HOUSTON — Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez didn’t have his best stuff Wednesday night.
The way the Chicago Cubs are playing lately, it was still good enough for a win.
J.D. Martinez had three hits and three RBIs to back up seven solid innings by Rodriguez and the Astros got a 5-1 victory over the Cubs to complete the three-game sweep and give Chicago its longest losing streak in more than a decade.
The Cubs have lost nine straight for the first time since dropping the same number of games from May 8-18 2002.
Rodriguez (4-4) allowed eight hits and a run and struck out five. The victory is the 77th of his career, moving him into sole possession of second place in franchise history for wins by a left-hander.
“Wandy said he didn’t have his good fastball today,” Houston manager Brad Mills said. “He just didn’t feel like it was coming out of his hand real good.”
Rodriguez said when he was unable to locate his fastball he relied on his curveball to get through this start.
“I (came) back with my breaking ball and I (saw) with my breaking ball I can do whatever I want and throw in my spot — in and out,” he said. “I used it a lot.”
Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija (4-3) yielded six hits and two runs with four strikeouts in six innings. He hopes the team will be able to grow from this slump.
“It’s a learning experience, so we need to take everything that’s going on right now and remember it in the long run once we figure out how to bounce out of it,” he said.
Chicago was up 1-0 in the fourth inning before Martinez’s triple, which fell as Darwin Barney and David DeJesus bumped into each other and tumbled to the ground trying to make the catch, put Houston on top 2-1.
“I saw the right fielder running and I was like: ‘It’s going to have a chance. He’s going to have to make a nice play on it,’” Martinez said. “I just continued to run right out of the box and was just fortunate it fell.”
Barney lamented his inability to make the play.
“Jeff was pitching really well and had good command of his stuff and that was a turning point in the game,” he said. “It was really unfortunate that it happened that way.”
It was the second consecutive night that Martinez drove in the go-ahead run after hitting an RBI single in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s 2-1 win.
His two-out RBI single to center field in the eighth inning off reliever Rafael Dolis added an insurance run for the Astros. Dolis walked the next two batters to send another run home, before plunking Jose Altuve to allow Martinez to score.
Martinez, who added a single in the sixth, is rebounding from a tough month at the plate, with four of his nine hits and four of six RBIs in May coming in the last two games.
“I feel about the same,” he said. “I just wasn’t missing pitches tonight. In the past, I felt like I was fouling those pitches off and I just wasn’t doing that tonight.”
Cubs manager Dave Sveum missed Wednesday’s game to attend the high school graduation of his son, Rustin. Bench coach Jamie Quirk managed the game with him away, but was unable to help the Cubs to a win for the first time since May 14.
“It’s getting very tough,” 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.”
Reed Johnson provided Chicago’s only score on a solo home run in the first inning.
Samardzija didn’t allow a hit until Jason Castro doubled with one out in the third inning. Altuve walked with two outs, but Jed Lowrie struck out to end the threat.
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 first, it left the Cubs ahead at the end of an inning for the first time in 60 innings.
NOTES: Houston CF Jordan Schafer was out of the lineup after having part of the toenail on his right big toe removed on Wednesday. Schafer injured the toe last week when he fouled a ball of it. Mills expects him to be better in a couple of days. … Both teams are off on Thursday before Houston opens a series at the Dodgers and Chicago starts one in Pittsburgh on Friday. … 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.