HOUSTON (AP) - After tying the Monday night's game in the fourth inning, the Houston Astros had ample opportunity to add to their run total.
But in an increasingly familiar theme, they failed to capitalize on those chances in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in a matchup of the teams with the worst records in the majors.
``I'm glad the guys are getting opportunities to prove they are major league hitters, but at some point, the guys have to be accountable for their at_bats and try to grind them out,' interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said of his team, which went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position Monday.
Their best chance to score came in the fifth when Jimmy Paredes hit a stand-up triple to the corner of right field to start the inning. Two walks loaded the bases with two outs. The Astros came away empty when Matt Dominguez grounded out.
``We get first and third and nobody out and we don't score. That's kind of disappointing,' DeFrancesco said. ``It's a battle out there. I think our guys are learning.'
Dave Sappelt scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch and had three RBIs to lead the Cubs. Sappelt, who was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 1, drove in his first run for the Cubs with a double to the left field corner to put Chicago up 1-0 in the second inning.
The game was tied 1-all in the sixth before Sappelt scored on a wild pitch by Fernando Rodriguez (1-10) that bounced in the dirt and rolled between catcher Jason Castro's legs.
``We have a lot of depth down there now,' DeFrancesco said of the bullpen. ``We are going to use them. They are going to have to learn to go out there and compete and if they don't get outs, we are going to have to get them out of the game early.'
Sappelt came through again in the seventh, knocking a double off the wall in center field just short of the home run line to drive in two insurance runs.
The Cubs won their fourth straight, matching their season high.
Justin Maxwell tripled on a ball that rolled up onto Tal's Hill in center field to start Houston's fourth. Castro tied it at 1 with a single to right field on a night when the Astros played with Minute Maid Park's retractable roof open for the first time since May 9.
Chicago starter Chris Volstad (3-10) allowed four hits and a run in five innings. Carlos Marmol gave up one hit in a scoreless ninth for his 19th save.
This was an ugly game which included 14 walks, two hit batters, three wild pitches and 24 left on base. By the time the 3-hour, 50-minute game ended, there were only few hundred fans left and most of them were chanting, ``Let's go Cubbies!'
The Cubs missed several chances to score before finally taking the lead. Welington Castillo got things going in the fourth inning with a single to center. Volstad singled with two outs before Joe Mather singled to left. Castillo raced home on the play, but left fielder J.D. Martinez's throw beat him to the plate to end the inning.
Houston starter Dallas Keuchel was lifted for Chuckie Fick in the fifth inning and he allowed a single by Darwin Barney before plunking Anthony Rizzo. His defense helped him out when the Astros turned a double play on a ball hit by Alfonso Soriano that left Barney at third. Fick intentionally walked Starlin Castro, but escaped the jam by striking out Castillo.
Keuchel yielded six hits and a run with two walks in four innings in his first start since returning from Triple-A Oklahoma City. He has been battling a sinus infection for a couple of weeks. Monday was the first time he hasn't felt ``terrible' on the mound in a while.
``This is the first time I felt good in about three starts, so I was happy about that,' he said. ``The two-seamer wasn't finishing. Maybe I was just kind of over amped because I felt good and got rid of the sinus infection.'
NOTES: The Astros released RHP Francisco Cordero and purchased the contract of RHP Enerio Del Rosario before Monday's game. ... These teams continue the series on Tuesday when Houston's Jordan Lyles opposes Justin Germano.
The Associated Press News Service
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