HOUSTON (AP) - The Chicago Cubs' skid reached a season-long seven games in part because of a struggling offense.
Jason Castro and Chris Johnson each hit three-run homers and Bud Norris threw seven scoreless innings to give the Houston Astros an 8-4 victory over the slumping Cubs on Monday night.
``We couldn't get some momentum,' said Cubs leadoff hitter David DeJesus, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. ``We couldn't get that first run on the board and work off that.'
The Astros, on the other hand, had no such problem.
Right-hander Matt Garza allowed two three-run home runs en route to his shortest outing of the season.
``I was overthrowing everything,' said Garza, who lasted only three innings.
Chicago has been outscored 14-4 over the past two games, which included Sunday's 6-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox in interleague play.
The Cubs have not won since May 14 at St. Louis. The slide is their longest since losing eight in a row May 30-June 7 last year.
Chicago went winless in a five-game homestand that included the Philadelphia Phillies and White Sox.
And they were blanked by a starting pitcher for a third straight game.
``It's unreal,' Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of his team's struggles at the plate. ``It's almost a fluke not scoring any runs against a starting pitcher.'
The Cubs waited until the ninth inning to get on the scoreboard, thanks to RBI singles by Reed Johnson and DeJesus and a two-run single by Blake Lalli, his first major league hit.
Norris (5-1) struck out eight and kept Chicago scoreless through seven innings for his fourth win in as many starts.
``He pitched well,' DeJesus said. ``He was able to locate his fastball away, and he was throwing his changeup and his slider for strikes.
Norris enjoyed run support early and often, thanks to the home runs by Castro and Johnson in the second and third innings, respectively.
Carlos Lee added an RBI single in the third before scoring on Johnson's 429-foot blast, his fifth of the season.
Jed Lowrie hit his team-leading seventh homer of the season off Cubs reliever Randy Wells to cap the scoring for the Astros, who won for the fourth time in six tries.
After the game, Garza praised Wells' performance.
``He came out there and picked me up for five innings,' Garza said. ``He did what I couldn't, and that's give the bullpen a rest.'
Garza (2-2) allowed seven runs and five hits in his first loss since April 18 at Miami. He struck out two and walked two.
``That was not Matt Garza pitching,' Sveum said. ``I don't know; it was strange.'
Castro took Garza deep with two outs in the second inning to make him pay for allowing a single to Johnson and walking J.D. Martinez.
It was Castro's first home run of the season.
Lee drove in Lowrie with two outs in the third to make it 4-0.
Garza then walked Brian Bogusevic, setting the stage for Johnson's fifth home run of the season.
``I left everything up,' Garza said. ``I put myself in holes, and if you put yourself in a hole you can't make mistakes.'
Notes: Sveum said catcher Wellington Castillo, who has a sprained knee ligament, was doing better on Monday, but wasn't healthy enough to return to the lineup. ... Houston optioned RHP Jordan Lyles to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled Del Rosario to take his spot on the roster on Monday. ... Astros CF Jordan Schafer missed his second straight game since injuring his lower right leg avoiding a collision Saturday night. But he said before the game that he was OK, and manager Brad Mills expects him back in the lineup Tuesday. ... Chicago left-hander Travis Wood is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday to start against J.A. Happ when these teams play Game 2 of the three-game series.
The Associated Press News Service
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