Houston (33-65) at Chicago (39-60)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 68° F
  • Game info: 2:20 pm EDT Fri Jul 22, 2011
  • TV: CSN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Coming off their first series win since mid-June, the Houston Astros now head to the only ballpark where they have pulled off a sweep in 2011.

It seems they have a reasonable chance for another one at Wrigley Field, especially if the Chicago Cubs keep playing so poorly in the field.

As Houston goes for a third straight win, the Cubs look to avoid their worst error streak in more than 30 years as the majors’ worst teams open a three-game set Friday.

The only team with a worse record than Chicago (39-60) is the Astros (33-65), but they are coming off consecutive victories over Washington.

“It’s good to see these guys rewarded for some good play,” manager Brad Mills(notes) said. “To have these back-to-back wins and win a series is big.”

It was their first series victory since taking two of three versus the Los Angeles Dodgers from June 17-19.

“We need some momentum going right now,” pitcher Brett Myers(notes) said. “Obviously we’re not playing our best baseball, but that series right there we played pretty well.”

The Astros haven’t won three games in a row since taking a season-high four straight from May 30-June 3, a stretch which began with three victories at Wrigley.

Houston scored 22 runs and hit .336 in that series but was helped by four errors from the Cubs, who haven’t been any better defensively of late.

They have committed at least one error in nine consecutive games. Chicago hasn’t had an error in 10 straight since Sept. 14-24, 1980.

Carlos Pena had a two-error play in Wednesday’s 9-1 loss to Philadelphia, and middle infielders Starlin Castro(notes) and Darwin Barney(notes) let a pop fly drop between them.

“Now, it’s a matter of putting the negativity behind us, play with some … intensity and continue to work on the fundamentals,” manager Mike Quade said.

The Cubs, 2-5 on a 10-game homestand, haven’t won a series since taking three of four against Milwaukee from June 13-16.

Carlos Zambrano(notes) (6-5, 4.78 ERA) takes the mound for Chicago. He’s coming off a dreadful return from the disabled list, allowing a season-high eight runs in 4 2-3 innings Saturday in a 13-3 loss to Florida.

“I felt good, my fastball was good,” said Zambrano, who was out with a sore back. “My arm, body (were) good. Intelligence? Not good.”

Zambrano is 15-8 with a 2.72 ERA against the Astros and dominated his last game against them May 31, giving up a run in eight innings before Carlos Marmol(notes) blew the save in Chicago’s 7-3 loss.

All-Star Hunter Pence(notes) homered off Marmol in that game and finished the series 7 for 13 with two homers and five RBIs.

Bud Norris(notes) (5-6, 3.59) didn’t pitch in that series but enters his start Thursday with a 1-1 record and 1.80 ERA in three games against the Cubs.

Norris missed a chance to win his second straight outing Saturday. He blew a 3-0 lead as he gave up four runs and nine hits, including a season-high three homers, in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-4 win over Pittsburgh.

Battery mate Humberto Quintero(notes) is 7 for 14 with a homer and four RBIs in his last four games, but he’s 1 for 11 against Zambrano.

The Astros have won nine of 11 at Wrigley.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Norris Bal vs. C. Zambrano Phi
6-11 Record 9-7
3.77 ERA 4.82
176 K 101
70 BB 56
1.33 WHIP 1.44


Friday, Jul 22