The Cubs are doing a credible job of picking up the slack left by the absence of third baseman…
Lou Confident in Gregg After Blowup
"We're not going to go into that," Piniella said Sunday. "We've got our plan set. Barring an injury, we're going to stay the way we are. We talked a week or 10 days ago about really concentrating on putting a good bullpen together, and we're starting to do just that."
Gregg gave up four runs on four hits Saturday as he blew a 4-0 lead before the Cubs came back to win.
Marmol has looked good of late, and righty Angel Guzman is earning Piniella's trust in the seventh inning. The Cubs need more consistency out of right-hander Aaron Heilman and for lefty Neal Cotts to find a groove.
ASTROS 6, CUBS 5: The Cubs fell short in the ninth inning, as they scored twice to make it close. 1B Derrek Lee doubled, homered and singled twice. RHP Rich Harden gave up four runs in the fourth inning and lasted six, as he ran his pitch count to 112.
NEWS AND NOTES
--RHP Carlos Zambrano pitched 3 2/3 innings Sunday in a rehab start for Class A Daytona against Dunedin. He gave up five hits and four runs, walking three and striking out one. Zambrano is on the DL with a strained left hamstring. He is scheduled to start Friday's series opener at San Diego.
--Rookie RHP Randy Wells doesn't have a victory, but he has pitched 11 scoreless innings over his first two major-league starts. When Zambrano comes off the DL, Wells may stay in the rotation and supplant Sean Marshall, who may move back to the pen.
--Lee was a triple shy of the cycle. He enjoyed his first four-hit game since last September and raised his batting average from .198 to .226. His fifth-inning solo homer was his fourth home run of the year.
--Marshall had his turn in the rotation skipped over the weekend. He picked up a win in relief Saturday, and he'll start Thursday's series finale at St. Louis.
--RHP Jose Ascanio couldn't keep Sunday's game close, as he hit the first two batters he faced on two pitches in the seventh, when the Astros scored twice to take a 6-3 lead. Ascanio came up from the minor leagues last week and initially impressed manager Lou Piniella by throwing strikes.
"I don't know what happened to Ascanio," Piniella said. "I just don't know. I don't know how ... I've never seen that, the first two pitches, two hit batters, and a wild pitch a few pitches later."
BY THE NUMBERS: 21 -- The Cubs had 21 quality starts entering the midweek series at St. Louis. They are 14-7 in those games, and the starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.58 in the quality starts.
"Figures. I never get treated fairly. It's just me. This is exactly what I expected." -- RF Milton Bradley, on having his two-game suspension reduced to one game.
SALT LAKE 7, IOWA 4 (CLASS AAA)
At Salt Lake City, Utah, the Cubs (19-17) were held to six hits in the loss Sunday. Six Iowa players finished with one hit apiece, including DH Jake Fox (1-for-3, walk), who hit his 13th double. RF Brad Snyder (1-for-4) singled to extend his hit streak to 11 games. He has hit safely in 26 of his last 27 games overall. RHP Esmailin Caridad (3-3) started and suffered the loss, allowing five earned runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out six batters and walked five.
CHATTANOOGA 7, TENNESSEE 2 (CLASS AA)
At Chattanooga, Tenn., the Smokies (16-16) were held to three hits in the loss Sunday. 1B Russ Canzler (1-for-4) hit his first home run since being promoted to Double-A, and 2B Tony Thomas (1-for-4, RBI) tied a career-high with his seventh home run. RHP Hung-Wen Chen (2-3) started and allowed five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings en route to the loss. He struck out three batters and walked one.
DUNEDIN 6, DAYTONA 0 (CLASS HIGH A)
At Dunedin, Fla., RHP Carlos Zambrano suffered the loss in his rehab start Sunday. He allowed four runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings, and walked three batters while striking out one. RHP Dan McDaniel tossed two innings in relief and yielded one run on no hits and two walks. He struck out three. The Cubs (17-19) were held to five hits in the loss with SS Starlin Castro (2-for-4) and RF Dylan Johnston (2-for-3) leading the way with two hits.
BELOIT 9, PEORIA 6 (CLASS A)
At Beloit, Wis., the Chiefs (19-16) collected 12 hits in the loss Sunday. 3B Josh Vitters (3-for-5, two RBI) paced the offense with three hits, including two doubles and his fifth home run. He is 9-for-12 in his last three games. CF Kyler Burke (3-for-4, RBI) added three hits, including his 14th double – tops in the Cubs' system. RHP Aaron Shafer (4-2) started and suffered the loss, allowing a season-high seven runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out two batters and walked one.
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