings of a 1-0 road defeat on June 7 and five runs in four innings of a 9-2 home decision six days later.

“I know what I have to do, it’s just doing it,” Marshall said. “It’s just executing the pitches. If I do it like the first game and minimize the damage, I’ll be OK.”

Cubs center fielder Juan Pierre extended his multiple-hit streak to five games with a 3-for-5 effort Tuesday. Pierre is hitting .591 (13-for-22) with three doubles and two triples during the streak, raising his average to .270.

He is 8-for-20 (.400) with one triple and no strikeouts lifetime versus Oswalt, while catcher Michael Barrett also is 8-for-20 with one homer against the hurler.

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Starting Pitchers

S. Marshall Cin vs. R. Oswalt Col
6-9 Record 15-8
5.59 ERA 2.98
77 K 166
59 BB 38
1.52 WHIP 1.17