Cubs pay a visit to Astros

Former first-round draft choice Chris Volstad tries to regain a recent run of success tonight when the Chicago Cubs visit Minute Maid Park for the opener of a three-game series against the Houston Astros.

The 16th overall selection by the Florida Marlins in 2005, Volstad was 5-13 in his final season with the Marlins before coming over in the January trade that sent Carlos Zambrano to Miami.

Volstad was 0-9 in his initial 13 starts with his new team and spent some time in the minor leagues as well, before finally breaking through for a 5-0 defeat of Colorado on Aug. 26 after allowing three hits in 6 2/3 innings.

He followed up with win No. 2 five days later after surrendering two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings in a 6-4 defeat of the San Francisco Giants.

The win streak was halted in Volstad's most recent outing in which he allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss.

Volstad was routed, 10-1, by the Astros on Aug. 14 in Chicago and is 3-1 against them in six career starts with a 4.79 earned run average.

Houston opposes him with rookie lefty Dallas Keuchel, who tries to end a winless skid that's now stretched to 10 starts.

The 24-year-old Oklahoma native got a no-decision in his initial start on June 17 and was a complete-game winner in an interleague game against Cleveland on June 23 after allowing a run on six hits with three strikeouts.

He's 0-7 in 10 starts since - in which the Astros are 1-9 - including a 6-4 defeat against San Francisco on Aug. 29, when he gave up five runs in five innings.

Keuchel has never faced the Cubs.

On Sunday in Pittsburgh, Alfonso Soriano crushed the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning and the Cubs knocked off the Pirates, 4-2, in the finale of a three-game series at PNC Park.

Josh Vitters and Anthony Recker hit solo homers for the Cubs, who completed a three-game sweep on the heels of a six-game slide. Joe Mather added three hits in the triumph.

James Russell (7-1) earned the win after getting the final two outs in the seventh inning and Carlos Marmol worked out of trouble in the ninth to record his 18th save of the season.

In Cincinnati, Matt Dominguez hit a three-run homer to power the Astros to a 5-1 win over the Reds in the rubber match of a three-game set.

Fernando Martinez had a sacrifice fly and scored a run for Houston, which had lost four of its last six coming in.

Edgar Gonzalez (2-0) struck out six and allowed a run on two hits and a walk in five innings to earn the win.

The Cubs have won five of the first nine meetings with Houston in 2012, a year after winning eight of 15 in the 2011 season series.