Cubs fall to Astros in matchup of 100-loss teams
Houston Astros relief pitcher Wilton Lopez delivers during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, in Chicago. The Astros won 3-0. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
As the losses continue to pile up, they start to look the same to Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
"Deja vu," Sveum said after the Cubs were blanked for a second straight game. "It's kind of typifying the whole season, these last two nights swinging the bats."
Bud Norris pitched six shutout innings, Jason Castro homered and the Houston Astros beat the Cubs 3-0 Tuesday night in a matchup of 100-loss teams.
"Not a lot of quality at-bats again," Sveum said. "Left some guys on, striking out with guys in scoring position again."
The season-ending series between NL Central clubs marks the first meeting of 100-loss teams in the majors since 1962, when the Cubs played the New York Mets.
The Cubs were blanked for the 16th time this season. It's the second time they have been shutout in back-to-back games, the other instance coming July 21-22 at St. Louis.
Chris Volstad (3-12) took the loss for the Cubs, who fell to 60-101.
Castro hit his sixth homer of the year, sending a solo shot into the right-field bleachers with two outs in the second inning. Justin Maxwell reached on shortstop Starlin Castro's 27th blunder of the year following the home run, and scored on Tyler Greene's single.
Volstad was otherwise effective, striking out six and walking none in seven innings. He had gone eight innings over his previous two starts without striking out a batter.
"I could have used a few more of those (starts)," Volstad said. "But it felt good to end it that way and go into the offseason with a positive."
Volstad carried a winless streak with him for much of the season, unable to snap the 24-start skid until late August.
"This season I learned more than I have any other year about myself and about baseball," Volstad said. "I'm going to take away the positives and work on that in the offseason."
Astros pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic walked and scored on Alberto Cabrera's wild pitch to add an insurance run in the eighth.
Houston (55-106) threw its third straight shutout and won for the fifth time in six games. The Astros have already matched last year's franchise-worst loss total with one game left.
"The team won three in a row, that's the way we're looking at it," Norris said. "We're trying to end this thing strong and play it all the way through."
Norris (7-13) scattered four hits and won back-to-back starts for the first time since May.
Norris pitched out of several sticky situations. He put runners in scoring position with less than two out in four consecutive innings but didn't allow any runs to cross home. Norris struck out Luis Valbuena and Welington Castillo with runners on second and third to end a fourth-inning threat.
The 27-year-old endured a 19-start winless stretch before winning his last two. Four Astros relievers held the Cubs hitless over the final three innings. Wilton Lopez worked the ninth for his 10th save in 13 chances.
Jordan Lyles tossed a complete game at Milwaukee on Sunday and Lucas Harrell and three relievers combined to blank the Cubs on Monday.
Sveum said he plans on resting most of his regular starters in the season finale on Wednesday. Castro is likely to play — he can become the first Cubs infielder to appear in all 162 games since Hall of Famer Ron Santo in 1968. No Cubs shortstop has ever played in all 162 games.
"The season didn't go well, obviously, but these guys deserve to kick back," Sveum said. "Let them sit back and watch a game for once."
NOTES: The Astros start Edgar Gonzalez (3-1, 4.15 ERA) on Wednesday in their final game as a National League team. They'll move to the AL next year. Travis Wood (6-13, 4.39) goes for Chicago.
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