Their poor play is spread over two divisions now.
In the first interleague matchup between these former division rivals, Dallas Keuchel will seek to help Houston beat the Cubs on Friday at Wrigley Field.
The Astros (28-46) are in last place in the AL West and own the league's worst record but head into Chicago having won six of eight. They earned all but one of those wins on a seven-game homestand and took two of three from another former NL Central opponent, Milwaukee, to begin this week.
Former Cubs slugger Carlos Pena helped his team finish off that series with a 7-4 victory Thursday by hitting a three-run homer in the 10th inning.
"What a great homestand. I thought we were in every single game. This is a lot of momentum moving forward," said Pena, who hit a team-best 28 homers for Chicago in 2011.
Pena will face his former club and former Tampa Bay teammate Matt Garza (1-1, 4.98 ERA) for the first time Friday. The two played together from 2008-10 and were members of an AL championship team in the first of those seasons.
Keuchel (4-3, 4.23) will try to help Pena finish on the winning side of that reunion while improving on a 3-1 record and a 2.13 ERA in his last four starts. The left-hander bounced back from his only defeat over that stretch by beating the other Chicago team Sunday.
Keuchel gave up two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-4 victory over the White Sox.
"All you can ask of your guys is consistency, and no doubt that Dallas has given us that more than anybody in the rotation, even when we've been pitching so good lately," manager Bo Porter told the team's website. "He's figured out how to get guys out with all of his pitches."
Keuchel did not get a decision in his only start against the Cubs on Sept. 10, allowing one run over four innings in a 4-1 home defeat.
Chicago (29-42), which is tied with the Brewers for last in the division, edged Houston in the season series 8-7 for the second straight year in 2012 but has won 11 of 15 meetings at Wrigley Field. The Cubs, though, enter having dropped four of five and are 2-7 at Wrigley this month.
They scored one run for the second straight game Thursday, falling 6-1 in St. Louis. Welington Castillo had three of the team's five hits while Starlin Castro 's average for the month dropped to .127 (9 for 71).
"I'm working hard every day, I know I can get out of this," Castro said. "When I get out of this, I'll be good for the rest of the season."
Garza allowed two runs over 5 1-3 innings to beat the Astros at home last June after going 0-3 with a 4.64 ERA in his first five matchups with them.
He is coming off a solid showing, tossing seven scoreless innings against the New York Mets on Sunday after getting tagged for a career-worst nine runs in five innings in a loss to Cincinnati five days earlier.
The right-hander, though, did not get a win Sunday as reliever Carlos Marmol 's struggles continued in a 4-3 defeat.
|June 21, 2013||Trevor Crowe||15-Day DL||Sprained AC joint in right shoulder|
|May 26, 2013||Edgar Gonzalez||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|May 21, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|May 13, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back spasms|
|April 24, 2013||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|April 24, 2013||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|June 15, 2013||David DeJesus||15-Day DL||Right shoulder sprain|
|June 14, 2013||David DeJesus||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right shoulder|
|June 12, 2013||Zach Putnam||15-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 11, 2013||Zach Putnam||Day-to-Day||Left game - Undisclosed injury|
|May 27, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||60-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|May 27, 2013||Rafael Dolis||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Not only did Matt Garza pitch the Chicago Cubs to a victory Friday, he might also have boosted his trade value.
Garza worked into the ninth inning and Anthony Rizzo hit his first home run since May 18 to lead the Cubs over the Houston Astros 3-1 after a rain delay that lasted more than 3 hours.
The subject of trade speculation, Garza (2-1) allowed four hits and struck out eight in eight-plus innings for his first win since beating Arizona on May 31.
It was an outing that certainly could make Garza more attractive on the trade market. The rebuilding Cubs began the day 17 games out of first place in the NL Central, and Garza can become a free agent after the season.
The right-hander, however, didn't say much about the chatter surrounding his future.
"I'm looking forward to the next five days," Garza said. "That day I face Milwaukee in Milwaukee and I'll be ready."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum is well aware of all the speculation about Garza but doesn't want to lose a pitcher who has allowed one run over his past 15 innings, his best stretch since coming off the disabled list May 21.
"You don't want to give up those guys," Sveum said, "but obviously it's a business and that's not my part of my business."
Darwin Barney and Scott Hairston also homered for the Cubs, who had lost four of five.
Garza, who threw seven scoreless innings Sunday in a no-decision against the Mets, was three outs from his first complete game since Sept. 21, 2011, against Milwaukee when he went out to the mound in the ninth. But he walked Jose Altuve to begin the inning and was replaced by Kevin Gregg , who earned his 11th save in 11 tries.
"I'm a little upset I didn't finish it, but that's on me," Garza said. "I walked a leadoff guy in the ninth and there's no reason to leave me in there. You've got a guy that's closing games really well now, so you just hand it over and watch."
Rizzo, meanwhile, will be with the Cubs for a while and is a key to their rebuilding efforts.
The first baseman, who entered in a 4-for-40 slump, finished with two hits after the start was delayed by rain for 3 hours, 18 minutes. Rizzo agreed to a $41 million, seven-year contract on May 13 and has struggled since the deal, hitting .200 with one home run and 11 RBIs entering Friday.
Chris Carter broke up Garza's shutout bid with a leadoff homer in the seventh.
Barney was a triple short of the cycle for Chicago, which had scored 11 runs in its last five games. Hairston added a solo home run off Dallas Keuchel in the sixth to make it 3-0.
Barney has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games and has had at least two hits in three of those games.
"I've just been ready to hit every pitch, not assuming that the first pitch is going to be a ball or anything like that," Barney said. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't learn something from watching those Cardinals hitters as well."
Barney said the Cardinals, who beat the Cubs three out of four this week, "have a good approach." That helped the Cubs beat the Astros, who had won six of eight.
It was the first interleague matchup between the teams after 705 meetings in the National League.
Keuchel (4-4) lost for the second time in three decisions, pitching six innings and giving up three runs and nine hits while striking out a career-high nine. Keuchel hadn't allowed multiple home runs in any outing, and only eight all season before giving up three Friday.
"I thought he made a couple of mistakes and they made him pay for it," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "They were all solo home runs and he did a good job of keeping us in the game. Unfortunately, offensively we couldn't muster too much off of their guy."
NOTES: The Cubs traded Triple-A infielder Brent Lillibridge to the New York Yankees for a player to be named or cash. Lillibridge had one hit in 24 at-bats before being sent down to Iowa on April 18. . Carlos Pena , who led the 2011 Cubs with 28 home runs, played the 1,458th game of his career but the first against Chicago. Facing Garza, a teammate on the 2008 AL champion Tampa Bay Rays , Pena was 0 for 3 before grounding out against Gregg to end the game. ... Astros RHP Edgar Gonzalez began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Gonzalez went on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain May 26. ... Houston 1B-OF Marc Krauss made his major league debut in the eighth and struck out swinging. ... Bud Norris (5-7, 3.64 ERA) pitches Saturday for Houston against Travis Wood (5-6, 2.74).