Righty Chris Volstad gets a 12th chance at a first win of 2012 tonight when the Chicago Cubs host the Houston Astros in the middle test of a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Volstad, the 16th overall pick by the Florida Marlins in the 2005 draft, has dropped eight straight decisions across 11 starts in his initial season with Chicago after he'd appeared in 103 games with the Marlins.
The 25-year-old native of Florida headed to Chicago in the offseason as part of a deal that sent fiery Venezuelan Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins.
Volstad was 0-6 with a bloated 7.46 earned run average through his initial eight starts with the Cubs, and has since gone 0-2 in three more outings mixed in with time spent at Triple-A Iowa.
He tossed six innings of three-run ball in his most recent outing on Aug. 9 and got a no-decision against Cincinnati in a game the Cubs won, 5-3.
Volstad is 3-0 in five career starts against the Astros.
For Houston, right-hander Lucas Harrell takes a second shot at his first double-digit win season.
The 27-year-old Missouri native was 9-7 heading into an Aug. 9 start against the Washington Nationals, but instead fell to 9-8 after allowing two runs on five hits in five innings of a game the Astros lost, 5-0.
He'd won two straight prior to that outing, allowing just four runs on nine hits in 11 2/3 innings while defeating Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
A fourth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2004, Harrell was 0-2 in nine games while splitting time between the White Sox and Astros in 2011.
He's made two scoreless relief appearances against the Cubs in his career, allowing two hits and striking out two batters in 1 2/3 innings.
In Monday's opener, Jeff Samardzija tossed seven outstanding innings as the Cubs knocked off the Astros, 7-1.
Samardzija (8-10) matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts and allowed just one run on four hits while walking three to snap a personal three-game winless streak.
"He's pitched in a lot of really tight ball games it seems like all year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously that split showed up tonight and it was pretty devastating. His velocity was pretty good."
Darwin Barney and Alfonso Soriano each clubbed two-run home runs. Welington Castillo drove home a run and Anthony Rizzo added an RBI single among his four hits for the Cubs, who finally got in the win column after dropping 11 of their previous 12 games.
Brandon Barnes provided all the Astros offense with a pinch-hit home run in the club's seventh loss in nine tries.
Armando Galarraga (0-3) was saddled with the loss after giving up five runs on seven hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts over five innings.
"There's no doubt he needed to throw more strikes. His stuff is good enough," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "When he got ahead of hitters, he needed to be able to make some better pitches."
Both of the previous series between the teams in 2012 have ended in sweeps. The Astros won three straight games in Houston from May 21-23, while the Cubs did the same at Wrigley Field from June 29-July 1.
Chicago won last year's series, 8-7.