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Cubs Open Series Vs. Astros, Hope For Better Results

(Sports Network) - The confidence level in the Windy City has to be high after how easily the Chicago Cubs handled the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies this weekend at Wrigley Field.

Chicago's chances of keeping the spirits high just got a bit easier with the lowly Houston Astros in town Monday for the opener of a three-game series between NL Central inhabitants. The Cubs took three of four contests from the Phillies and are coming off Sunday's 11-6 beating behind big contributions from Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto.

Soriano and Soto both finished 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI off Phils ace Roy Halladay, while Derrek Lee drove in three runs for Chicago, which has won seven of its last 11 games and is 3-1 on a 10-game homestand. Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro both had three hits in a winning cause.

"We swung the bats really well today off a good pitcher," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on the team's site. "You put six runs on the board against Roy Halladay, and you have to feel good about your offense."

Tom Gorzelanny took the hill for the Cubs last night and evened his mark at 5-5 after holding the Phillies to three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and five walks over 6 2/3 innings.

The Cubs will attempt for more success tonight with Carlos Silva on the hill, but he's only 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA over his last six starts since opening the 2010 campaign 8-0 over his first 11 trips to the mound. Silva lasted just 1 1/3 innings his last time out on July 11 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and gave up six runs on six hits in a 7-0 loss.

Silva fell to 9-3 overall and raised his earned run average to 3.45. The righty will take on the Astros again this season and beat them on April 16 by allowing just two unearned runs over seven innings of a 7-2 victory. Silva is 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in seven career games (2 starts) against Houston.

The Astros lost the last two portions of a three-game series at Pittsburgh and have dropped four of six games overall. In Sunday's 9-0 drubbing at PNC Park, Pirates starter Paul Maholm threw a three-hit shutout to stymie Houston's lineup.

Angel Sanchez had a team-high two hits and Chris Johnson recorded the other base hit for Houston, which lost starter Roy Oswalt to a left ankle issue after the right-hander was struck by a line drive. He lasted four innings and gave up two runs and seven hits with five strikeouts.

"I couldn't really finish pitches," Oswalt said on Houston's website. "Couldn't really get through pitches, and left two balls kind of spinning in the plate, and got a few hits."

Oswalt, who is probable for his next start, remains one win shy of Joe Niekro's franchise record 144 victories. The bullpen did no better in relief on Sunday, as Chris Sampson and Wilton Lopez both allowed two runs and Casey Daigle was reached for three more.

Wandy Rodriguez hopes to get a bit more support when he makes his 19th start of the season tonight. Rodriguez had a personal three-game winning streak stopped on July 11 in a 4-2 loss versus St. Louis, as he surrendered three runs on four hits in six innings of work.

Rodriguez, who is 2-6 in nine road starts this season, fell to 6-11 this season to go along with a 4.97 earned run average. He faced the Cubs in a 3-2 win on April 18, but did not figure into the decision after giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings. The lefty is 4-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 career starts against Chicago.

Houston has won four of six matchups with Chicago this season, one year after the Cubs took 11 of 17 matchups between the two clubs.