The Houston Astros will host the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Anticipation runs high as the Astros continue to play like the scrappy little brother who won't be ignored and the Cubs are playing like a team without a future.
Monday taking the mound for the Astros will be Bud Norris (4-1, 3.58 ERA) and for the Cubs it will be Matt Garza (2-1, 2.58 ERA). In his last appearance, Norris went seven innings in an 8-3 win over the Brewers striking out a whopping nine batters. If he continues his recent hot streak, fans will see him extend the 0.47 ERA he's put up in his last three starts. Garza is hot as well and cannot be counted out as his last start he gave up only two runs despite being down some weight after getting over the flu.
The Monday matchup will be an exciting one to watch, despite the fact that Jordan Schafer is still sidelined for the Astros with a lower leg strain. If yesterday is any indication we're likely to see Jose Altuve in a leadoff position with Justin Maxwell filling the middle outfield for the Astros.
Tuesday night's game will match J.A. Happ (3-3, 4.96 ERA) against Travis Wood (0-0, 4.50 ERA). Happ's last start was a strong one, his best to date this year, and he brings a lot of momentum into this game. His struggle has been batters in the three hole as they are hitting .579 against him this year.
For Wood this will only be his second start for the Cubs this season as he takes the spot of Chris Volstad who was optioned to AAA Iowa. In his last appearance in AAA, Wood gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and improved to 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA. If Happ is hot, this game could be a lot of fun from the Astros' fan perspective.
Wednesday night pits Astros ace Wandy Rodriguez (3-4, 2.24 ERA) against Jeff Samardzija (4-2, 3.00 ERA). The advantage Wednesday goes to the Astros as Samardzija has a history of pitching much better at Wrigley Field. His home game ERA is an impressive 1.52. Meanwhile, Wandy's looking to prove something after giving up 10 hits Friday night against the Rangers, a season high for him.
The Astros are 3-6 in games that Wandy has started, but that's not a reflection on his pitching as much as run production in the vast majority of those games. Look for Wandy to come out strong and the Astros to show him support on Wednesday night.
The Cubs find themselves as the Astros-of-last-season claiming the bottom spot in the NL Central. If I were a betting girl, I'd say the Astros take this series 2-1, but in a perfect world the Cubs would feel the pain of an Astros sweep.