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CHC@LAD: Dempster fans six over six strong innings

Houston starter Nelson Figueroa knows he can pitch better than he has so far this season. The Astros sure hope so.

In fact, they need him to pitch better.

The Astros earned their second victory of the season Sunday and Figueroa will play a large role in the club's ability to pick up its third win.

Figueroa won't be the only factor in Monday's game against the Cubs, but he just might be the most important.

In his first start of the season, Figueroa allowed 11 hits and 10 runs (six earned) in 5 1/3 innings against the Reds. He'll make his second start of the season Monday against the Cubs. 

Chicago will counter with Ryan Dempster.

"I definitely don't want to do the same thing I did last time," said Figueroa, who labored the entire outing. "It's frustrating all the way around to get a four-run lead and lose it like that and let a team like the Reds get the momentum. They're tough when they get the momentum. I get the Cubs next time around and will improve on last time's performance."

Monday would've been Andrew Cashner's day to pitch, but he's on the disabled list so Dempster, the Cubs' Opening Day starter, is pitching on five days' rest because of the off-day. In his last outing Wednesday against the D-backs, he gave up 10 hits over seven innings.

The D-backs won the game, 6-4.

"I would've liked to have made a couple better pitches with runners on base," said Dempster, who started the six-game homestand with a loss and ended the same way. "I made a lot of good pitches today, and sometimes maybe a little better pitch here or there would've helped get ahead of the count. I liked the way I was throwing the ball. I just didn't get the results I wanted."

Cubs: Rotation struggling
Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza are 1-3 after each making two starts. The team is without their Nos. 4-5 starters, Cashner and Randy Wells, because of injuries.

"They all have good history," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of the three starters. "I'm not talking about three young kids who you can't count on. And guess what? If they don't pitch well, we're going to struggle and they know that. I count on all three of them because they've done it before."

Garza is not worried. There are 154 games remaining.

"It's not September, it's barely the second week of the season," he said. "There's no pressure, there's no pressing. We have two guys who are down, but we have very capable guys stepping up and coming in."

Astros: Arias working way back
Right-hander Alberto Arias was scheduled to throw 20-25 pitches to hitters on Sunday in Kissimmee, Fla. Arias had surgery a year ago and has been suffering from mild shoulder tendinitis.

The Astros were 11-7 against the Cubs last year, including 5-4 at Minute Maid Park.

Worth noting
Astros right-hander Wilton Lopez has been diagnosed with neuritis in his right elbow, which is a nerve irritation, but he is not limited in any way. ... Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome was pulled from Sunday's game with a mild left hamstring strain, which he injured on a play in the fifth inning at Miller Park. He is hitting. 313 for the season.

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