Houston southpaw J.A. Happ hasn't won three starts in a row since the 2010 season, but the way the 29-year-old has been pitching and how the Cubs have been performing this season, Saturday could be his best chance to accomplish the task.
Happ could also snap a huge winless streak on the road. He's 0-3 in five such starts this year and is 0-10 over his last 15 away starts. Happ's last road win came May 3, 2011 at Cincinnati.
The last time he won three consecutive starts was Aug. 25 - Sept. 5, 2010 during the season when he came to the Astros via trade from Philadelphia.
Happ shut down Cleveland and Kansas City over his previous two starts, allowing a total of three runs over 13 innings. Happ, who was born in Spring Valley, IL, about two hours from Wrigley Field, owns a career 1-1 record with a 6.00 ERA in three starts against the Cubs.
Matt Garza, who has just one victory in his last nine starts, gets the ball for the Cubs. The right-hander tossed seven innings in a 5-1 loss at Arizona on Sunday. It was his sixth straight appearance without allowing more than one walk. The problem, though, for Garza has been the long ball. He's given up 12 of them this year, including nine over the last seven appearances.
Garza is 0-3 with a 4.64 ERA in five starts vs. Houston. He was dealt the loss earlier this year on May 21 against the Astros, tossing three innings while allowing seven runs on five hits.
Yesterday, Paul Maholm pitched into the ninth inning and the Cubs earned a 4-0 win in the opener of the three-game set.
Despite the outcome, the Cubs remain near the bottom in the National League in run production and at 22 games below .500 have the worst mark in the NL.
Maholm (5-6) controlled the game for the first eight innings, only allowing four Astros to reach base. However, after giving up a pair of hits and running his pitch count to 98, his day ended with one out in the ninth.
"You just have to go out there confident with your game plan, keep the ball down and be aggressive" Maholm said. "If you're kind of doubting your pitches or doubting whatever, you're not going to be as crisp. So, whether I was throwing the so-called correct pitch, I was aggressive with it."
The 30-year-old left-hander ended up allowing four hits and a walk, while striking out six en route to his first win since May 9.
"He was throwing everything for strikes," Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger said. "He had everything. His back-door cutter, he was throwing inside, keeping them off everything away, his changeup was awesome today and his fastball command was great."
Maholm was 0-4 with a 6.43 earned run average in his last eight starts heading into Friday, but he finished two outs short of his fourth career shutout.
Luis Valbuena, Clevenger and Alfonso Soriano hit homers for the Cubs to account for all four of their runs. For Clevenger, it was his first career blast.
Bud Norris (5-5) came off the disabled list on Friday and took the loss. He gave up all four runs on seven hits and a walk over six innings.
"I thought he battled pretty well," Houston manager Brad Mills said.
The Astros had won four straight over the Cubs, including a three-game sweep at home from May 21-23.