Dominican lefty Fernando Abad starts for the fourth time in 2012 and searches for his first win tonight when the Houston Astros host the Chicago Cubs in the finale of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The 26-year-old, who made 51 relief appearances in his initial two seasons in the majors, opened 2012 with 30 straight trips from the bullpen before getting his initial start on Aug. 25 in New York against the Mets.
He pitched four innings and allowed a run on four hits in a 3-1 loss, then surrendered six runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings six days later when the Astros lost, 9-3, to the Cincinnati Reds.
Start No. 3 resulted in another four-inning outing and resulted in another loss when Abad allowed five runs on six hits during a 6-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
He's struck out six and walked nine in 12 1/3 innings as a starter after posting a 3.86 earned run average through 23 1/3 innings as a reliever in the initial 30 appearances.
In 10 career relief outings against the Cubs, Abad has a 2.16 ERA across 8 1/3 innings while allowing seven hits and two runs.
Chicago opposes him with fellow southpaw Travis Wood, who snapped an eight- decision losing streak in his last start.
Wood, a 25-year-old from Arkansas, surrendered a single hit in six scoreless innings at Pittsburgh in the Cubs' 12-2 defeat of the Pirates on Sept. 7.
He was 4-3 in 2012 after defeating the Mets on July 6 in New York, then emerged from the All-Star break with eight losses in 10 starts - in which Chicago was 0-10 - and watched his ERA climb from 3.05 to 4.64.
His third win of the season came against the Astros on July 1 and saw Wood allow three hits and strike out four in 7 2/3 scoreless innings of a 3-0 triumph.
In his career against Houston, Wood is 2-2 in seven starts.
On Tuesday, Jordan Lyles threw five shutout innings and the bullpen did the rest as the Astros edged the Cubs, 1-0.
Lyles (4-11) allowed two hits and walked two while striking out five to pick up just his third win since June 26.
Jason Maxwell drove in the lone run for the Astros, who have won three of five.
Wilton Lopez stranded two in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the season.
Justin Germano (2-7) was pegged with the loss despite allowing just one unearned run on three hits while striking out eight over five frames. David DeJesus and Starlin Castro each tallied hits for the Cubs, who had a season- high four-game winning streak snapped.
"Any time you lose by one run, it's tough, especially when it's an unearned run," Germano said.
Chicago rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo left the game in the third inning after a nasty collision at first base with Maxwell.
Rizzo ripped a grounder to second base, but a high throw caused first baseman Brett Wallace to jump as Rizzo was crossing the bag. It appeared that Rizzo hyperextended his left leg and was then struck in the left side of the head by Maxwell's foot.
The 23-year-old Rizzo stumbled and landed awkwardly on his right shoulder, and then remained motionless on the field for several minutes before he walked off the field with the help of two trainers. He sustained soft-tissue soreness and is considered day-to-day.
The Cubs won five of the first nine games between the teams in 2012, a year after winning eight of 15 in the 2011 season series.