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CHC@LAD: Volstad hurls seven frames of two-run ball

The Cubs' Chris Volstad will take the Wrigley Field mound on Tuesday night to start against the Astros in the second of a three-game series. Volstad pitched against Houston the last time he earned a Major League win, but much has changed since then.

When Volstad held the Astros to three runs in six innings on July 10, 2011, he was pitching for the Marlins, at a stadium they no longer call home. The lineup he faced bears little resemblance to the one Houston will field on Tuesday, with Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson and Wandy Rodriguez all since traded, and Clint Barmes gone as a free agent.

Twenty-two starts have passed in the 13 months since then, and Volstad is still searching for that next victory. The right-hander is 0-8 with a 6.94 this season, but he will be taking on a team that dropped Monday's series opener, its 36th loss in 42 games. On the other hand, the Cubs have lost 11 of 13.

Volstad has shown improvement since returning to the big league rotation on Aug. 4. He has picked up two of his season's three quality starts, giving up five runs on 12 hits in 13 innings. On Thursday against the Reds, he surrendered two runs in the first inning but only one more over the next five frames.

"Balls were hit hard early off him, and he kind of settled down and made a lot of good pitches and did a good job," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

Opposing Volstad will be Lucas Harrell, the leader in innings pitched among National League rookies. The righty is 9-8 with a 3.97 ERA overall but 3-6 with a 5.50 mark on the road.

Harrell has allowed two runs or fewer in six straight starts, with a 2.27 ERA in that span. He took the loss on Thursday against the Nationals, giving up two runs in five innings.

Astros: Catchers will alternate this week
Jason Castro came off the disabled list to start behind the plate on Monday following a 31-game absence. He went 1-for-4 after hitting .301 in his first 83 at-bats this season.

Houston's other catcher, Chris Snyder, is hitting .177, including .143 since June 22. Manager Brad Mills plans to rotate the two on a daily basis for the next week.

"We hope that's enough so when we do need to play [Castro] back to back, he's played enough and built up to that," Mills said.

• Outfielder Fernando Martinez was hitting .314 with 13 home runs, 62 RBIs and a .367 on-base percentage for Triple-A Oklahoma City before being called up on Friday, but he hasn't found his footing in the big leagues.

In eight games with the Astros over two stints, Martinez is 3-for-28 with one double, no walks and 11 strikeouts.

Cubs: Castro moving around the lineup
Sveum's batting order for Monday's game had shortstop Starlin Castro in the No. 5 spot, Castro's eighth start there this season. All of those have come in August.

Castro also has one start at leadoff but mostly has been slotted second and third. Lately, the Cubs have gone with David DeJesus first, followed by Darwin Barney, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano.

"The way [Castro's] approach to hitting is, I don't think he really knows where he's hitting in the lineup, so that makes me a little more comfortable with [moving him around]," Sveum said. "He's kind of a 'cut and slasher' [type hitter], so no matter where he is in the lineup, it won't change his approach anyway."

Castro entered Monday with a .295 career batting average but a .332 on-base percentage, including .302 this season. That aggressive approach might make him better suited for a spot lower in the order.

Said Sveum: "What makes sense, the way he hits, not really working counts and working walks ... It would probably be more the sixth or seventh spots, really."

Worth noting
• The home team has won all seven games of the season series, including four at Wrigley Field.

• Harrell has never started against the Cubs. He made two relief appearances against them last season, one of which came in Chicago. Comments