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


“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


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.