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Winning Road Trip, Here We Come: Cubs vs. Astros, Thursday 6/11, 1:05 CT

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The last time the Cubs played a weekday afternoon game in Houston was August 16, 2006, one of the most memorable games of that misbegotten season. If the date doesn't ring a bell, read on: it was the day after an 18-inning game the night before had forced the Cubs to call up Ryan O'Malley from Iowa. O'Malley pitched eight shutout innings in his ML debut and the Cubs won 1-0 on a Michael Barrett home run. (Amusement value in the Cubs' starting lineup from both of those games.)

Incidentally, if you've wondered what ever happened to O'Malley, he was recently hired as a minor league pitching coach in the Texas Rangers organization.

Random stat note: today's Houston starter, Russ Ortiz, ranks third-worst among all active pitchers in walks per nine innings. Only Oliver Perez and Ron Villone are worse. More on Ortiz below the pitcher box.

Been wondering why Derrek Lee has suddenly started looking better at the plate? Gordon Wittenmyer found out that he took a "new approach" this spring:

"It's funny, I kind of took that approach in the spring because I didn't finish up real well last year," Lee said. "So I said, 'Maybe I need to change some things.' And it didn't work out for me. So I finally said, 'Let's go back to what I know.'"

He wouldn't elaborate on the changes -- "just small things, just small adjustments," he said. "And I wasn't really comfortable with them. So I tried to go back to what I felt more comfortable with."

That's about the time Lee's hitting began to take life again. After starting .194 with three homers through mid-May, Lee entered Wednesday night's game batting .377 since May 16 -- fourth in the National League -- with a .580 slugging percentage in that span.

Speaking of hitting troubles, Lou thinks he may have found what's wrong with Milton Bradley:

The Cubs manager had video coordinator Nao Masamoto put together film of Bradley's at-bats from last year when he hit .321 at Texas and this year, side by side. After watching nearly an hour of swings, Piniella discovered something.

"I think we found something that will help him," Piniella said. "We'll see when he gets out there. I have a pretty good feeling that this will help."
Hope it works (it didn't really last night). The Cubs need Bradley's bat.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Russ Ortiz
Russ Ortiz
Astros
4-3 W-L 3-2
4.12 ERA 3.96
64 SO 28
29 BB 26
9 HR 2
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Ryan Dempster 4-3 12 12 0 0 0 0 74.1 66 38 34 9 29 64 4.12 1.28


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Russ Ortiz 3-2 14 4 0 0 0 0 38.2 40 19 17 2 26 28 3.96 1.71

Russ Ortiz. I mean, seriously, RUSS ORTIZ?!?!?1! He's 3-5, 5.71 lifetime vs. the Cubs in 12 appearances (10 starts). His "TV stat line" numbers -- 3-2, 3.96 -- don't look so bad, until you see the 40 hits and 26 walks in 38.1 innings, which result in a 1.71 WHIP. He started vs. the Cubs on May 7 in Houston; after 2.1 innings, six hits and three walks, Cecil Cooper had had enough and yanked him. The Cubs wound up winning that game 8-5. Today might be a good day to give Derrek Lee the day off; he's only 3-for-32 lifetime vs. Ortiz. Reed Johnson is 4-for-4 and Milton Bradley 6-for-16.

Ryan Dempster threw six good innings (two ER) at Houston on April 7; after a tough start Dempster is 3-1, 3.38 in six starts since May 1. Hunter Pence is his Astro nemesis: 8-for-17 (.471) with a double and 2 HR.

The Cubs and Astros are back to cable-only today on CSN Chicago, FSN Houston, EI and MLB.TV. For other games today -- and there are a lot of day games -- see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Overflow comment threads will post today at 2 pm, 3 pm and 3:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.