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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Astros 4, Cubs 3

By Bruce Levine



HOUSTON -- Here's a quick look at the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
How it happened: Down 4-3 in the ninth inning, the Cubs had runners on first and third with no outs and failed to score. Pitcher Casey Coleman, who was called up for the fourth time this season, was not exactly stellar in Carlos Zambrano's spot in the rotation. He lasted 3 2/3 innings and left the game with the bases loaded trailing 4-3. Early run support came from Aramis Ramirez, who hit a two-run homer -- his 23rd of the season -- in the third inning. It was the 11th home run he has hit on the first pitch, the most in baseball this season. Ramirez is 14 for 29 in his past seven games. Houston's Brian Bogusevic followed up his walk-off grand slam on Tuesday with a bases loaded two-run double in the third inning.

What it means: The Cubs, who had won four straight series, lost their first series since falling to St. Louis two out of three July 29-31. Starting pitching innings continue to be a problem. Outside of Ryan Dempster, who has thrown seven innings in his past two starts, no Cubs starter has thrown more than 5 2/3 in a week.

Outside the box: The Cubs' off day on Thursday is their first in 23 days. In that time they played 22 games and had one rainout. They have 19 home games and 19 road games remaining. The Cubs received a notice from Major League Baseball on Tuesday that the Players Association had filed a formal grievance on behalf of Zambrano who was put on the disqualified list by the Cubs on Saturday.

Next: The Cubs open a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday at Wrigley Field. Randy Wells (4-4, 5.90) takes on the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia (10-6, 3.42).