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News » Astros-Cubs Preview 2009-05-16

Astros-Cubs Preview 2009-05-16

Astros-Cubs Preview 2009-05-16
The Chicago Cubs bullpen continues to cause headaches for manager Lou Piniella. Luckily, his batters are coming through in clutch situations.

The Cubs will try for their sixth straight victory and a sweep of their rain-shortened, two-game series with visiting Houston Astros on Sunday.

With the Cubs leading 4-0 entering the ninth inning Saturday, relievers Kevin Gregg and Aaron Heilman combined to allow back-to-back solo homers by Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee followed by Ivan Rodriguez's two-run single as Houston (16-19) rallied to tie.

"You certainly don't expect your closer to get hit that hard," Piniella told the Cubs' official Web site. "I talked to our catcher ... and he said (Gregg) was up and down the middle with about everything. He needed the work, we needed to pitch him, and he'll be better tomorrow."

Alfonso Soriano kept Chicago's winning streak alive. His one-out single in the bottom of the frame scored rookie Bobby Scales, lifting the Cubs to a 5-4 victory.

"It is gut-wrenching," Berkman said. "I felt like that ninth inning could have turned out a little differently than it did. We probably should have come out of there with the lead. Then I think if you go onto the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead, it's a different situation than if you go out there tied."

Chicago (21-14) also got a two-run homer from Micah Hoffpauir, who was playing right field in place of the suspended Milton Bradley. Derrek Lee, who is dealing with a bulging disc in his neck, broke an 0-for-9 slump with an RBI single in the sixth, and Geovany Soto drove in a run in the eighth on an infield single.

"It was a very good win for us because we were winning the whole game," Soriano said.

Chicago improved to 11-3 this month after finishing April with a 10-11 mark, but the Cubs might have a better May record if not for their bullpen, which had allowed 13 runs in one three-game stretch. Cubs relievers have a 5.50 ERA in May compared to 3.48 for the starters.

After batting .237 with runners in scoring position through their first 29 games, the Cubs are hitting .356 (16 for 45) during their win streak.

Chicago will try to continue its recent success against right-hander Brian Moehler (0-2, 8.44 ERA), who is 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA in his last five starts against the Cubs.

Moehler was pulled in the second inning from his season debut April 8 after giving up seven runs to visiting Chicago, but has allowed three in his last two. The right-hander, who is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career at Wrigley Field, yielded one run and five hits in seven innings of a 5-4 win on May 9 against San Diego, but failed to get a decision.

The Cubs counter with Rich Harden (4-1, 4.54), who has won four straight decisions since losing to Colorado on April 15. That includes a 6-3 victory in Houston on May 6 in which he pitched a season-high seven innings and gave up three runs.

Winners in eight of its last nine at Wrigley, Chicago is 5-1 against the Astros this season after losing the series in 2008.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 17, 2009

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