Rapid Reaction: Cubs 3, Astros 1
June, 21, 2013
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs kicked off a brief three-game homestand with a 3-1 victory Friday against the Houston Astros in a game that was delayed 3 hours and 18 minutes at the outset because of rain.
How it happened: A stagnant offense sprang back to life Friday, as the Cubs flexed their muscles against the Astros. Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Scott Hairston hit home runs in consecutive innings to lead the attack. The Cubs pounded out 10 hits after getting just seven in their past two games combined. Matt Garza pitched well for the second consecutive outing. Following a scoreless seven innings Saturday at New York against the Mets, he allowed one run on four hits over eight-plus innings Friday. Kevin Gregg closed out the victory and is now 11-for-11 in save opportunities.
What it means: Garza’s trade value is starting to increase and the Cubs might be able to make the deal they couldn’t pull off last year, when the right-hander went down with an injury. Sure, his last two dominating outings came against the New York Mets and the Astros, not exactly offensive powerhouses. But the back-to-back performances were a solid response to his rough June 11 outing against the Cincinnati Reds, when he gave up nine runs in five innings.
Outside the box: In his five previous games in the leadoff spot, Barney had just five hits and a .200 (5-for-25) batting average. He even struck out six times. Back in that spot Friday against Astros lefty starter Dallas Keuchel, Barney not only hit his fourth home run of the season, he had three hits on the day. He also flew out to the base of the center-field wall in his last at-bat.
Off beat: The Astros are new to the American League this season, but perhaps it’s the Cubs who should have made the move instead. The interleague victory Friday gave the Cubs a 7-2 record against American League teams this season. They beat the Chicago White Sox three times, went 2-1 against the Texas Rangers and split a two-game series with the Los Angeles Angels before Friday’s victory. The Cubs entered with a .469 (114-129) winning percentage against the AL and haven’t had a winning season against the other league since going 8-4 in 2007. They still have nine games remaining against the AL after the current series is completed.
Up next: The Cubs will send left-hander Travis Wood (5-6, 2.74 ERA) to the mound against the Astros on Saturday in the middle game of the three-game series. Houston will counter with right-hander Bud Norris (5-7, 3.64) in the 3:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.