Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Houston Astros franchise hopes its 51-year tenure in the National League can end the same way it began – with a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs.
In their final game before moving to the AL next year, the Astros look to end their season on a high note at Wrigley Field and again avoid a franchise-record 107th defeat Wednesday against the majors' only other 100-loss team.
Houston (55-106) will finish with the worst record in the major leagues for the second consecutive season. But the Astros have played better down the stretch, winning five of their last six and 15 of 29 since the start of September. Now they can avoid a franchise-worst finish, set last year at 56-106, by completing a sweep of Chicago.
A win Wednesday would be a nice bookend for the franchise, which opened its inaugural 1962 season with three straight wins over the Cubs, when the Astros were known as the Colt .45s.
This year's Cubs (60-101) are likely candidates to get swept, having lost 100 games for the first time since its franchise worst-tying 59-103 finish in 1966.
The Astros beat the Cubs 3-0 on Tuesday night in the first meeting between two 100-loss teams since Sept. 30, 1962.
Overall, Houston has put together three consecutive shutouts for the first time since Sept. 23-25, 1986. The franchise has never posted four straight.
"The team won three in a row. That's the way we're looking at it," Tuesday's starter Bud Norris said. "We're trying to end this thing strong and play it all the way through."
Chicago, which has dropped 13 of 15, has managed only six hits in the first two games of this series.
"Not a lot of quality at-bats again, left some guys on, striking out with guys in scoring position again," manager Dale Sveum said. "It's kind of typifying the whole season, these last two nights swinging the bats."
The Cubs hope to muster more offense in support of Wednesday's starter Travis Wood (6-13, 4.39 ERA), who went 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA in six September starts after going 0-8 in his first nine games after the All-Star break. The left-hander gave up five runs in five innings of an 8-3 loss at Arizona on Friday.
He is 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in eight career starts against the Astros, including 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA this season.
Edgar Gonzalez (3-1, 4.15) will make his sixth start for Houston. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA in three road starts after allowing three runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-6 victory at Milwaukee on Friday.
Gonzalez made his only previous start against the Cubs in 2008 while with Arizona, holding them to two runs and five hits in five innings and failing to get a decision.
Wednesday's finale will be Tony DeFrancesco's last game as Houston's interim manager. The Astros have hired Washington Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter to take over when the team moves to the AL.
"If everybody signs the lineup card, it will be a special memory," said DeFrancesco, who hopes to remain with the team in some capacity. "I'll get it framed and move on to a new chapter in my life. This has been a very special chapter."