Cubs can't back Wood as skid reaches eight

Cubs can't back Wood as skid reaches eight

Cubs can't back Wood as skid reaches eight
HOUSTON -- The Cubs' offense is stuck in neutral.

Jose Altuve hit a leadoff home run and J.D. Martinez delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth inning Tuesday to lift the Astros to a 2-1 victory and hand the Cubs their eighth straight loss.

It's the longest skid since Chicago lost eight in a row from May 30-June 7, 2011. How tough has it been? The Cubs have not had the lead since the fourth inning on May 16, a stretch of 59 innings. They have scored one run off a starting pitcher in the last four games, a total of 25 1/3 innings.

"We just can't seem to get anything going," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

They had a chance in the eighth. Reed Johnson singled with one out and was lifted for pinch-runner Tony Campana, who reached third on an errant pickoff throw by Wilton Lopez. Campana did a Superman-style dive over third baseman Matt Downs and sailed past the bag, but he was able to scamper back in time. However, the acrobatics were wasted as Lopez struck out both Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano.

"With Campana there, it was huge," Sveum said. "Anything put in play, he would score on it. [Soriano] hit a solo shot, but we can't seem to get that three-run shot."

Give Campana credit for hustling.

"That's unbelievable, man," Soriano said. "That dive he made -- I thought we had an opportunity to tie the game, but we came up short."

What was Sveum thinking when Campana was halfway between second and third?

"[I was thinking], 'Uh oh,'" Sveum said. "You've got to be able to use that speed and test it. I would've had no problem if he was thrown out, because he was being aggressive and he was in the game for that reason."

Travis Wood (0-1), who was 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Iowa, made his first start in Chris Volstad's spot. On Tuesday, Volstad was the winner in Iowa' s 18-8 romp over Tacoma. He didn't get that kind of offensive support in his eight starts with the Cubs when he was 0-6.

Neither did Wood. Chicago stranded six, and Astros pitchers totaled 13 strikeouts, which matched a season high for the Cubs.

Altuve hit Wood's third pitch of the game for his homer, and Jed Lowrie followed with a double for the only hits off the lefty.

"The first pitch [Altuve] hit out wasn't where it was supposed to be, and he put a good swing on it and hit it out," Wood said. "The second one that [Lowrie] hit was where it was supposed to be, and he hit it down the line for a double."

Wood had a rough Spring Training, yet seems back on track. He also posted a quality start on May 6 when he subbed for Matt Garza.

"I tip my hat to him," Sveum said. "I know he's gone through some adversity through all this, and he's had two really impressive starts for us."

Wood was able to settle down after giving up extra-base hits to Altuve and Lowrie.

"The first batter of the ballgame, [Altuve] hits a home run, and I guess everything is out of the way," Wood said. "You've already given up a hit, you've already given up a home run, so there's not much left to do but bear down and get after it."

Soriano tied the game with a leadoff home run in the fourth, his fourth blast in the last eight games after going homerless in the first 30.

"We found out how far he can hit a baseball -- it's about 600 feet," Astros starter J.A. Happ said. "I didn't want to put guys on base. I was just trying to be aggressive. He obviously got that one."

Wood hit a one-out double in the third, but he was stranded as Castro struck out to end the inning. It was a tough night for the shortstop.

"It's his third year in the league," Soriano said of Castro, who fanned four times for the second time in his young career. "He'll figure it out. It happened to him last year, too. When you get out of the slump, you become a better player. I hope when he comes out, he'll be a better player."

With the game tied at 1 in the sixth, Wood walked Justin Maxwell and was lifted after throwing 97 pitches. Maxwell moved up on an errant pickoff attempt by reliever Shawn Camp, who walked Carlos Lee. Martinez smacked a go-ahead RBI single to center.

Wood was mad at himself for the walk.

"I thought it was a good outing, but that two-out walk ended up losing the game," he said.

Soriano made a nice defensive play in the sixth when he robbed Lowrie of a potential hit. As the left fielder got to his feet, he kissed the ball. Maybe next time, he'll get that three-run homer.

"I've started hitting homers, but it's not enough to win," Soriano said. "It's better to win some games. I don't care about my homers. I've been doing that for 12 years. It's more important to get the win. I don't know what we have to do to win one game and hit more. So far, we're struggling and not getting hits. We've got to work more and try to do the best we can to win some games."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.