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Wandy Looks To Increase Trade Value, Beat Cubs This Afternoon At Wrigley

(Sports Network) - The Chicago Cubs try yet again to record back-to-back wins for the first time in the month of July this afternoon when they size up the Houston Astros in a battle between two of the worst teams in the National League.

The Cubs, who last won consecutive efforts back in late June with triumphs over San Francisco of all teams, have won a total of just six games this month thanks to a 4-2 victory on Friday afternoon in the opener of a three game set at Wrigley Field.

Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez both homered in the fifth inning for the hosts when they scored all four of their runs, each finishing with a pair of hits to match Kosuke Fukudome in that regard for the Cubs. Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano managed to limit the Astros to two runs on nine hits over six innings and moved to an impressive 16-8 in his career versus the club.

"It seemed like he settled down after the first couple innings. I thought his stuff was a lot better," Chicago manager Mike Quade said of Zambrano who ran into some early trouble in the matchup.

Bud Norris surrendered the two home runs among nine hits in 6 1/3 innings as he suffered his seventh loss of the campaign for the Astros who are now a staggering 20 games out of first and have the most losses of any team in baseball (66).

Michael Bourn produced three hits and knocked in a run for Houston, which was coming off its first series victory since June 17-19 as it claimed two of three from the Washington Nationals at home earlier in the week.

Taking the ball for the Cubs this afternoon will be Randy Wells who is 2-3 with a 3.11 ERA in his career versus Houston. The right-hander, now in his fourth major league campaign, won his first game of the season back on April 4 with a 4-1 decision over Arizona, but since then he's failed to get back into the win column.

Granted, Wells has suffered just three loses during the stretch, but his ERA has soared close to seven following the team's 7-5 setback against Florida last weekend. In that matchup Wells was touched for four runs on eight hits -- two home runs -- as he walked three and struck out four over six innings of action.

Countering for the visiting Astros is Wandy Rodriguez, a lefty who is an even 5-5 in his career but 0-1 this season in his only appearance against the club.

Rodriguez, who has been the subject of trade talks with the deadline looming, is also an even 6-6 on this season even though Houston has come up empty in each of his three appearances in the month of July.

Last weekend Rodriguez boosted his stock a bit with a season-high 11 strikeouts over a mere 5 2/3 innings, but at the same time he also allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks in an eventual 7-5 loss to Pittsburgh. Rodriguez has won just once in his last five starts.

Houston, which has a record of just 15-27 against the division, had swept the Cubs at Wrigley in a series earlier this season, outscoring the hosts by a combined 22-11 in late May-early June.

Despite being two of the teams that have struggled the most in the NL thus far, Chicago and Houston are third and fourth in the league in batting heading into action on Saturday, hitting .262 and .261, respectively.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.