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Why Do The Cubs Have A Problem With Houston? Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Monday 7/19, 7:05 CT

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The Houston Astros are a bad team; they stand today 18 games under .500, and in April, I picked them to finish last in the NL Central (the Pirates, fortunately for Houston, are not cooperating).

Since the Cubs last played them on June 6, they're 15-20 and just lost two of three to the above-mentioned Pirates. And yet, the Cubs have lost four of six to this ragtag bunch. Why is that? Let's look at each of the six games played so far for clues.

  • April 16 at Wrigley Field -- Cubs win 7-2. So far so good; good outing for Carlos Silva, 11 hits, and a three-run homer from Derrek Lee.
  • April 17 at Wrigley Field -- this is the game where Tom Gorzelanny got hit in the shoulder in the third and had to leave the game. Roy Oswalt shut down the Cubs for seven innings, and by the time they pounded Brandon Lyon for three in the eighth, it was too late -- a 4-3 Astros win. Still, it was Oswalt, so give Houston some credit.
  • April 18 at Wrigley Field -- here was the first inkling that 2010 was going to be, um, difficult. Carlos Marmol blew a save after 7.2 good innings from Ryan Dempster, and Sean Marshall had a rare bad outing. That sort of thing (good starts, bad bullpen work) became a theme over the next month.
  • June 4 at Houston -- Carlos Zambrano got yanked in the fifth inning after taking 84 pitches to record 13 outs. Five relievers did a nice job, but the Cub offense decided to give Felipe Paulino his first win of the year after an 0-7 start. The last 13 Cubs hitters made outs.
  • June 5 at Houston -- the Cubs win 8-5 behind Dempster and homers from Aramis Ramirez (he wouldn't hit another one until July 6) and Tyler Colvin. Even then, disaster nearly struck; an 8-3 lead in the 9th turned into 8-5 when Jeff Stevens couldn't finish it out and Marmol had to be summoned to save it.
  • June 6 at Houston -- Randy Wells had one of his first-inning meltdowns, giving up three runs including a two-run homer to Carlos Lee. That was 37 games ago. Despite going 1-for-3 that day and raising his average to .310, Mike Fontenot has started exactly eight games since then.

Come to think of it, those six are a pretty good summary of the entire season before the All-Star break. Hopefully, the Cubs will look more like the team they have the last four days during this series.

Lineup via tweet from Carrie:

#Cubs lineup for Mon night vs #Astros RF Colvin, SS Castro, 1B Lee, 3B Ramirez, CF Byrd, LF Soriano, C Soto, 2B Baker, P Silva
Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Silva
Carlos Silva
Cubs
vs. Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy Rodriguez
Astros
9-3 W-L 6-11
3.45 ERA 4.97
72 SO 77
19 BB 40
10 HR 9
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Carlos Silva 9-3 17 17 0 0 0 0 101.2 97 41 39 10 19 72 3.45 1.14


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Wandy Rodriguez 6-11 19 18 0 0 0 0 101.1 114 66 56 9 40 77 4.97 1.52

Wandy Rodriguez beat the Cubs on April 18 at Wrigley Field. Apart from that, he's had a pretty rough year, although better in his last four starts (3-1, 1.73, lowering his season ERA from 6.09 to 4.97). Derrek Lee likes to hit Wandy (14-for-32, .438, 3 HR).

Let's not talk about Carlos Silva's last start. Instead, let's talk about the seven good innings he threw vs. Houston in that previously-mentioned April 16 game at Wrigley Field, giving them only two unearned runs, striking out five, and walking nobody. Carlos Lee has hit him well in the past (9-for-30, 4 RBI).

Tonight's game is on WCIU -- again. Outside of Chicago, this station is just a rumor. If you have EI, you'll probably get the FSN Houston feed. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Astros site The Crawfish Boxes.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 7 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.