Adbert Alzolay

Cubs hoping to get more consistency from pitcher Adbert Alzolay vs. Astros

Adbert Alzolay has blown four of his first seven save chances so far this season

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The Chicago Cubs split a four-game series against the Miami Marlins over the weekend. Second baseman Nico Hoerner had three hits in Sunday's 6-3 loss and is batting .380 (19-for-50) with six RBIs in his last 13 games.

Manager Craig Counsell is looking for more consistency from closer Adbert Alzolay, who has blown four of his first seven save chances. Alzolay retired the only three hitters he faced in a non-save opportunity on Sunday.

"Just build on positives from the outing," Counsell said. "That's what's important I think at this point. I don't think you flip that overnight, but you just build on positives and keep building."

The Cubs are monitoring the status of outfielder Ian Happ, who has missed the past two games due to left hamstring tightness. Happ is hoping to return to the lineup on Tuesday.

"(I wanted to) get enough rest with the off-day coming up (Monday) to get back to 100 percent," Happ said. "I feel good. I feel really good."

These are unchartered waters for the Houston Astros, who are off to their worst 23-game start since 2016.

After losing nine of their past 12 games, the Astros will look to regroup before opening a three-game series against the Cubs on Tuesday.

Houston fell to 7-16 after dropping two of three games to the Washington Nationals over the weekend, including a 6-0 defeat on Sunday. The Astros have lost four of the team's first seven series to open the season.

"It's tough," Houston outfielder Chas McCormick said. "Things aren't going our way. But we need to be mentally strong and get through this. It's going to show us who we really are.

"I know it sucks and it seems like it's hard for us to win a game. But we've got to start piling up wins. We need to play with urgency. And it's just going to show us what our character is. We've just got to be tough."

The Astros were held to four hits in Sunday's loss and did not have a runner in scoring position until the sixth inning.

Slumping first baseman Jose Abreu was given a rest day on Sunday after going 0-for-4 and committing a costly error in Saturday's 10-inning, 5-4 loss. Abreu has three singles and a double in his first 59 at-bats.

"There's no way to sugarcoat this: He's scuffling right now, and I think he knows it. It's wearing on him. I'm sure it's wearing on our hitting coaches," Astros general manager Dana Brown said. "The frustration mounts, but ultimately, hopefully, he can turn this thing around."

Abreu will likely be back in the lineup against the Cubs, who are beginning a stretch of 16 games in 16 days.

Chicago will send left-hander Jordan Wicks (0-2, 5.29 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He received a no-decision after allowing two runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks last Wednesday.

Wicks, 24, has yet to complete five innings in four starts this season. He is making his first career appearance against Houston.

The Astros will counter with right-hander J.P. France (0-2, 7.08), who yielded just two runs on four hits over five innings in his last start, a no-decision against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

In France's only career start against the Cubs on May 17, 2023, he was shelled for six runs on nine hits (including three home runs) over 3 2/3 innings, but he escaped without a decision as the Astros rallied to win 7-6.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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