CHICAGO (AP) - For the second straight day, two bad pitches led to a tough-luck loss for a Houston Astros starter, no thanks to the offense.
Wandy Rodriguez allowed solo home runs to Marlon Byrd and Geovany Soto and the Chicago Cubs beat the run-starved Astros 5-1 on Saturday.
The homers accounted for two of the three hits Rodriguez (6-7) gave up over seven innings of work. He struck out seven and walked one.
Houston's Bud Norris gave up a pair of long balls in a four-run fifth inning on Friday as the Astros dropped the series opener 4-2.
``The pitchers are keeping us in the game. They're doing their part,' said Carlos Lee. ``The offense just can't score runs.'
Lee had three hits and the lone RBI for the Astros, who have 19 hits through the first two games - all singles.
Houston's last 27 hits have all gone for one base, dating back to Wednesday.
``I don't know (if it's a record),' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``I just know that we had some guys on. You get an extra-base hit or something to be able to push them around the bags a bit easier.'
The leadoff batter reached five times for the Astros. Lee singled home Angel Sanchez in the sixth to account for the team's lone hit in 11 opportunities with runners in scoring position.
Houston left 10 runners on base.
``It's tough. Myself, I'm making good contact, but I can't get any elevation on the ball. I don't know why,' Lee said. ``We had opportunities to score a lot of runs in these two games but we never come up with the big hits. We need to score runs.'
The Astros, who own the Majors' worst record at 33-67, have lost 14 of their last 18 road games and six straight overall.
Randy Wells (2-3) pitched six strong innings to earn his first win since April 4. He allowed one run on five hits and struck out four, pitching around two walks.
Chicago's bullpen backed up Wells. Marshall struck out pinch-hitter Matt Downs to end the eighth, leaving runners at first and second. Cubs closer Carlos Marmol was back in his normal role after struggling with control issues.
Cubs manager Mike Quade temporarily removed Marmol as the closer earlier in the week. In his five previous appearances, Marmol allowed eight walks, but in a non-save situation on Saturday, Marmol was just as wild. After allowing a leadoff single, he hit Carlos Corporan, but then rebounded by retiring the next three batters.
After winning in his season debut against the Diamondbacks, Wells went nine straight outings without picking up win. The right-hander was 0-3 with a 7.38 ERA in his nine previous starts and gave up at least four runs in five consecutive starts.
Wells, who gave up a combined 12 runs in the first innings of his previous five outings, allowed a leadoff single to Michael Bourn and walked Angel Sanchez to start the game. After Hunter Pence popped out, Wells ended the inning by getting Carlos Lee swinging and Chris Johnson looking.
``His control and fastball got better as the game went along and his offspeed pitches were very, very good. They had some good bites,' Soto said.
In the second inning, Byrd gave the Cubs a lead with a home run to center field on a 2-2 pitch from Rodriguez. It was Byrd's fifth of the season.
Soto led off the fifth with a solo shot on an 0-2 pitch. It was his ninth of the season.
``I tried to throw a fastball up. I missed a little bit,' Rodriguez said. ``Especially with an 0-2 count, I didn't want to throw anything close, but I missed and he hit it.'
Lee cut the Cubs' lead with an RBI single in the sixth inning. Sanchez scored from second, just beating Byrd's throw from center.
The Cubs added insurance runs in the eighth. Kosuke Fukudome, who came in as a defensive replacement hit a triple off Astros reliever Sergio Escalona. Fukudome ended up scoring on Starlin Castro's infield single off reliever Fernando Rodriguez. With the bases loaded, Soto hit a hard grounder at third baseman Chris Johnson. Johnson made a diving stop, but made an errant throw to first allowing two runs to score to make it 5-1.
NOTES: Corporan, who was hit in the right foot, left the game for a pinch-runner. Mills said it was precautionary. ``I'm plenty confident that he'll be OK to come back in the next day or two,' he said. ... Astros third base coach Dave Clark missed the game to attend a funeral. Bench coach Al Pedrique filled in for Clark. ... The announced attendance was 40,486 putting the Cubs over the 2 million mark for the 2011 season.
The Associated Press News Service
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