Astros-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The last time Chicago's Chris Volstad faced the Houston Astros he came away with a win.

That was 13 months ago, and he hasn't won since.

Volstad hopes a rematch with the Astros can get him his first win in 23 starts when he takes the ball for the Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

There have been 513 pitchers to earn wins in the majors since July 10, 2011, when Volstad (0-8, 6.94 ERA) gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 5-4 victory over Houston for Florida. Stuck without a victory in his last 22 starts, he is inching closer to the major league record of 28 consecutive winless starts, originally set by the Boston Braves' Cliff Curtis (1910-11) and matched by Oakland's Matt Keough (1978-79) and Toronto's Jo-Jo Reyes (2008-11).

The lineup Volstad will face Tuesday doesn't much resemble the Houston team he beat last year, but that could work toward his advantage considering stars Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee have all since been traded. This year's Astros (38-79) have lost 25 of their last 27 road games, and have totaled 11 runs in their last six contests away from Houston.

Another reason for optimism is that Volstad, who is 3-0 with a 4.40 ERA in five career starts versus the Astros, has pitched well in his two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa, yielding five runs in 13 innings to shave a full run off his ERA. Against Cincinnati on Thursday, the right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in six innings of a 5-3 comeback win for the Cubs (45-69), their first victory in his 11 starts.

Although he'll be facing a weak Houston lineup, to get the win Volstad will need the Cubs - the majors' lowest-scoring team with 421 runs - to generate some offense against probable starter Lucas Harrell (9-8, 3.97), and that could be tricky.

Houston's leader in wins, Harrell has a 2.27 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break, yielding two runs or fewer in each. The right-hander gave up two runs in five innings Thursday, but got charged with a 5-0 loss to Washington.

"That was the best I felt in probably my past four or five starts," he said.

This will be the first career start against the Cubs for Harrell, who leads all NL rookies with 138 1-3 innings.

Chicago had little trouble offensively in Monday's series opener, pounding out 10 hits in a 7-1 victory - its second win in 13 games. Darwin Barney and Alfonso Soriano each hit two-run homers, while Anthony Rizzo had four hits and drove in a run for the Cubs, winners of four straight over the Astros.

Soriano has seven RBIs in his last five games, and Chicago has won its last six contests when he homers.

Houston got its lone run Monday on a pinch-hit homer by rookie Brandon Barnes - his first in his fourth big league game.

Astros outfielder Steve Pearce was 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts, snapping an eight-game hitting streak in which he'd batted .407.

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