Some strong pitching performances have carried the lowly Houston Astros on one of their best stretches of the season.
Houston (29-47) has registered a 2.10 team ERA with a 1.37 bullpen ERA while winning seven of 10 games. The Astros had a major league-worst 4.93 ERA in their first 66 games.
Houston's pitchers kept the game close enough Saturday for a 4-3 comeback win in Chicago. J.D. Martinez got the rally started with a three-run homer in the sixth inning and former Cub Ronny Cedeno's squeeze bunt in the final frame brought home Justin Maxwell with the winning run.
"In order to play these types of close games, you have to play good baseball," manager Bo Porter said. "What I love about our ballclub is even though we make some mistakes, they don't hang their head. They keep battling, they keep fighting and we find a way to either get ourselves back into the game or make it a ballgame every night."
Lyles (4-1, 3.22 ERA) will try to help Houston win the series between last-place clubs by improving on his 3-0 record and 1.61 ERA in his last seven starts. He might have a good chance at accomplishing that task as the Cubs (30-43) are batting .201 during a 2-5 stretch and are 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position in their last four games.
They went 1 for 7 in such situations Saturday and failed to score in the eighth despite having three players in scoring position. Alfonso Soriano was picked off after a one-out double, and Darwin Barney flied out with the bases loaded.
"It's a broken record. We just can't seem to get that hit to break the game open in those situations. We get guys on and we just can't get them in," manager Dale Sveum said.
Sveum gives the ball to Jeff Samardzija (4-7, 3.35), who is trying to build on his best start of the month.
He allowed two runs over 8 1-3 innings in a 4-2 win in St. Louis on Tuesday after going 0-1 with a 5.89 ERA in his first three June starts. Prior to Tuesday, Samardzija was 0-5 with an 8.49 ERA in eight June starts dating back to last season.
"I really want to knock this June bugaboo," the right-hander said. "I've been working really hard and I like where I am today."
Samardzija, who is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two home starts this month, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. The Cubs are 3-8 at Wrigley Field in June after winning eight of their previous 12 there.
Lyles, who is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs, has gone seven innings in each of his last three starts and gave up one run to Milwaukee in Tuesday's 10-1 home win.
Starlin Castro, who is 1 for 8 lifetime against Lyles, is batting .138 in June.
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