As recently as a year ago, the Cubs and Astros would meet more than a dozen times a year as rivals in the National League Central. Now, their more infrequent series fits under the Interleague umbrella.
The two teams will meet for the first and only time this season, when Chicago hosts Houston for a three-game weekend set at Wrigley Field beginning Friday.
Lefty Dallas Keuchel gets the start for the Astros against right-hander Matt Garza, who is still searching for his second win of the year.
The Cubs narrowly won last year's season series, taking eight of the 15 games and outscoring the Astros, 45-43.
The Astros are coming off a seven-game homestand, during which they went 5-2, while the Cubs dropped Thursday's finale against the Cardinals to end their two-city, seven-game road trip with a 3-4 mark.
Keuchel has been fantastic in June, posting a 1.96 ERA while striking out 13 in three starts. In his last start on Sunday against the White Sox, he scattered just four hits and two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings in the victory. He retired 15 of the first 18 Chicago hitters he faced.
"All you can ask of your guys is consistency, and no doubt that Dallas has given us that more than anybody in the rotation, even when we've been pitching so good lately," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He's figured out how to get guys out with all of his pitches, and we've always known he's a battler."
Garza looked more like his top-of-the-rotation self in his last outing, when he threw seven scoreless against the Mets before it was squandered away in the ninth inning.
The Mets registered just three hits against Garza, while he struck out five.
"I felt pretty good about it," Garza said. "My location wasn't really there all the time, but I found a way to get through some jams. I just felt comfortable, and I felt like I had a little bit of a rhythm."
Astros: Castro providing pop
Jason Castro's 10 home runs are the most in a season by an Astros catcher since Mitch Melusky hit 14 in 2000. The club record is 17 by John Bateman in 1966.
• The Astros' recent homestand was their first winning stand of the year.
Cubs: Comparing 70-game marks
Entering Thursday, the Cubs were 29-41 through 70 games, a five-game improvement on their 24-46 mark through 70 games last season.
This year, the Cubs had a run differential of minus-16 to that point, while they had a staggering minus-61 differential last season.
The team's OPS of .695 was a slight improvement on the .686 mark through 70 games last year, while the team's ERA (3.88) was nearly half a run lower than last year's mark (4.35) at the same point.
• Keuchel has thrown at least six innings in each of his last six starts. He has only lost twice since May 2.
• The Cubs are 23-21 when scoring more than three runs in a game this year, and 18-5 when scoring at least five. Conversely, they're 3-35 when allowing at least four runs.
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.