Cubs-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

Justin Germano doesn't need any reminders of how poorly he's pitched lately for the Chicago Cubs. Facing the team he last beat may help take his mind off those tough outings.

He'll try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss while the visiting Cubs seek their first five-game winning streak of the season Tuesday night against the Houston Astros.

Germano (2-6, 6.95 ERA) has a dismal 11.09 ERA over his last four starts after giving up seven runs in four innings of Thursday's 9-2 loss at Washington, his shortest start of the season. He's allowed at least five runs in each outing during his slump as opponents have hit .369.

His last victory came against Houston on Aug. 15, when he allowed two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-2 win. Germano's only lifetime start in Houston was the worst of his career, though, as he gave up a career-high 10 runs and 10 hits in 3 1-3 innings while pitching for San Diego on April 21, 2008.

Chicago (55-86) hopes this outing goes much better as it seeks to win five straight for the first time since a seven-game run July 31-Aug. 6, 2011.

The Cubs swept Pittsburgh over the weekend, then beat the Astros 4-1 in Monday's series opener. Dave Sappelt doubled twice and finished with three RBIs as Chicago ended a five-game losing streak in Houston.

Manager Dale Sveum said the Cubs are conscious of their record and are hoping to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since the 1966 team went 59-103.

"Those guys are starting to understand how close that 100 losses is,'' Sveum said. "That's the goal. That's the talk now and obviously they're responding now.''

The Astros (44-97), meanwhile, have lost 10 of their last 11 at home and are inching closer to their second consecutive 100-loss campaign. Houston interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said his young players need to start capitalizing on opportunities.

Justin Maxwell and Fernando Martinez each went 2 for 4 on Monday.

"I'm glad the guys are getting opportunities to prove they are major league hitters, but at some point, the guys have to be accountable for their at-bats and try to grind them out,'' DeFrancesco said.

Houston will look to bounce back with help from Jordan Lyles, though it has lost 18 of his 21 starts.

Lyles (3-11, 5.55) had another rough outing last Tuesday, giving up five runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-2 loss at Pittsburgh.

"I think it comes down to delivery," Lyles said. "I've got to work on being better out of the stretch, and (Tuesday) it wasn't there.''

The right-hander, though, has been better at home, going 2-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 10 outings compared to 1-7 with a 6.95 ERA in 11 road starts. Both of Lyles' career outings versus the Cubs were in Chicago last season, as he delivered two quality starts without earning a decision.

The teams combined for 14 walks, two hit batters, three wild pitches and 24 left on base in Monday's series opener.

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