HOUSTON – James Russell might want to forget his first career start.
The Chicago Cubs left-hander, who got the start in place of injured Andrew Cashner, lasted 1 2-3 innings and gave up five runs as the Houston Astros jumped to an early lead in an 11-2 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday night.
Four of his five runs were earned, but Russell (1-1) said the first two batters of the game were the key.
The Astros caught Russell off guard with bunt singles by Michael Bourn and Angel Sanchez to lead off the first and continued the onslaught with RBI singles by Hunter Pence and Bill Hall en route to a 3-0 first-inning lead.
"I don't think they could have thrown two more perfect bunts out there," Russell said. "We have the scouting report. We know against lefties Bourn likes to bunt. He beat our defense the first one out there, and we weren't able to get it."
The second inning wasn't much better as Humberto Quintero led off with a double and Brett Myers followed with a single. Bourn reached on an RBI groundout and scored on another Pence RBI-single that chased Russell just 55 pitches into the start.
"It started off kind of early, and I got some unlucky breaks," Russell said. "There were some seeing-eye singles and some bleeders mixed in there. I felt pretty good overall, but unfortunately, a couple mishaps didn't go my way."
Pence had four RBIs, Sanchez tied a career high with four hits and Bourn scored a career-high four runs for an outstanding punch at the top of Houston's lineup. Quintero tied a career high with three hits and fell a home run shy of the cycle.
Cubs manager Mike Quade said the disappointing outing for Russell doesn't necessarily mean he won't start again, but he agreed that the two bunt singles started things off badly.
"Of all things, two good bunts to start things off, and he never could get on track," Quade said. "He's such a valuable part of this club that we will take a look and see what we think. He threw strikes and did OK, but he was hit hard."
Quade gave reliever Jeff Samardzija credit for going three innings on a night the Cubs had to use five pitchers.
"I thought Samardzija threw the ball well, and we needed those three innings badly," Quade said. "I thought he was better tonight. We got through it, and all those guys in the bullpen, it was ugly, but we got through it."
The rest of the night belonged to Myers (1-0), who kept the Cubs at bay for seven innings, giving up one run and eight hits with five strikeouts.
"He pitched well tonight," Quade said. "He's tough. He throws a fastball, curveball, he cuts some balls and mixes in the slider. He changes speed really well. He seems like he's found a home here. When his curveball is on, he's real good, and I think he threw some good ones tonight."
Tyler Colvin had a solo homer to right field that made it 7-1 in the seventh inning. Marlon Byrd went 3 for 3 with a double for the Cubs. He also robbed Bill Hall of a hit with a nifty leaping catch just in front of the bullpen in right field in the fifth inning.
Byrd was impressed with Myers.
"He made a couple mistakes, but he was locating well all night," Byrd said. "It's one of those things where good pitching beats good hitting all the time. He made pitches when he had to. We would get guys on, and he would locate his pitches. There's not much you can do about that."
NOTES: Chicago OF Kosuke Fukudome was out of the lineup for the second straight day on Tuesday after straining his hamstring making a catch on Sunday. He is listed as day to day with the injury and the Cubs are hoping he will be able to play by Friday. ... Chicago signed veteran pitcher Doug Davis to a minor league deal on Tuesday. Davis went 1-4 in eight starts for Milwaukee last season, but missed most of the year with injuries. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Davis will be in extended spring training for a couple of weeks and they hope to have him at Triple-A Iowa before the end of the month.