Game Fifty-Six: Cubs (22-33) vs. Astros (27-30)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T. Comcast SportsNet, WGN Radio, XM Radio Channel 183
Location – Minute Maid Park, Houston
Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 3.42) vs. Taylor Buchholtz (3-4, 5.55)
Tonight’s game against the Astros begins the season series that will see the two teams face off 14 more times this year. The Astros are coming off a sweep by the hands of the Reds over the weekend and they have lost 4 in a row and 5 of their last 6. The Astros and Cubs are going in different directions but this 3-game series against the Astros is a huge turning point in the season. With the Cubs winning 4 out of the last 6 they are starting to show signs of life and another series win could build more confidence on a team that did not know what that word meant just a couple of weeks ago. The Cubs are starting to get healthy while the rest of the division is heading to the DL or backwards in the standings. Derrek Lee is on the mend and should be back within 2-3 weeks, Mark Prior is scheduled to make another rehab start on June 8th or June 9th and Kerry Wood is scheduled to make his 4th start of the season on Tuesday.
The additions of Phil Nevin and Tony Womack have made a difference in the win column and while Michael Barrett (8-13), Ronny Cedeno (9-game hitting streak) and Jacque Jones (8-13) are coming off of a tremendous series in St. Louis, Juan Pierre is still not performing the way the Cubs hoped he would when they traded for him last December. Until Pierre gets hot and figures out a way to get on track the Cubs will not be able to put together the type of winning streak needed to get into the playoff hunt. A couple of wins are great, but they need a very long winning streak to get out of the hole they dug for themselves.
Carlos Zambrano had a terrific May and was 3-1 with a 1.90 ERA in 6 starts and could have easily won all 6 games he started. Last Wednesday against the Reds he only gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in 6 innings of work but the bullpen could not keep the Reds from scoring and the late inning comeback against Eric Milton fell just a little short. Last month Zambrano surrendered only 9 runs on 23 hits in 42 2/3 innings, but the 22 walks he issued led to too many pitches and extra chances for the opposition….Zambrano has given up 47 walks this season but his 85 strikeouts are 2nd in the National League behind Pedro Martinez.
The Cubs face 24-year old rookie Taylor Buchholtz who has been inconsistent at best this season. In his last start on May 31st he held the Cardinals to just 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings of work and on May 26th in Pittsburgh he gave up 9 runs on 11 hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work, but on May 21st he threw a complete game, 5-hit shutout against the Texas Rangers. Buchholtz was 1-3 with a 8.44 ERA in 6 starts in May in 32 innings he gave up 31 runs, 30 earned, on 46 hits, walked 8 and struck out 17.
The Cubs have a tendency to be too aggressive against pitchers they are unfamiliar with and they have been shutout and lost all of those games this season. The Cubs must be patient against the young right hander and allow him to beat himself. Buchholtz will be around the plate….it is up to the Cubs whether they swing at every offering or not.
Let’s Talk Cubbies Baseball….