The Chicago Cubs held off suffering their 100th loss for one more day, but may have only given the fans at Wrigley Field the chance to witness them reaching that mark of futility.
The Houston Astros , hoping to avoid a franchise-record 107th loss, will try to hand the Cubs that milestone defeat Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.
Chicago avoided being swept by Arizona over the weekend, snapping a seven-game skid with a 7-2 win Sunday.
While a series against league-worst Houston isn't likely to draw much enthusiasm on Chicago's North Side, manager Dale Sveum expects a good effort from the Cubs as they try to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1966.
"I'm expecting a little bit of a playoff atmosphere to try and avoid that number," Sveum said. "It'll be fun, at least as much fun as we can have in this season to try and stay away from it."
Houston (53-106) can certainly commiserate with Chicago's struggles, having tied last season's team for the franchise record in losses. The Astros, though, have won three of four after taking two of three at Milwaukee over the weekend.
"We're real excited. It's nice to win the series here," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "That was our goal - win two out of three from these guys. And now we go to Chicago and, hopefully, we'll continue to finish strong."
Houston, which ranks last in the majors with 3.6 runs per game and last in the NL with a .237 batting average, scored 19 runs and hit 11 homers in the series.
The Astros, who have won back-to-back road games once - in April - hand the ball to Lucas Harrell (10-11, 3.88 ERA), who tries to avoid ending the season on a three-game losing streak and earn his first win since Aug 14 - when he last faced the Cubs.
Harrell gave up two runs, seven hits and a career-high six walks in five innings of a 4-0 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday.
"I was terrible," said Harrell, who is 0-3 with a 4.14 ERA in his last seven starts. "I felt like the first two innings I was just trying to get a feel for the game. I felt like I never picked up a baseball before. It was embarrassing. It was bad."
The right-hander was much better in his last start against the Cubs, yielding one run over eight innings with seven strikeouts in a 10-1 victory.
Jason Berken (0-2, 5.14) looks to bounce back from a dismal outing for Chicago.
The right-hander was tagged for six runs and nine hits over four innings of a 6-0 loss to Colorado on Wednesday in his third start with the team.
The Cubs are 7-5 against the Astros this year, including 5-1 at home. Alfonso Soriano has four homers in 11 meetings this year.
|September 21, 2012||Edgar Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left abdominal|
|August 30, 2012||Marwin Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament, left ankle|
|August 28, 2012||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|August 22, 2012||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Bruised right index finger|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|September 11, 2012||Anthony Rizzo||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right shoulder|
|September 07, 2012||Blake Parker||60-Day DL||Bone contusion in right elbow|
|September 07, 2012||Brett Jackson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right knee|
|July 28, 2012||Matt Garza||60-Day DL||Stress reaction, right elbow|
|July 21, 2012||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Left game - right triceps cramp|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
CHICAGO (AP) -- For all the struggles the Cubs have had over the last five decades or so, they haven't reached this milestone for futility in a while. The Cubs got loss No. 100 on Monday night, the first time they've reached that number since 1966.
Lucas Harrell threw six shutout innings to lead the Houston Astros to a 3-0 win Monday night.
Four Houston pitchers combined on a two-hitter and Fernando Martinez homered for the third consecutive game.
"It didn't quite seem like a playoff atmosphere," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "There was a little bit of sleepwalking at the plate. Are guys ready to get out of here? I don't know. I won't put words in anybody's mouth. We didn't take out at bats like we wanted to stick around."
The Astros avoided their franchise-record 107th loss in the opener of their final series in the National League before they move to the American League next season.
The Cubs lost 100 games in a season for the first time since 1966 and were shut out for the 14th time this season. Chicago has lost more than 99 games twice, setting the franchise record of 103 losses in 1962 and 1966. The Cubs have dropped 12 of their last 14.
"I hope (the young guys) learn it's not fun when we lose," Alfonso Soriano said in a very quiet Cubs clubhouse. "Baseball is fun when you win. It doesn't matter how much money you make, it's not fun when you lose."
Houston has matched its franchise record for losses with 106, but the Astros have won four of their last five and are 14-14 since Sept. 1.
Harrell (11-11) struck out seven in six scoreless innings for his first victory since Aug. 14, which was also against the Cubs. He walked one and allowed two hits, a single by David DeJesus and a double by Anthony Rizzo . Harrell retired the last nine batters he faced.
"Lucas, we were only going to go five innings with him. We weren't going to take him over 100 pitches," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "He really pitched well with confidence, he fell behind early and all of a sudden he got locked in. A two-hit shutout here is a pretty special game."
Jose Valdez , Fernando Rodriguez and Wesley Wright did not allow a hit in the final three innings. Martinez's sixth home run was a leadoff shot off Jason Berken in the second inning for a 1-0 lead.
Matt Dominguez hit an RBI triple to left field in the fourth inning after Martinez singled. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano 's throw home bounced past catcher Welington Castillo as Martinez scored for a 2-0 lead.
Scott Moore 's RBI single in the eighth off Shawn Camp put the Astros ahead 3-0. Berken (0-3) allowed two runs in 4 2-3 innings in his final start of the season.
According to STATS, LLC, the last time two teams with 100 losses or more played was Sept. 30, 1962. The Cubs were involved then, too - they faced the New York Mets .
Houston and Chicago are set to play Tuesday night.
"It's a long season, but it's not over," Soriano said. "We still have two more games. Hopefully we win them."
NOTES: ... The Astros are playing their final series in the NL against the same team they played in the first game in franchise history. The Houston Colt .45s beat the Cubs 11-2 on April 10, 1962. The Astros are 374-328 against the Cubs, their most victories against any opponent. .Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro played in his 160th game and could play in all 162, which would make him the first Cub to play in all 162 games at shortstop. His 159 starts at shortstop surpassed the single-season franchise mark of 158 starts at shortstop set by Ivan DeJesus (1978) and Don Kessinger (1968). . Astros bench coach Joe Pettini left the team for the final series due to a death in his family and will be replaced on the bench by catching and advance scouting coordinator Matt Sinatro . .Cubs right-hander Chris Volstad (3-11, 6.64 ERA) will start Tuesday against Houston right-hander Bud Norris (6-13, 4.82).