Some strong pitching performances have carried the lowly Houston Astros on one of their best stretches of the season.
Houston (29-47) has registered a 2.10 team ERA with a 1.37 bullpen ERA while winning seven of 10 games. The Astros had a major league-worst 4.93 ERA in their first 66 games.
Houston's pitchers kept the game close enough Saturday for a 4-3 comeback win in Chicago. J.D. Martinez got the rally started with a three-run homer in the sixth inning and former Cub Ronny Cedeno 's squeeze bunt in the final frame brought home Justin Maxwell with the winning run.
"In order to play these types of close games, you have to play good baseball," manager Bo Porter said. "What I love about our ballclub is even though we make some mistakes, they don't hang their head. They keep battling, they keep fighting and we find a way to either get ourselves back into the game or make it a ballgame every night."
Lyles (4-1, 3.22 ERA) will try to help Houston win the series between last-place clubs by improving on his 3-0 record and 1.61 ERA in his last seven starts. He might have a good chance at accomplishing that task as the Cubs (30-43) are batting .201 during a 2-5 stretch and are 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position in their last four games.
They went 1 for 7 in such situations Saturday and failed to score in the eighth despite having three players in scoring position. Alfonso Soriano was picked off after a one-out double, and Darwin Barney flied out with the bases loaded.
"It's a broken record. We just can't seem to get that hit to break the game open in those situations. We get guys on and we just can't get them in," manager Dale Sveum said.
Sveum gives the ball to Jeff Samardzija (4-7, 3.35), who is trying to build on his best start of the month.
He allowed two runs over 8 1-3 innings in a 4-2 win in St. Louis on Tuesday after going 0-1 with a 5.89 ERA in his first three June starts. Prior to Tuesday, Samardzija was 0-5 with an 8.49 ERA in eight June starts dating back to last season.
"I really want to knock this June bugaboo," the right-hander said. "I've been working really hard and I like where I am today."
Samardzija, who is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two home starts this month, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. The Cubs are 3-8 at Wrigley Field in June after winning eight of their previous 12 there.
Lyles, who is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs, has gone seven innings in each of his last three starts and gave up one run to Milwaukee in Tuesday's 10-1 home win.
Starlin Castro , who is 1 for 8 lifetime against Lyles, is batting .138 in June.
|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) -- Ryan Sweeney credited his teammates with helping him have one of his best days at the ballpark.
Sweeney had a career-high six RBIs, including a three-run homer, and the Chicago Cubs routed the Houston Astros 14-6 on Sunday.
The center fielder drove in runs in each of his first four at-bats, capping the stretch with his longball to right-center. He also had two doubles and a run-scoring grounder in the second inning.
"Anytime you're scoring 14 runs with 16 hits, it's contagious," said Sweeney, who started in place of the injured David DeJesus . "Everybody hit the ball great today and it was fun to watch."
Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo added a two-run home run and finished 3 for 3 with four runs scored and four RBIs.
Chicago scored its most runs and had its most hits (16) this season. All nine starters reached base for the Cubs.
"We have to give ourselves opportunities and eventually, somebody is going to come through," Rizzo said. "So we just have to keep giving ourselves opportunities."
The Cubs' outburst helped erase a pair of errors from shortstop Starlin Castro , who now leads the majors with 14 errors this season. Castro has also struggled at the plate, with just 13 hits in his last 98 at-bats.
"The whole thing is not going real well right now so hopefully this day off can recharge him and get things going in Milwaukee," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said about Castro.
Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (5-7) won his second straight, with five strikeouts and no walks. It was his first start without yielding a walk this season.
"Anytime I don't walk somebody, usually the outcome is in the positive side of things," Samardzija said. "I attacked the zone, had a couple of three-ball counts, just wanted to stay there and not give any freebies up and just let our defense work."
Houston pitcher Jordan Lyles (4-2) lost for the first time since May 12.
"We got him to throw a lot of pitches and his velocity started going down," Sweeney said. "We made him throw more and get away from his strength (the fastball) and make him throw more off-speed pitches and we hit him."
Houston first baseman Chris Carter finished with a career-high three doubles among his four hits. He drove in two runs and scored twice.
"It was good to see him drive the ball the other way," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He's been doing that this last week or so and it's coming together."
Chicago pulled away in the fifth inning with consecutive hits by Alfonso Soriano , Rizzo and Sweeney. Each scored to give Chicago an 8-3 lead. Soriano hit his first triple of the season and Rizzo then hit a looping single to shallow center field. Sweeney's double sent Houston center fielder Justin Maxwell sprinting toward the warning track and the ball bounced off his glove. Rizzo beat the relay throw to home plate. Second baseman Darwin Barney added a two-out RBI single to score Sweeney.
Jose Altuve tried sparking an Astros rally for the second straight day, this time leading off the fourth with a single. Jason Castro followed with a double and Altuve scored on J.D. Martinez's groundout.
Carter had a run-scoring double to center field and Castro scored on Starlin Castro 's first error, a wild throw on a routine grounder by Matt Dominguez .
Chicago jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. Samardzija started the inning with a single and the Cubs loaded the bases on an error by shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and a walk. Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run single to get the scoring started. Rizzo followed with a sacrifice fly to right field and Sweeney doubled in two more runs.
NOTES: The Cubs are expected to make a roster move, possibly adding a position player, before Tuesday's game against the Brewers. The Cubs currently have 13 pitchers in the majors. . Sveum watched the Chicago Blackhawks' victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night. He said if he could live another life he would be a hockey player. "It's such a true sport," Sveum said. "You can't do anything but play hard the whole game. It's OK to be physical. It's OK to fight." . Houston center fielder Maxwell hit in the leadoff position for the first time this season.