The Chicago Cubs had plenty of trouble with Hunter Pence(notes) and Jeff Keppinger(notes) in the opener of a three-game set with the Houston Astros, but they appear to have the right person on the mound to limit them in the second meeting.
Pence and Keppinger each homered and had three hits in Monday’s 12-7 victory. Pence matched a career high by scoring four runs and Keppinger turned in the third four-RBI performance of his career.
“It’s a warm day with the wind blowing out at Wrigley, if you put the ball in a hole there, you have a good chance to find a hit,” said Pence, hitting .435 during an 11-game run.
Zambrano (5-2, 4.59 ERA), however, has never allowed a homer to either of them, as Pence is 5 for 28 and Keppinger 6 for 29.
The right-hander is 10-3 with a 2.41 ERA in his last 17 starts against the Astros, going 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA over the last seven at home. Zambrano did enough to get credit for a 9-5 victory April 13 at Houston, allowing five runs over 5 2-3 innings.
He pitched better Thursday to earn a 9-3 win over the Mets, yielding one earned run in six innings and going 3 for 3 at the plate.
It was easy to see why these teams are struggling as they combined for five errors Monday. Houston (20-34) leads the NL with 45 errors while Chicago (23-29) is close behind with 43 - eight over its last five games.
The Astros homered four times Monday for the first time since July 7, 2010, against Pittsburgh. J.R. Towles(notes) and Clint Barmes(notes) also went deep for Houston, which ended a three-game slide by eclipsing its previous highest scoring effort - an 11-2 win over Chicago on April 12.
“We’re just staying positive and making things happen,” Barmes said. “We’re putting stuff together and getting clutch hits in big situations. It was definitely a game that was needed for us.”
The banged-up Cubs placed infielder Jeff Baker(notes) on the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin before Monday’s game, a day after putting Reed Johnson(notes) on the DL with back spasms. They got more bad news when Alfonso Soriano(notes) went on the DL on Tuesday due to a strained left quadriceps.
Houston’s Jordan Lyles(notes) will make his major league debut Tuesday. Lyles will have his contract purchased from Triple-A Oklahoma City, for which he went 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last seven starts.
“There’s going to be nerves there, but it’s more just being anxious to get out there,” Lyles told the Astros’ official website. “Being nervous is not a bad thing. I just want to make my pitches. That’s really all I’m concerned about.”
The 20-year-old right-hander is getting the start because Wandy Rodriguez(notes) is on the disabled list with swelling in his left elbow. Lyles threw 77 pitches over six scoreless innings Wednesday in his last outing in the minors.