The good news for Bud Norris and Travis Wood on Saturday is that they both can't lose.
The Houston Astros will try to at long last pick up a decent amount of runs for Norris and the Chicago Cubs hope to do the same for Wood as these clubs square off at Wrigley Field.
Both beleaguered starters enter having lost three straight starts despite pitching fairly well.
Houston's offense has simply been inconsistent. The Astros (28-47) entered this week on a four-game winning streak but have since alternated wins and losses, with four runs over three defeats and 17 runs in two victories. The one thing that has been steady during that nine-game span is superb pitching, recording a 2.11 ERA with 77 strikeouts compared to 19 walks.
Norris (5-7, 3.64 ERA) has not benefited from the explosive side of Houston's offense virtually all season, receiving 35 runs of support in 15 starts. The right-hander has only one win in his last six starts despite a 2.27 ERA.
A big reason Norris has lost his last three outings is the Astros scoring a combined three runs in those games. He held the Chicago White Sox scoreless until surrendering four runs in his sixth and final inning Monday in a 4-2 loss.
"I felt a lot of those balls could have gone my way," Norris said. "I was in a groove, and that sixth inning was very frustrating."
Wood (5-6, 2.74) certainly has reason to feel frustrated this month, losing all three of his starts while getting a combined two runs of support. He has a 2.70 ERA in June - the Cubs (30-42) have scored a major league-low 61 runs for the month - and has held opponents to a .205 batting average.
The left-hander surrendered four runs - three earned - in seven innings of a 5-2 loss to St. Louis on Monday.
"Just wasn't enough really," Wood said. "I felt like I was making pitches and keeping them off balance pretty good. ... They hit some good pitches and they did what they did."
Facing the Astros and being at home certainly could benefit Wood. He has a 0.92 ERA in his last six starts against Houston while going 3-1, and opponents are hitting .194 off him at Wrigley this year.
The matchup doesn't appear as favorable for Norris, who is 1-4 with a 6.93 ERA in his last five road starts and 0-3 with a 6.10 ERA in day games. He's lost three of four career starts at Wrigley.
While left-handed batters are batting .317 off Norris, they're hitting .143 against Wood.
Carlos Pena has never faced Wood, and the lefty-hitting first baseman is batting .123 over his last 17 games with 20 strikeouts.
His .219 batting average is now the lowest among Houston's regulars after Chris Carter reached .221 with his third two-hit effort in five games Friday in a 3-1 loss to the Cubs.
Carter delivered his team-leading 15th home run but also struck out with a man on base in the ninth inning for his major league-high 105th strikeout.
"That's what makes you stick with him because we see the power potential and we understand that when it clicks and it all comes together we have something that is really special," manager Bo Porter said.
That's what the Cubs feel they have in Anthony Rizzo, who broke a 4-for-40 slump with two hits Friday and notched his first home run since May 18.
Rizzo is batting .378 with 13 RBIs in interleague play this season as the Cubs have gone 7-2. They've batted .299 with 14 home runs in those matchups.