Astros-Cubs Preview

The Chicago Cubs had plenty of trouble with Hunter Pence and
Jeff Keppinger in the opener of a three-game set with the Houston
Astros, but they appear to have the right person on the mound to
limit them in the second meeting.

Carlos Zambrano has dominated Pence, Keppinger and the Astros in
recent years, and he’ll get the start Tuesday night in this series
between the NL Central’s worst teams.

Pence and Keppinger each homered and had three hits in Monday’s
12-7 victory. Pence matched a career high by scoring four runs and
Keppinger turned in the third four-RBI performance of his
career.

“It’s a warm day with the wind blowing out at Wrigley, if you
put the ball in a hole there, you have a good chance to find a
hit,” said Pence, hitting .435 during an 11-game run.

Zambrano (5-2, 4.59 ERA), however, has never allowed a homer to
either of them, as Pence is 5 for 28 and Keppinger 6 for 29.

The right-hander is 10-3 with a 2.41 ERA in his last 17 starts
against the Astros, going 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA over the last seven
at home. Zambrano did enough to get credit for a 9-5 victory April
13 at Houston, allowing five runs over 5 2-3 innings.

He pitched better Thursday to earn a 9-3 win over the Mets,
yielding one earned run in six innings and going 3 for 3 at the
plate.

It was easy to see why these teams are struggling as they
combined for five errors Monday. Houston (20-34) leads the NL with
45 errors while Chicago (23-29) is close behind with 43 – eight
over its last five games.

The Astros homered four times Monday for the first time since
July 7, 2010, against Pittsburgh. J.R. Towles and Clint Barmes also
went deep for Houston, which ended a three-game slide by eclipsing
its previous highest scoring effort – an 11-2 win over Chicago on
April 12.

“We’re just staying positive and making things happen,” Barmes
said. “We’re putting stuff together and getting clutch hits in big
situations. It was definitely a game that was needed for us.”

The banged-up Cubs placed infielder Jeff Baker on the 15-day
disabled list with a strained groin before Monday’s game, a day
after putting Reed Johnson on the DL with back spasms. They got
more bad news when Alfonso Soriano went on the DL on Tuesday due to
a strained left quadriceps.

Chicago recalled outfielder Tyler Colvin from Triple-A Iowa.
Colvin was sent down May 16 to get more at-bats after hitting .113
with two home runs in 62 at-bats with the Cubs.

Houston’s Jordan Lyles will make his major league debut Tuesday.
Lyles will have his contract purchased from Triple-A Oklahoma City,
for which he went 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last seven starts.

“There’s going to be nerves there, but it’s more just being
anxious to get out there,” Lyles told the Astros’ official website.
“Being nervous is not a bad thing. I just want to make my pitches.
That’s really all I’m concerned about.”

The 20-year-old right-hander is getting the start because Wandy
Rodriguez is on the disabled list with swelling in his left elbow.
Lyles threw 77 pitches over six scoreless innings Wednesday in his
last outing in the minors.