CHICAGO -- The Houston Astros ended their National League tenure with a result that's become familiar: a loss.
The Astros set a franchise record for losses in a season, finishing 2012 with a 5-4 defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday as Bryan LaHair homered and hit a game-winning single in the ninth inning.
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Houston went 55-107, one more loss than last year. The Astros split the final 30 games of their sorry season, winning five of their final seven."That's the goal of a season where we didn't win as much as we wanted to," shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "To finish strong gives everybody a good feeling going home."In the first series between 100-game losers in the major leagues since 1962, LaHair homered in the second and broke a 4-all tie against Hector Ambriz (1-1).The Astros became the first team with 106 or more losses in consecutive seasons since the 1964-65 New York Mets.Houston finished its NL tenure with 3,999 regular-season wins and 4,134 losses with five ties. The Astros are moving to the AL West next season, creating three divisions of five teams in each league."There's going to be some stiff competition, but it'll be good for everybody," Lowrie said. "We'll prepare and see how it goes."The Astros were 16-25 under interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who took over after Brad Mills was fired on Aug. 18. Washington third base coach Bo Porter already has been hired as Houston's manager for next season."I just went around to everybody and thanked them for everything they did," DeFrancesco said. "I appreciate it. They're ready to go home. It's been a long season."DeFrancesco, previously Houston's Triple-A manager, hopes to remain on the Astros' major league staff."I was comfortable in the clubhouse talking to the players and dealing with Jeff in the front office," DeFrancesco said, referring to general manager Jeff Luhnow. "Everybody's been very warm to me. I'm really proud to be a part of this."The Cubs, who haven't won the World Series since 1908, went 61-101 for their most losses since dropping 103 games in 1966."A lot of hard work was put in this year," LaHair said. "Unfortunately, the record didn't say that, but just to finish the season with a win, it's always fun to do that."Carlos Marmol (3-3) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.Justin Maxwell hit a tying, three-run homer for Houston in the eighth off Shawn Camp. It was Maxwell's team-leading 18th home run."The way we finished, we knocked the Brewers out of playoff contention, we really played well these last few weeks," Maxwell said. "If we individually work on the things we know we have to get better at, we're going to be as a better team."Cubs starter Travis Wood allowed one run, three hits and five walks in 6 1/3 innings, giving up Carlos Corporan's RBI single in the first. Wood also chased Astros starter Edgar Gonzalez with a two-run single.Gonzalez gave up four runs, five hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings. Houston pitched 28 consecutive scoreless innings before LaHair's homer in the second.Most Cubs' regulars were given the day off. The exception, Starlin Castro became the first player in franchise history to play shortstop in all 162 games, and the first major leaguer to do it since Jimmy Rollins in 2007. Castro's 195 consecutive games played is the longest active streak in the NL.DeFrancesco said the Astros have a good foundation to build upon and they made strides fundamentally on defense. Houston's pitching was a bright spot in the final month, as the Astros threw three consecutive shutouts before Wednesday.He thinks owner Jim Crane will be willing to improve the roster."I know Jeff and Jim are going to get some help down the road, get us some power for the American League, and eventually compete and hopefully get into October like everybody else," DeFrancesco said.
Houston finished with home runs in a season-high seven straight games and had 20 homers in its final 12 games. ... Astros OF Scott Moore (left shoulder) and 2B Jose Altuve (groin) did not play after they were injured in Tuesday's game. ... The Cubs drew 2,882,756 to Wrigley Field, the first time under 3 million at home since 2003. ... Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano said he is open to being traded in the offseason if the Cubs don't plan on contending the next two years. "I just want to have one more shot to go to the World Series before I (retire)," Soriano said. The 36-year-old said he will seriously consider retiring when his contract expires after the 2014 season. He is slated to make $18 million each of the next two seasons.