Game Eighty-Eight: Cubs (44-43) vs. Astros (39-50)
Game Time – 1:20pm C.T. Comcast Sports Net, WGN Radio, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Carlos Zambrano (10-7, 4.03/1.30) vs. Jason Jennings (1-4, 4.07/1.34)
The Cubs will begin their second half of the season today against Jason Jennings and the Houston Astros. Lou Piniella’s crew will start the second half with 11 pitchers and 3 catchers on the 25-man roster with the recent addition of Geovany Soto. Soto was recalled on Thursday and Felix Pie was sent down and other roster moves should follow. Cliff Floyd was cleared to play after recent injuries kept him out of the series against the Pirates. He received cortisone shots in his right elbow and shoulder over the break. Lou Piniella has to figure out a way to get his club off to a good start and make sure the next 10 games at Wrigley his team has a record well over .500. And it all starts with Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs enter play today 4 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the division lead. With their strong finish to the first half, Lou Piniella’s crew also finds themselves in the middle of the Wild Card race. They are in 4th place as they enter play today, 4 games back of the Dodgers with the Braves, 2 games back, and the Diamondbacks, 2 1/2 games back. The Cubs are 1/2 game up on both the Phillies and Rockies.
While June gave Piniella a good indication of how far his crew has come since the season started, the remainder of July will have a big impact on the rest of the season. The Cubs open a 10-game homestand today with three against the Astros, four against Barry and the Giants and they finish with three against the Diamondbacks. After a day off on July 23rd, they hit the road for a 6-game trip starting in St. Louis for three and then end with three against the ever-dangerous Reds. The Cubs finish July with a 7-game homestand that starts with four against the Phillies and finishes with three against, arguably the best team in the National League, the New York Mets….by August 5th, the Cubs will know if they are contenders or pretenders.
Carlos Zambrano will look to get “his season” back on track today after less than a stellar performance against the Pirates. Zambrano had trouble throwing strikes and ended up pitching from the stretch in his last 3 innings of the game. Zambrano surrendered just 3 runs but has begun to lose the control that made him successful in June. In his last 13 2/3 innings, Zambrano has walked 7 and stuck out 13. In his previous 37 2/3 innings he walked 13 and struck out 43. Zambrano has to return to his June strikeout to walk ratios in order to be successful.
Zambrano is 5-2 in his last 7 starts and allowed just 4 earned runs in both losses. He beat the Astros in the makeup game on June 11th and did not allow an earned run (1 run scored while he was on the mound) on 3 hits in 8 innings of work with a walk and 8 strikeouts. Zambrano has struggled at Wrigley this season and is 3-5 in 9 starts with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He is 9-5 in 20 career games, 18 starts, with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP against the Astros.
Zambrano will have to deal with National League Rookie of the Year candidate, Hunter Pence. Pence continues to be impressive and is leading the NL with a .342 batting average….the league continues to throw him fastballs. Also, Zambrano will have to contend with Cub Killer, Carlos Lee, who leads the NL in RBI’s with 73.
Jason Jennings will be making his first start of the season (and in an AstrosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ uniform) against the Cubs. Jennings was acquired by the Astros this past off-season from the Rockies and will be facing the Cubs for the first time since 2005.
Jennings has struggled this season. He was put on the DL on April 17th and activated on May 29th. He has not allowed less than 3 earned runs in a start since June 9th against the White Sox. Jennings was 1-2 in 6 starts in June with a 4.42 ERA and allowed 5 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings against the Mets his last time out on July 5th.
Lefties are hitting .253 with a .343 OBP while righties are hitting .283 with a .308 OBP this season against Jennings and he is 1-1 with a 3.66 ERA away from Minute Maid Park while posting a 0-3 record at home with a 4.28 ERA (0-1 with a 4.28 ERA in day games). Jennings never lost at Wrigley while with the Rockies and was 2-0 in 3 starts with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 18 innings….he is 2-1 in 4 starts with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in his career against the Cubs.
- Cliff Floyd – 4-10, with a double and a RBI
- Cesar Izturis – 10-29, with 2 doubles and a RBI
- Derrek Lee – 4-15, with a home run and 2 RBI’s
- Daryle Ward – 3-10, with a double, a home run and 2 RBI’s
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….