(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.