Astros-Cubs Preview


The Houston Astros have won one road series all season. As they try to duplicate that feat Wednesday against Chicago, they'll send a pitcher to the mound who has not won since beating the Cubs nearly three months ago.

Bud Norris looks to end a 12-start winless stretch as the teams with the two worst records in the NL Central conclude a three-game series.

The Astros (39-79) won for the third time in 28 games outside Houston on Tuesday night, beating the Cubs 10-1 while reaching double digits in runs for the fourth time in 2012 and handing Chicago (45-70) its 12th loss in 14 games.

Houston is 12-47 away from home, with its only consecutive victories coming April 25-27. It's won two games in a road series once - in Chicago from June 8-10, but against the White Sox.

Norris (5-9, 4.93 ERA) may not be the ideal candidate to lead the Astros to consecutive road victories. The right-hander is 0-7 with an 8.00 ERA in nine starts away from Minute Maid Park since beating Pittsburgh on May 11.

One of those defeats came at Wrigley Field on June 29, when he allowed four runs and seven hits - three homers - over six innings of a 4-0 loss. Norris did beat the Cubs in Houston on May 21, pitching seven scoreless innings in an 8-4 win.

That was his last victory, and he's 0-8 with a 6.51 ERA in 12 starts since.

The Astros were 0-11 in those outings before beating Miami 4-3 on Friday night, scoring twice in the ninth after Norris allowed all three runs over seven innings.

"It's been a long one for me," Norris said. "I've been throwing the ball as best I can and working hard and trying to get better, but I haven't caught that many breaks this year."

Norris will be opposed by Justin Germano (1-2, 3.28), who will be making his fourth start since being acquired from Boston on July 19. The right-hander has recorded a 4.50 ERA in the first three, giving up seven hits and six runs over 5 2-3 innings of a 10-8 home loss to Cincinnati on Friday.

Germano allowed a career-high 10 runs over 3 1-3 innings in his last start against Houston, which came April 21, 2008, while with San Diego. However, catcher Chris Snyder is the only Astro who has faced him, going 2 for 5.

Norris is 3-3 with a 2.52 ERA in seven appearances - six starts - versus the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano is 5 for 13 with two home runs and a double against him.

Fellow Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson struck out two more times Tuesday, making the rookie 2 for 24 with 15 strikeouts in seven games since he went 2 for 4 in his major league debut Aug. 5.

"Sometimes to survive, you have to hit rock bottom and get back up," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website. "This game is full of adversity. The guys who usually make it are able to handle the adversity and make adjustments. That's part of what we're doing this for in the evaluation process."