There have been few positives for the Houston Astros over the past two seasons but their recent performances at Minute Maid Park against the Chicago Cubs have been among those.
After a successful series against a first-place club, the Astros will seek a sixth consecutive home win over the Cubs when the teams with the two worst records in the majors open a three-game set Monday night.
Houston (44-96) is on pace to top its franchise-worst 106 losses from a year ago but helped its chances of avoiding that dubious feat by winning two of three over NL Central-leading Cincinnati this weekend. Matt Dominguez hit a three-run homer and Tyler Greene added a solo shot during a 5-1 series-clinching victory Sunday.
"I'm really pleased with the guys," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "It's been a long season for a lot of these guys. To win a series against the team with the (second-best) record in baseball is great."
The Cubs (54-86), meanwhile, swept a three-game series in Pittsburgh with Alfonso Soriano hitting the go-ahead homer during a 4-2 victory Sunday. The two-run shot was his fifth in 10 games.
"You have to give these guys a lot of credit after (suffering a four-game sweep) in Washington to come in here and do what they did against a really good team," manager Dale Sveum said.
Chicago will seek a season high-tying fourth straight win Monday while continuing its recent success against Houston.
The Cubs have won five of six matchups with the Astros but were swept in a three-game series at Minute Maid from May 21-23. Chicago's current five game losing streak in Houston is its longest since a six-game skid from Sept. 20, 1995-Aug. 28, 1996, at the Astrodome.
Chris Volstad (2-10, 6.23 ERA) will try to help the Cubs snap that skid while bouncing back from his first loss in three games. The right-hander gave up five runs and nine hits over five innings in a 9-1 defeat in Washington on Wednesday after recording back-to-back wins for the first time since June 25-30, 2011.
Volstad had dropped 14 consecutive decisions before a 5-0 win over Colorado on Aug. 26.
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 4.79 ERA in six career starts against Houston but suffered that lone defeat in his most recent matchup, a 10-1 loss at Wrigley Field on Aug. 14. He gave up four runs and eight hits over five innings in that game.
In this matchup, Volstad will pitch opposite left-hander Dallas Keuchel (1-7, 5.54), who was briefly sent down to the minors following his seventh consecutive defeat Aug. 29.
Keuchel, who was recalled Tuesday, has a 7.33 ERA over his last nine starts and has given up four or more runs in all but one of those outings.
Keuchel has never pitched against the Cubs, who last won four in a row from July 8-15. They also earned a fourth straight win on July 2 in Atlanta after sweeping a three-game home series with Houston.