Cubs

Coleman Struggles In Cubs’ 4-3 Loss To Astros

Pitcher Mark Melancon #54 of the Houston Astros high fives catcher Carlos Corporan #22 after the final out defeating the Chicago Cubs 4-3 at Minute Maid Park on August 17, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Pitcher Mark Melancon #54 of the Houston Astros high fives catcher Carlos Corporan #22 after the final out defeating the Chicago Cubs 4-3 at Minute Maid Park on August 17, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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HOUSTON (AP) – Casey Coleman is hoping to impress the Chicago Cubs in his fourth stint with the team this season.

He’s off to a rocky start.

Coleman yielded Matt Downs’ go-ahead two-run single and failed to make it out of the fourth inning as the Cubs lost 4-3 on Wednesday to drop the series between the worst teams in NL Central.

Coleman (2-5) was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to fill in for Carlos Zambrano, who was placed on the disqualified list Saturday following a meltdown in Atlanta last week when he talked about retirement and left the team. The right-hander allowed four runs and a career-high 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings.

“When you’re in the fourth inning and you have that many hits, it puts you in a hole,” Coleman said. “I need to show people that I can go out there and compete.”

Manager Mike Quade said Coleman will get another chance despite his difficult outing.

“He didn’t do anything today to eliminate his next start,” Quade said. “We’ll watch him and see how he does. He just has to be down in the zone all day long. When you’re more of a finesse guy, the amount of quality pitches you make is huge. He just couldn’t make it drop to get people out on a regular basis.”

Bud Norris (6-8) allowed three runs and six hits in his first win since July 6. The right-hander was 0-1 with a 3.91 ERA in his previous four starts.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer and Geovany Soto had a solo shot for the Cubs, who had won four straight series. Ramirez, Soto and Darwin Barney each had two hits.

Chicago went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

“We missed opportunities all day long,” Quade said. “Casey wasn’t really sharp, but he kept us hanging around and the bullpen did another great job, but you just can’t have that many opportunities go by and not take advantage of them. We had folks up and down the lineup with chances today. We just didn’t get it done.”

The Cubs’ last shot came in the ninth, when Barney hit a leadoff single against Mark Melancon and moved to third on Ramirez’s perfectly placed grounder up the middle.

Melancon retired Carlos Pena on a popup before pinch-runner Tony Campana swiped second to put runners on second and third with one out. Soto then tapped to shortstop Clint Barmes, who threw to third to catch Barney in a rundown. Marlon Byrd grounded out to end the game, giving Melancon his 12th save.

Barney said he doesn’t think about missed chances during the game, but it’s something that bothers him later.

“After the game when you reflect and try to learn from it, that’s when it grinds at you,” he said. “What’s hard about today is that we had the opportunity and didn’t take advantage of it.”

Ramirez extended his major league lead by hitting his 11th first-pitch home run of the season in the third, a drive to left-center that gave Chicago a 2-0 lead. It was his second consecutive game with a home run and the 40th of his career against the Astros.

Brian Bogusevic, who hit a game-winning grand slam for Houston on Tuesday night, had a tying two-run double in the third inning, but Soto connected in the fourth to put the Cubs in front again.

The Astros responded in the bottom half. With two out and a runner on first, Jose Altuve singled, J.B. Shuck took third on a wild pitch and J.D. Martinez walked to load the bases.

Downs then singled to center to give Houston a 4-3 lead.

The Astros didn’t get another hit after the fourth inning and Chicago’s relievers retired 10 in a row after Jason Michaels walked with two outs in the fifth.

Chicago hit back-to-back two-out singles in the eighth inning, but Starlin Castro grounded out to end the scoring threat.

Norris hit Barney to start the fifth inning before loading the bases with consecutive walks to Ramirez and Pena. But the Cubs came away with nothing when Norris retired the next three batters, striking out two.

NOTES: The Cubs optioned LHP Scott Maine to Iowa to make room for Coleman. Maine was recalled from Iowa on Monday, but did not make an appearance before being sent back to Triple-A. … Houston OF Jordan Schafer, on the disabled list since July 20 with an injured left middle finger, started a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. If his rehabilitation goes well, he could join Houston on Monday in Colorado. Schafer was acquired from Atlanta in the Michael Bourn trade. … Both teams are off Thursday before Houston hosts the San Francisco Giants and the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals. … Ramirez has 22 home runs and 63 RBIs at Minute Maid Park, which rank first among opposing players.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)