HOUSTON (AP) - The Chicago Cubs hoped a road trip to Houston would get them back on track.
Instead, a three-game sweep by the Astros gave them their longest losing streak in more than a decade and left Chicago with baseball's worst record.
J.D. Martinez had three hits and three RBIs to back up seven solid innings by Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros got a 5-1 victory over the Cubs to hand Chicago its ninth consecutive loss.
It's their longest losing streak since dropping the same number of games from May 8-18, 2002 and leaves their record at 15-29.
``It's getting very tough,' Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk said. ``This game is so mental because day in and day out, it keeps coming at you. Obviously, you wipe it away and show up the next day wanting to win, but losing is never fun.'
With Cubs manager Dave Sveum absent from Wednesday's game to attend the high school graduation of his son Rustin, Quirk was in charge of the team.
For the third consecutive night, the Cubs had more hits than the Astros but couldn't find ways to score runs. The Cubs left 10 runners on base and struggled to come up with timely hits throughout the night.
Rodriguez (4-4) pitched seven innings, allowing eight hits and one earned run, while striking out five batters and walking none. Rodriguez wasn't as dominant at the start of the game.
Center fielder Reed Johnson put Chicago on top with his solo home run to the Crawford Boxes in left field with one out in the first inning. When Houston didn't score in the bottom of the first, it left the Cubs ahead at the end of an inning for the first time in 60 innings.
Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija (4-3) didn't allow a hit until Castro doubled with one out in the third inning. Jose Altuve walked with two outs, but Jed Lowrie struck out to end the threat.
The only inning where the Astros scored against Samardzija proved to be the difference. J.D. Martinez hit a two RBI triple in the fourth inning to give the Astros a lead the Cubs were unable to overcome.
Martinez's triple fell fair in shallow right field as Darwin Barney and David DeJesus bumped into each other trying to make the catch. The ball bounced in and out of DeJesus' glove, but he fumbled it after colliding with Barney.
``Jeff was pitching really well and had good command of his stuff, and that was a turning point in the game,' Barney said. ``It was really unfortunate that it happened that way.'
Quirk defended both Barney and DeJesus for their effort and said neither was at fault for the dropped ball.
``If they make the play it would've been an outstanding play,' Quirk said. ``It was just perfect placement on their part. They both gave everything they had and it was a great effort, but they just didn't catch the ball.'
Thanks to the defensive mishap, Samardzija yielded six hits and two runs with four strikeouts in six innings.
``It's really going to show our team character in the long run,' Samardzija said. ``Things don't always go the way you want them to, period. You've got to find what adjustments you can make as a team and as an individual and keep grinding and making those adjustments to get it right.'
The Astros later put together a two-out rally in the eighth inning to cushion the lead. Martinez added a third hit and a third RBI against Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis. Dolis walked the next two batters to send another run home before plunking Jose Altuve to allow Martinez to score and put the Astros up 5-1.
Dolis' rough inning marked the fourth time in his last five appearances where he allowed at least one earned run.
The Cubs have Thursday off before beginning a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday to try to put an end to the losing streak.
``Their attitude has been great and there's no quit in them,' Quirk said. ``Just like winning is contagious, losing is contagious. Right now, we're seeing the bad side of it.'
NOTES: Chicago RHP Carlos Marmol, on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, pitched a simulated game on Wednesday and could pitch for Triple-A Iowa on Friday, Quirk said. . With his solo home run in the first inning, CF Reed Johnson has now hit in four straight games. With the extra-base hit, six of Johnson's last 14 hits have gone for extra bases (three doubles, one triple and two home runs).
The Associated Press News Service
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