Chicago Cubs trounce Houston Astros 12-0

Alfonso Soriano hits a first-inning, three-run homer. (Phil Velasquez/Tribune)

Randy Wells could be the Cubs' second straight Rookie of the Year.

Wells may have put himself into serious contention Wednesday with eight shutout innings in a 12-0 romp over Houston.

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It was not only Wells' seventh victory in his last eight starts, but his 2.84 earned-run average is the lowest among major-league rookies.

"I don't even want to talk about it," Wells said with a laugh. "I'm not even going to answer those questions. It's too early."

Wells' chief competition to become Geovany Soto's successor as National League Rookie of the Year may come from former Northwestern left-hander J.A. Happ, who is 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA for Philadelphia after taking the loss Wednesday night against Arizona.

"Wells has pitched exceedingly well," manager Lou Piniella said. "I wonder where we would be without him."

Piniella said he hadn't studied the rest of the rookie crop but added Wells, at the least, should be in the mix.

"He has only had one bad start," Piniella said, referring to a 7-4 loss June 12 to Minnesota. "The rest of them have all been good. So, yeah, you have to consider him, no question."

Wells (7-4) ended July with a 5-1 record and 3.23 ERA in six starts, so he also may be considered for NL Pitcher of the Month.

Surprised?

"Everything surprises me," Wells said. "I'm just having fun with it. Just trying to stay consistent, do what I do and not get out of what has made me successful over the years and be myself and see how it goes."

It has gone well, as evidenced by his teammates' confidence in him.

"Every game he pitches, we're in it," Derrek Lee said. "He probably should have a few more wins as well as he has pitched. He really knows what he's doing out there."

After the Cubs staked Wells to a 6-0 lead in the first, the rookie right-hander cruised the rest of the way, inducing three double-play grounders. He left after eight innings and 110 pitches, leaving it to Mitch Atkins, in his major-league debut, to finish the shutout.

Wells continued with the same mantra he has kept since being called up from Iowa on May 8, saying he's "scared to get comfortable or overconfident and have the wheels fall off."

The Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 16 games and were tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central before St. Louis' game with the Dodgers.

The Cubs got to Astros left-hander Mike Hampton early, ending the suspense in a matter of minutes, with Alfonso Soriano's three-run homer the big blow in a six-run first. It was their biggest margin of victory since beating Milwaukee 19-5 at Wrigley Field on April 30, 2008.

psullivan@tribune.com Up next Thursday vs. Astros, 1:20 p.m., WGN-Ch. 9

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