Cubs-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Astros have proven nearly unbeatable when scoring at least six runs.

They could be in for another big day at the plate against the Chicago Cubs, who have surrendered plenty of crooked numbers during their longest losing streak in nearly a year.

The Astros try for a fifth win in seven games Tuesday night when they continue their three-game set against the scuffling Cubs at Minute Maid Park.

Jason Castro and Chris Johnson both belted three run homers and Jed Lowrie went 3 for 4 with a solo shot as Houston (19-23) cruised to an 8-4 win over Chicago on Monday.

"We were patient up there," said Johnson, batting .295 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games this month. "We got our pitches and did damage with them."

The Astros improved to 12-1 when scoring six runs or more, compared to 7-22 when scoring five or less.

The Cubs (15-27) haven't been able to slow anyone down during their seven-game skid. Chicago, which is trying to avoid losing eight in a row for the first time since May 30-June 7, has compiled a 6.42 ERA and allowed 15 homers during its current slide.

One night after Matt Garza allowed seven runs in three innings, the Cubs are scheduled to give the ball to Travis Wood (0-0, 4.50 ERA). The left-hander is expected to be recalled Tuesday to take recently-demoted Chris Volstad's spot in the rotation.

In his only big league appearance this season while filling in for Garza (illness), Wood gave up three runs, three hits and three walks over six innings of a 4-3, 11-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 6.

"Hopefully, I'm able to stick around for a while this time," Wood, who won each of his last two starts with Triple-A Iowa, told

"I've been throwing the ball pretty well down there and hopefully it translates up here and I just go out and give the team a chance to win every fifth day."

Wood was tremendous against the Astros last year with Cincinnati, going 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA over three starts. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 14 2-3 innings versus Houston.

The Astros counter with J.A. Happ (3-3, 4.96). The left-hander scattered seven hits over six innings of Thursday's 4-0 victory over Milwaukee, getting back on track after posting a 7.17 ERA in his previous four starts.

"We were talking before the game about Happ, wanting to get him back to how he threw the first two or three outings, and he definitely did that (Thursday)," manager Brad Mills said. "He went out there and was able to execute a plan and try a few different things."

Happ was tagged for a career-worst eight runs, eight hits and five walks over three innings of an 8-3 loss to the Cubs on Oct. 2, 2010 - his lone appearance in this series.

Happ, though, seems to have a favorable matchup against a Cubs team that failed to score against Monday's starter Bud Norris. Chicago has been shut out by a starting pitcher in three straight games.

"It's unreal," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's almost a fluke not scoring any runs against a starting pitcher."

Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer is expected to return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a strained muscle in his leg.

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