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Reeling Astros Try to Right Ship in Series vs Cubs

The Houston Astros were one of the betting favorites to come out of the American League and advance to the World Series this season. But 23 games into the 2024 campaign, Houston has looked nothing like a title contender.

The Astros will head to the Windy City for a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs that begins on Tuesday sitting in last place in the AL West with a 7-16 record. Houston has dropped five of its last six, including losing two of three to the Washington Nationals over the weekend. The team’s record ties for the second-worst in franchise history after 23 games.

Reeling Astros Try to Right Ship in Series vs Cubs
Reeling Astros Try to Right Ship in Series vs Cubs

Chicago comes into this one having dropped three of its last six, including splitting a four-game weekend series with the Miami Marlins. The Cubs are trying to keep pace with the Milwaukee Brewers for the top spot in the National League Central while also contending with the hard-charging Cincinnati Reds.

 

 

Pitching Problems Plague Astros

Houston got a lift with the return from injury by veteran Justin Verlander, who picked up the win on Friday in his first start of 2024. But just as the pitching staff was getting healthier, the Astros got news on Sunday that Cristan Javier was scratched from his start and put on the injured list with neck discomfort. Javier has been one of the bright spots for the Astros, starting 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA.

Because of that, Hunter Smith made the start on Sunday, causing some uncertainty for the rotation heading into the Cubs series. Verlander and JP France are due to make starts, though likely not until the second and third games of the series. Houston called up Spencer Arrighetti from Triple-A, and he’ll likely take Javier’s spot in the rotation for the short term.

The Astros currently have five starting pitchers on the injured list, which has contributed greatly to the team’s slow start.

“It is not ideal in the situation that we are in, but we are in this situation,” Astros manager Joe Espada said after Sunday’s loss. “And we got to fight through this. We have guys in there who are capable of giving us innings and some of them are doing that.

“We are going back to playing the style of baseball that everyone sees the Astros play. We feel pretty good about the guys that we have in there to get us some good innings.”

 

Offense Carrying Cubs

The Cubs haven’t been great on the mound this season, which is why it’s good the team is ranked sixth in baseball in runs heading into this week. Chicago is batting .247 as a team, but it’s coming up with some clutch hits when needed to keep the team afloat.

Chicago has more potential going forward, especially with injuries taking out pitcher Justin Steele (hamstring) and outfielder Seiya Suzuki (oblique) while stalwarts like starter Kyle Hendricks are struggling to find their form. But management has confidence in this group, and catching the Astros at their current form is certainly helpful.

“The hope is that you get to a point where you are playing cleaner, so to speak, that you get healthy, and then you get on a little bit of a roll,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said prior to the weekend series vs Miami. “But, so much of what is valuable in this sport is the ability to win series and grind it out when you’re not at your best. We haven’t played great, and we’ve gotten through that overly tough stretch well.”

Chicago’s Jordan Wicks will start the opener looking for his first victory of the season while a pair of unbeaten starters Jameson Taillon (1-0, 1.80 ERA) and Javier Assad (2-0, 2.11) are scheduled for the last two games of the series.

 

Cubs Keep Astros Reeling

Chicago is 7-3 at home this season, and it will improve upon that in this series. The Cubs’ pitching is getting better while the Astros are just having trouble putting runs on the board on a consistent basis.

Temperatures at Wrigley Field are not expected to get very high this week, which won’t make it easy to get it out of the park. Look for some low-scoring contests in this series, with the Cubs taking at least two out of the three matchups.

 

 

Questions Of The Day

Will the Astros and Cubs play again this season?


This three-game interleague series is the only time the Cubs will face the Astros in 2024.

Who won the season series between the Astros and Cubs in 2023?


Houston swept all three games played between these teams in 2023.

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