"The guys have pride, like anything else," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You don't want to be a part of that. It's a goal. For us right now, it's a day-to-day thing."
With 20 games remaining on their schedule, the Cubs need to finish 8-12 to avoid that distinction. In Wednesday's series finale against Houston at Minute Maid Park, Chicago will turn to lefty Travis Wood to get the team one win closer to its goal.
Wood snapped an eight-game losing skid in his last start, allowing one hit over six scoreless innings against the Pirates on Friday. The lefty has pitched well against the Astros this season, going 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in two starts.
Opposing Wood is lefty Fernando Abad, who is making his fourth big league start. He is 0-3 with a 5.30 ERA in his three previous starts this season. Abad, who has extensive experience as a reliever, has gone 15-11 with a 2.37 ERA as a starter in the Minors, but that success hasn't translated to the Majors.
If Abad is going to get his first win as a starter, he'll need support from the offense and third baseman Matt Dominguez, who has been a pleasant surprise since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City at the end of August. The last few weeks of the season for the Astros are about finding out more about the young players on the roster, and that is especially true for Dominguez, who was acquired from the Marlins on July 4 in the Carlos Lee trade and is hitting .298 since his promotion.
"Confidence is what these players look for," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "I've seen Matt all year in the Pacific Coast League, and you see the tools and see a decent swing and see a lot of miss-hit balls. He was diving a lot, but now it looks like he's staying back and being more aggressive and getting better pitches to hit. You can see his confidence when he goes out and performs."
Cubs: Jackson could be available for finale
With a lefty on the mound for the Astros on Wednesday, it's unlikely that center fielder Brett Jackson will starts for the Cubs, though he should be available for the first time since Friday, when he bruised his right knee against the Pirates.
"It's just still stiff and sore," Sveum said, adding that Jackson would come out to the field early on Wednesday to do some running and then take regular batting practice.
Astros: Lowrie, Altuve could return Wednesday
Houston's starting middle infield could be back in action for the team's series finale against the Cubs. Second baseman Jose Altuve hasn't played since straining an abdominal muscle on Friday, and shortstop Jed Lowrie has been out since July 14 with an injury to his right leg and ankle.
Altuve was cleared to play Tuesday, but wasn't in the starting lineup, although he did enter the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. Lowrie, meanwhile, returned from his rehab stint in the Minors on Tuesday and is available to play Wednesday.
"It was a question whether I was going to play again this year, but I worked hard and I'm looking forward to an opportunity to finish out the year," Lowrie said.
Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 starts.