HOUSTON — John Lackey’s solid start wasn’t enough for a win.
Rookie Alex Bregman homered, Collin McHugh combined with his bullpen on a two-hitter and the Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 Saturday.
Lackey (9-8) gave up two runs, four hits and three walks in six innings for the NL Central leaders, who are a big league-beat 90-51. He had been 2-0 in his last four starts.
“I definitely haven’t had much luck with the wins and losses this year,” Lackey said.
After the game, the 37-year-old right-hander refused to respond to questions about his shoulder, which prevented him from pitching for the Cubs between Aug. 14 and Sept. 4.
“Are you serious?” Lackey said. “I’ve been pitching for 15 years. There is no such thing as not feeling anything. I haven’t not felt anything probably since the 90s.”
Chicago batters struggled, striking out 12 times.
“We need to move the baseball and put runners in scoring position, or just move the baseball in general,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Their pitchers were really good today.”
Bregman put the Astros ahead with an opposite-field home run to right-center against Lackey in a two-run third.
“Decent pitch and good hit by the kid,” Lackey said.
McHugh (10-10) won his third straight decision, allowing one run and two hits in five innings. Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles combined for hitless relief.
Ken Giles survived a shaky ninth to earn his 10th save. He walked Anthony Rizzo leading off, and pinch-runner Matt Szczur advanced on a wild pitch. Jorge Soler struck out and Szczur crossed to third on Miguel Montero’s groundout. Giles then struck out Willson Contreras.
Jose Altuve, in an 0-for-12 slide, followed Bregman’s homer by reaching on his second bunt single of the season, beating third baseman Kris Bryant’s throw.
Yulieski Gurriel singled him to third, and Gonzalez bunted to third as Altuve scored.
“Two bunts,” Lackey said, “you’d like for that not to cause you a game.”
Contreras’ fourth-inning sacrifice fly scored Soler, who beat the offline throw from right fielder George Springer.
Houston could have extended the lead in the seventh, but Springer was thrown out at the plate by when he tried to score from first on Bregman’s bloop single to right center.
Right fielder Jason Heyward threw to shortstop Javier Baez, who relayed to Contreras for the tag. The call by plate umpire Mark Carlson was upheld in a video review.
PIGSKIN IN HIS MIND
With the Chicago Bears in town to face the Texans on Sunday, Maddon offered a lengthy scouting report of NFL-caliber talent in his clubhouse.
“We’re very athletic,” said Maddon, who was quick to offer as proof infielder Addison Russell, who played high school football in Florida. “I think he would be outstanding.”
Others to consider include outfielders Jason Heyward — “put a couple more pounds on him; put him at tight end,” Maddon said — and Soler.
“That’s like the next Lawrence Taylor right there,” Maddon said of Soler.
Jason Hammel or Jake Arrieta for quarterback?
“Hammel, honestly,” Maddon said. “Watch him throw a football it’s pretty.”
RHP Mike Fiers (10-6) looks to improve to 4-1 in his career against the Cubs when he starts Sunday’s series finale. Chicago starts RHP Jake Arrieta (16-6), who is 10-2 in 13 road starts this season. He will face Houston for the first time.