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HOU@CHC: Valbuena lunges to smother Barnes' hot shot

CHICAGO -- The Astros are wrapping up their final series as a member of the National League against the same team they began it with. On April 10, 1962, the Houston Colt .45s defeated the Cubs, 11-2, in the franchise's first game.

The Cubs began the '62 season with seven straight losses, and finished with 103 losses. They also lost 103 in 1966, and those were the only years the Cubs lost 100 games.

Until now.

Fernando Martinez hit a solo home run and scored on Matt Dominguez's triple to lead the Astros to a 3-0 victory Monday night and hand the Cubs their 100th loss of the season.

"I just think about how difficult it is to win 100 games, but I think it's tough to lose 100 games, too," Alfonso Soriano said. "It's very hard for the team and for the organization to have a losing season, losing 100 games. There's nothing we can do about it because I know in the second half, we didn't have a very good team to compete. I hope we learn from this for next year and play better."

The Cubs knew this season would be an uphill battle as they begin the rebuilding process under Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations. Manager Dale Sveum didn't expect to win the World Series, but he also didn't expect to lose 100 games.

"[To get to the Series] would've been icing on the cake -- we would've had to have diamonds in the rough step up and do ridiculous things for us to be a team to compete for the World Series," Sveum said. "We went the other way and made trades to get people in our organization. We knew we were behind the eight ball a little bit to have any kind of great season."

The Cubs dealt two-fifths of their starting rotation (Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm) at the Trade Deadline as well as their starting catcher (Geovany Soto) and two veteran utility players (Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker). None of the players acquired were big league ready, and only reliever Jaye Chapman, picked up from the Braves in the Maholm deal, was called up in September.

"Nobody wants to be a part of it, but the bottom line is we're going home like a lot of other teams with a lot better records," Sveum said. "If you're not going to the playoffs, a lot of times the wins, losses doesn't matter."

The Cubs' 100th loss may smart a little more because it was delivered by a team that already has lost 106 games. Sveum had hoped for a playoff-type atmosphere but the Cubs went quietly, totaling two hits -- a single by David DeJesus in the first and a leadoff double by Anthony Rizzo in the fourth -- and that was it off rookie Lucas Harrell.

"We didn't have a lot of quality at-bats today, that's for sure," Sveum said. "There was a little bit of sleepwalking at the plate today."

But don't think the Cubs have given up on the season.

"I was on a team in Kansas City when we lost over 100 games, and it's miserable," Cubs reliever Shawn Camp said. "The guys in this clubhouse, it's not like we looked at the last series, and it's like, 'OK, we have two more games [and go home].' You never hear that out of anybody's mouth. Everybody's trying to go out there and do their best. Even young guys today are out there working on different things."

Despite the record, Camp feels the Cubs are headed in the right direction. They're just going through some growing pains.

"Obviously, there's some good that will come out of this," he said. "It's a learning curve. Look at the sensational season Darwin [Barney] has put together, and when you're out there pitching, you want to keep feeding him the ball. [Starlin] Castro has come a long way. As a hitter, he never goes in slumps. [Luis] Valbuena has played tremendous at third base and the addition of [Anthony Rizzo], that's something you look forward to."

The Cubs have spent most of the final month evaluating players, including Monday's starter, Jason Berken. The right-hander needed eight pitches (seven strikes) to get through the first. Martinez then hit Berken's second pitch of the second over the right-field bleachers for his sixth home run.

In the Astros' fourth, Martinez reached on an infield single that stayed just inside the third-base line, and scored one out later on Dominguez's triple to left. Scott Moore added an RBI single with two outs in the eighth.

Most of the players on the Cubs' roster have never lost this many games.

"I hope they learn it's not fun when we lose a lot of games," Soriano said. "Everybody feels extra tired when we lose a lot of games. That's what they can learn -- it's not fun. Baseball is fun when we're winning. It doesn't matter how much money they make, how much they enjoy the game, if we're losing, it's not fun."

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