Astros-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs held off suffering their 100th loss for one more day, but may have only given the fans at Wrigley Field the chance to witness them reaching that mark of futility.

The Houston Astros, hoping to avoid a franchise-record 107th loss, will try to hand the Cubs that milestone defeat Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.

Chicago avoided being swept by Arizona over the weekend, snapping a seven-game skid with a 7-2 win Sunday.

Anthony Rizzo had three hits and David DeJesus homered for the Cubs (60-99), who won for only the second time in 13 games.

While a series against league-worst Houston isn't likely to draw much enthusiasm on Chicago's North Side, manager Dale Sveum expects a good effort from the Cubs as they try to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1966.

"I'm expecting a little bit of a playoff atmosphere to try and avoid that number," Sveum said. "It'll be fun, at least as much fun as we can have in this season to try and stay away from it."

Houston (53-106) can certainly commiserate with Chicago's struggles, having tied last season's team for the franchise record in losses. The Astros, though, have won three of four after taking two of three at Milwaukee over the weekend.

They won 7-0 Sunday behind a four-hitter from Jordan Lyles, who also homered. Jed Lowrie, Matt Dominguez and Fernando Martinez also went deep.

"We're real excited. It's nice to win the series here," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "That was our goal - win two out of three from these guys. And now we go to Chicago and, hopefully, we'll continue to finish strong."

Houston, which ranks last in the majors with 3.6 runs per game and last in the NL with a .237 batting average, scored 19 runs and hit 11 homers in the series.

The Astros, who have won back-to-back road games once - in April - hand the ball to Lucas Harrell (10-11, 3.88 ERA), who tries to avoid ending the season on a three-game losing streak and earn his first win since Aug 14 - when he last faced the Cubs.

Harrell gave up two runs, seven hits and a career-high six walks in five innings of a 4-0 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday.

"I was terrible," said Harrell, who is 0-3 with a 4.14 ERA in his last seven starts. "I felt like the first two innings I was just trying to get a feel for the game. I felt like I never picked up a baseball before. It was embarrassing. It was bad."

The right-hander was much better in his last start against the Cubs, yielding one run over eight innings with seven strikeouts in a 10-1 victory.

Jason Berken (0-2, 5.14) looks to bounce back from a dismal outing for Chicago.

The right-hander was tagged for six runs and nine hits over four innings of a 6-0 loss to Colorado on Wednesday in his third start with the team.

The Cubs are 7-5 against the Astros this year, including 5-1 at home. Alfonso Soriano has four homers in 11 meetings this year.

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