Astros Vs. Cubs: Pair Of Big Innings Do Astros In

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Cubs-Astros series over the dates of April 11-13th, 2011

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Wandy Torched As Astros Drop To 3-9 With Loss To Cubs

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Carlos Zambrano labored into the sixth inning, but managed to extend his winning streak to a career-best 10 decisions, as the Chicago Cubs held off the Houston Astros, 9-5, in the rubber match of a three- game series.

Zambrano (2-0), who allowed seven hits and five runs over 5 2/3 innings, hasn’t lost since last June 25 on the road against the White Sox. The right- hander’s 15 victories against the Astros are the most among active hurlers.

Alfonso Soriano set the tone with a three-run homer in the first, part of a five-run opening inning against Wandy Rodriguez. Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez each had three hits and a run scored, while Jeff Baker went 2-for-5 with a two-run double in the first frame.

Rodriguez (0-2) was touched for nine hits and five runs over five innings.

A two-run homer by Matt Downs capped a five-run sixth, getting Houston within 6-5, but the Cubs scored three times in the ninth.

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Astros Go For First Series Win Of The Year Against Cubs

(Sports Network) – Venezuelan righty Carlos Zambrano seeks a third straight successful start tonight when the Chicago Cubs wrap their stay at Minute Maid Park with the third and final contest of a three-game set with the host Houston Astros.

The teams have split the opening two games this week, with the Astros using Hunter Pence’s two-run RBI double in the eighth to cap off an 11-2 rout on Tuesday. Pence finished the game 3-for-5 while knocking in four runs.

Brett Myers (1-0) earned his first win of the season with seven strong innings, allowing a run on eight hits and no walks while striking out five.

James Russell (1-1), making his first major league start because of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner both being on the disabled list, lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing five runs — four earned — on seven hits.

Zambrano, who’ll turn 30 on June 1, has won 14 of 22 career decisions against the Astros in 31 appearances, including a pair of shutouts and a 2.63 earned run average.

He got his 2011 off to a quality start with six innings of five-hit, three-run ball in the Cubs’ 5-3 defeat of Pittsburgh on April 2, then recorded his first win at Milwaukee on April 8 after allowing seven hits and four runs in six innings of a 7-4 triumph.

The occasionally outspoken Zambrano split time between the rotation and the bullpen last season and was 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 36 appearances, including 20 starts.

His best statistical season came in 2007, when he recorded 18 victories in a career-high 34 starts and posted a 3.95 ERA in 216 1/3 innings.

Countering for Houston will be Dominican lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who’s been both ineffective and unlucky in a pair of 2011 starts.

The 32-year-old was raked for nine hits and seven runs in just four innings of his season debut on April 2 at Philadelphia, dropping a 9-4 decision and emerging with a bloated 15.75 ERA.

He regained his touch six days later against Florida but took a hard-luck no- decision after allowing eight hits and a single run in seven innings of a game Houston lost, 4-3.

Rodriguez is 5-4 in 16 career starts against Chicago and has a 3.79 ERA in 99 2/3 innings, with 102 hits allowed and 68 strikeouts.

Houston won 11 of its 18 matchups with Chicago last year.

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Astros Thump Cubs 11-2, Myers Gets First Win

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Hunter Pence’s two-run RBI double in the eighth helped cap off an Astros’ 11-2 rout over the Cubs to split the first two games of a three-game set.

Pence finished the game 3-for-5 while knocking in four runs.

Brett Myers (1-0) earned his first win of the season after two no-decision appearances with seven strong innings where he allowed one run on eight hits and no walks while striking out five.

James Russell (1-1), making his first major league start because of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner both being on the disabled list, lasted only 1 2/3 innings allowing five runs — four earned — on seven hits.
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The Astros will go for their first series win of the year tomorrow as they have a rubber match against the Cubs at 7:05 P.M. CT. Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 6.55) will duel with Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 5.25), and the game will be broadcast on WGN.

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Brad Mills And Aneury Rodriguez Draw Suspensions For Sunday's Beanball

In a move that shows a complete lack of hindsight, Major League Baseball is suspending rookie Astros P Aneury Rodriguez and Astros manager Brad Mills for hitting Gaby Sanchez up 7-1 in the ninth in last Sunday’s game. Despite the fact that Rodriguez had two strikes on Sanchez when he hit him, umpire Jim Joyce ejected him anyway. Not that Jim Joyce has ever been wrong on a baseball field.

Mills will be forced to serve his one game suspension tonight, as there is no appeals process for managers. He’ll be out of uniform tonight and bench coach Al Pedrique will manage the Astros. Rodriguez has appealed his suspension and will be around out of the Houston bullpen should he need them.

The Astros take on the Cubs later tonight and will send Brett Myers to the hill against James Russell. The game will start, as is the norm for most Astros games, at 7:05 PM CT.

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Astros Look To Myers To Stop Bleeding Against Cubs

(Sports Network) – The Chicago Cubs will try to win consecutive games for just the second time this season as they continue a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

The Cubs improved to 2-2 on a nine-game road trip by winning last night’s series opener, 5-4. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run double in the first inning for the quick strike, while Starlin Castro had three singles and scored three runs.

Ryan Dempster improved to 1-2 after allowing four runs over 6 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts, while Carlos Marmol eventually finished things off with a four-out save.

“It was a good win,” Dempster said. “Any time you win the first game it’s huge. We had a lot of energy right out of the gate.”

Chicago was coming off a series loss in Milwaukee and last won back-to-back games on April 4-5.

Bill Hall hit his first homer of the season for the Astros and Angel Sanchez added the first one of his career, a two-run shot that pulled Houston to within a run. However, the Astros couldn’t pull any closer and have lost three of four to begin a 10-game homestand while sitting just 2-8 on the season.

Nelson Figueroa lasted only four innings, allowing five runs to fall to 0-2.

“I am not somebody that should be a work in progress,” Figueroa said. “I am frustrated. I hate losing and I hate putting our team behind.”

Ace Brett Myers takes his turn for Houston tonight and is still searching for his first win of the season following two no-decisions despite allowing just three earned runs over his first 13 1/3 innings.

The right-hander’s last start came on Thursday against Cincinnati and he allowed two runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings of his team’s 3-2 win.

Myers, 30, has done well against the Cubs in his career, going 10-3 with a save and 2.21 ERA in 17 appearances, including 13 starts.

With Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (shoulder) both on the disabled list, lefty James Russell will make his first major league start tonight.

Russell has made 59 career relief appearances, including two this season. He was credited with a win last Tuesday against Arizona, though he gave up two hits and allowed a pair of inherited runners to score.

“If I do more than one start, awesome,” Russell said on Chicago’s website. “Anytime you can show somebody you can do anything out of the ordinary, it’s a good thing. I’m in the big leagues. That’s all that matters.”

The 25-year-old faced Houston five times during his rookie season last year, holding them without a hit over 3 1/3 innings.

Houston won 11 of its 18 matchups with Chicago last year.

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Astros Rally Falls Short As Cubs Send Astros To 2-8

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run double in the first inning, as the Chicago Cubs struck early and then outlasted Houston to win the first of a three-game set, 5-4.

Starlin Castro hit three singles and crossed the plate three times, adding a stolen a base for the Cubs, who were coming off a series loss to Milwaukee.

Ryan Dempster (1-2) worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits and three walks, while also striking out nine to earn the win.

“It was a good win,” Dempster said. “Any time you win the first game it’s huge. We had a lot of energy right out of the gate.”

Astros starter Nelson Figueroa (0-2) lasted only four innings, allowing five runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He was 2-0 against the Cubs in 2010 with a 2.77 ERA in three appearances.

“I am not somebody that should be a work in progress,” Figueroa said. “I am frustrated. I hate losing and I hate putting our team behind.”

Soriano hit a two-out, bases-loaded double in the first to score Castro and Darwin Barney, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

After Castro singled with two outs in the second, Barney tripled and Marlon Byrd singled to make the score 4-0. Byrd added an RBI single in the fifth.

Houston had opportunities to score but failed to take advantage of them.

Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena dropped a potential double-play grounder with no outs in the bottom of the second to put runners on second and third with one out. But Joe Inglett struck out and Humberto Quintero grounded out to end the inning.

The Astros got their first run when Matt Downs’ pinch-hit single scored Chris Johnson in the fifth, but then failed to capitalize with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, as Inglett grounded out to second base.

However, Houston broke through in the seventh. Bill Hall’s pinch-hit home run and a two-run shot by Angel Sanchez — his first major league homer — closed the gap to 5-4.

That was the end of Dempster’s day, while John Grabow came in and got the final two outs of the inning.

Carlos Marmol entered the game in the eighth with two outs and runners on the corners and got Sanchez to strike out on a slider to end the threat. He then struck out Inglett with men on first and second with two down in the ninth to earn the four-out save.

“Our bullpen just did a great job,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “Grabow and Marshall both, it wasn’t beautiful but they go through it. Marmol go us through it at the end.”

Game Notes

Byrd is two doubles away from 200 for his career…The Astros’ Michael Bourn doubled to extend his hitting streak to six games…Houston went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base.

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Astros Vs. Cubs: Astros Try To Carry Momentum From Sunday Over

(Sports Network) - Two veterans still seeking their first wins of 2011 take to the mound tonight when the Chicago Cubs visit Minute Maid Park for the first of three games with the host Houston Astros.

Right-hander Ryan Dempster makes his 488th big-league appearance for the Cubs after a pair of early-season starts that have yielded two losses and a bloated 6.59 earned run average.

The 33-year-old Canadian allowed six hits and six runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on April 1, then came back five days later and surrendered 10 hits and five runs in seven innings while dropping a 6-4 verdict to Arizona.

Dempster was a 15-game winner for the Cubs last season while posting a 3.85 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 215 1/3 innings of work.

He has faced Houston 48 times in dual roles as a starter and reliever, racking up a 5-11 record with 16 saves and a 4.36 ERA.

He's faced by 36-year-old Brooklyn native Nelson Figueroa, who'll appear in game No. 139 of his career since he was 30th-round draft choice of the New York Mets in 1995.

A long-time spot starter and middle reliever, Figueroa broke training camp in a big-league starting rotation for the first time in 2011 and was greeted poorly, allowing 11 hits and 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 12-4 loss at Cincinnati on April 6.

He appeared in 29 games and made 11 starts while splitting last season between the Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, combining to go 7-4 while hurling 93 full innings.

He is 3-5 in 14 career meetings with the Cubs.

On Sunday in Milwaukee, Casey McGehee's pinch-hit, two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth sent the Brewers past the Cubs, 6-5, in the final contest of a three-game set at Miller Park.

Aramis Ramirez finished 3-for-5 and drove in three runs for the Cubs, who have dropped three of four.

Kerry Wood (0-1) took the loss and a blown save, charged with the deciding runs in the eighth.

In Houston, Michael Bourn and Humberto Quintero had four of the Astros' six doubles while J.A. Happ went 7 2/3 innings in a solid outing, as the hosts avoided a three-game sweep with a 7-1 win over the Florida Marlins.

Happ (1-1) gave up one run on four hits while striking out five batters for the Astros, who recorded just their second win in nine games. The starting pitcher also helped his own cause with his first-career two-hit and two-RBI game.

Hunter Pence finished 3-for-5 with a run batted in for Houston.

Houston won 11 of its 18 meetings with Chicago last season, taking five of nine at home.

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