Volstad overpowered by Astros in loss

Volstad overpowered by Astros in loss

Volstad overpowered by Astros in loss
CHICAGO -- The last time Chris Volstad won a game, the Astros' outfield was Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence.

Volstad's last win was on July 17, 2011, a 5-4 decision over the Astros, who had a much different roster. Bourn is now in Atlanta, Lee in Miami and Pence in San Francisco.

It's now been 23 starts since Volstad could celebrate after he and the Cubs dropped a 10-1 decision to the Astros on Tuesday night. Brett Wallace and Fernando Martinez each hit a three-run homer, and Scott Moore had three hits and two RBIs to power the Astros, who handed the Cubs their 12th loss in their last 14 games.

Volstad's skid isn't the worst in baseball. Anthony Young lost 27 consecutive decisions from May 6, 1992, to July 24, 1993, while with the Mets.

How does Volstad deal with his streak?

"Just keep going," Volstad said. "That's all you can do. The past is in the past. The only thing I'm concerned with is my next game."

The odds were in his favor. The right-hander was 3-0 in five starts against Houston prior to Tuesday, but he was pulled after throwing 70 pitches over five innings and giving up four runs on eight hits.

Before the game, manager Dale Sveum said that he'd seen encouraging signs.

"I think he's learned some things and learned to be a little more conviction-oriented when the catcher puts down a sign," Sveum said of Volstad (0-9). "I think that helps him out and takes the thinking part out of everything so you can visualize it and pull off the pitch that the catcher put down."

He couldn't do that on Tuesday.

"He got to five [innings] and there was nothing real crisp going on," Sveum said. "Even the balls that were hit were hit hard, and the command, he was getting the ball up. His offspeed stuff -- that's what was getting hit hard. He didn't have command of his fastball or quite the sink in his last couple of outings."

Jose Altuve doubled with one out in the Astros' first and scored one out later on Moore's double. Tyler Greene and Altuve both singled with one out in the third to set up Wallace's home run, his fifth, off a 1-2 pitch from Volstad.

That's the pitch Volstad would like back.

"I pretty much hung a curveball coming backdoor to Wallace, and he hit a home run to center field," Volstad said. "It wasn't great location and also just selection on my part. That's the way it goes. One swing of the bat can change a game."

This was Volstad's shortest outing in the three starts he's made since he being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 4. He threw eight shutout innings for Iowa on July 27.

"You take away one pitch, and it's 1-0 instead of 4-0, and the team's right there," he said. "I executed pitches after that [one to Wallace], and I feel that's one of the biggest strides I've made -- continuing to throw. Again, you take away that, and even a couple of hits tonight were finding holes. I've got to keep making quality pitches. That one to Wallace wasn't, and he got it."

Lendy Castillo, the Cubs' Rule 5 Draft pick who was making his first appearance since May 11, served up five runs in the sixth, including Martinez's three-run homer. Castillo had been on the disabled list with a groin injury.

The Astros went into the game ranked 15th in the National League in batting average, ahead of only the Padres and trailing the Cubs. Houston has hit more home runs than Chicago and has more RBIs. The Cubs are now 11-49 when scoring three runs or fewer.

"I think tonight we did a really good job of not being satisfied putting a ball in play," Houston's Moore said. "We got pitches to drive, and we drove them. I think that was key tonight. We had a lot of extra-base hits and a couple of three-run homers, and that was the difference. Instead of putting the ball in play, we got pitches to drive."

Lucas Harrell (10-8) benefited, holding the Cubs to six hits over eight innings and striking out seven. He also singled in the five-run sixth. In fact, every Astros starter except for Brandon Barnes got a hit. The last time the Astros scored 10 or more runs was on June 10, when they beat the White Sox, 11-9.

"Harrell came right after us," Sveum said. "It looked like he threw 90 percent fastballs, and we didn't capitalize on his aggressiveness at all. We took a lot of fastballs and we weren't real aggressive on the fastball for a guy who throws a lot of fastballs."

The Cubs avoided a shutout in the seventh when Starlin Castro singled and later scored on a fielder's choice by Darwin Barney.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.