Rapid Reaction: Cubs 7, Astros 1

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs opened a three-game series against the Houston Astros on Monday with a 7-1 victory.

How it happened: In the battle of two of the worst winning percentages in baseball, the Cubs had a relatively easy time. Jeff Samardzija went seven solid innings, while Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney hit home runs. It was the first time the Cubs had delivered home runs since Soriano’s go-ahead shot in the eighth inning Thursday.

What it means: Samardzija continues to impress even as his innings rise. He struck out 11 to match the high mark he set for himself on July 2 at Atlanta. It is the most strikeouts for a Cubs pitcher in a game this season. Samardzija is now at 139 2/3 innings in his first season as a starter and the Cubs continue to say they have no innings restrictions on the right-hander as the season moves closer to the final month.

Outside the box: After a slight cooling off period this month, Anthony Rizzo busted out again with a four-hit game. Rizzo had an RBI single in the third inning and scored on Soriano’s home run in the fifth inning. The left-handed slugger was batting just .255 this month as his overall batting average dipped to .290. His four hits Monday, though, got him back up to the .306 mark.

Off beat: The paid attendance Monday of 31,452 was the smallest of the season at Wrigley Field. Not only were the low winning percentages of the teams involved part of the equation, but so was the rain that persisted all afternoon but did not manage to delay the game. It was just the third crowd this season that dipped into the 31,000 range. On April 8 in the third game of the season, 31,973 saw the Cubs lose to the Nationals and on May 9, just 31,904 were on hand to see the Cubs beat the Braves.

Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Chris Volstad (0-8, 6.94 ERA) to the mound against the Astros on Tuesday. Houston will counter with right-hander Lucas Harrell (9-8, 3.97) in the 7:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.