(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.