Game Twenty-Four: Cubs (15-8) vs. Nationals (8-16)
Game Time – 6:10pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 185
Location – Nationals Park, Washington D.C.
Carlos Zambrano (3-1, 2.67/1.10) vs. Matt Chico (0-4, 6.04/1.55)
For most of the sports world today’s focus is on the NFL draft, but Lou Piniella’s team is in the District of Columbia and will try to avoid their first 3-game losing streak of the year. After putting run after run after run on the board during the 6-game winning streak, the Cubs have scored only 5 times in the past 18 innings. The magic number for the Cubs this season is 4. When Lou’s crew scores at least 4 runs they are undefeated.
There is one big positive to come out of the consecutive losses, both Jason Marquis and Ryan Dempster pitched effectively into and past the 7th inning. The Cubs need a similar performance today from Carlos Zambrano.
Finally, Kosuke Fukudome turns 31 today. Read on for the rest of the game preview and a quick weekend update that includes moves from the farm system and more from the Cubstory book…. Carlos Zambrano will make his last start of the month tonight. Zambrano’s history of bad starts was a main topic of discussion throughout the winter. The Cubs’ ace has responded with a solid month and could win his fourth game in 5 tries. Zambrano pitched a gem last Monday night against the Mets and with the recent struggles of the offense and Matt Chico’s history against the Cubs, his team will need a similar outing tonight.
Zambrano held the Mets to just 1 earned run on 5 hits in 7 innings. While his strikeout to walk ratio was a little low, so was his pitch count. Zambrano threw just 101 pitches and could have gone longer if necessary. The Cubs bullpen has been overworked and another strong outing from Zambrano, coupled with Ryan Dempster’s start on Friday, could give them a well deserved break….at least for another day.
Again, the most impressive stat for Zambrano this month is not his win-loss record, ERA or WHIP….it is his strikeout to walk ratio. In 33 2/3 innings, Zambrano has walked 5 and struck out 27.
Zambrano will make his 9th career start (11th game) against the Nationals/Expos organization. He is 5-2 with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP….last year, 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.
- Johnny Estrada – 5-for-17
- Willie Harris – 4-for-18
- Austin Kearns – 5-for-27 with 2 doubles and a home run
- Felipe Lopez – 7-for-28 with a double, a triple and 2 home runs
- Rob Mackowiak – 11-for-36 with 4 doubles, a triple, a home run and 7 walks
- Wily Mo Pena – 4-for-12
- Ryan Zimmerman – 1-for-7
Matt Chico, unlike Odalis Perez, has pitched as bad as he record indicates. In his last 2 starts, Chico has allowed 11 runs on 15 hits with 4 home runs, 6 walks and 5 strikeouts in 9 innings. Chico held the Braves to only 1 earned run on 5 hits in 8 innings but took the loss on April 11th.
Chico will make his second career start tonight against the Cubs. He was the winning pitcher in the only game the Nationals won against the Cubs a year ago. He threw 7 shutout innings and allowed only 4 hits, struck out 4 and did not walk a batter. Chico dominated the Cubs that afternoon in D.C.
Ryan Theriot doubled in 3 trips last year against Chico, the only extra base hit of the game. Mark DeRosa, Rich Hill and Aramis Ramirez accounted for the other 3 hits.
As mentioned before the game on Friday, if the Cubs take the Nationals lightly they will get beat. Lou Piniella’s crew must come out and put up runs early. The Nationals won their second game in a row for the first time since they started the season 3-0….if the Cubs allow them to stick around, it could be a long night.
According to several reports, Rich Hill’s next turn in the rotation will be skipped. Hill will be available to pitch out of the pen against the Nationals on Saturday and Sunday. Hill’s next start will be on May 2nd in St. Louis.
According to a report on Cubs.com, Alfonso Soriano will return on time from the DL on May 1st. The Cubs finish a 3-game series that afternoon against the Brewers. Several reports have stated when Soriano returns he will hit return to the leadoff spot in Piniella’s lineup.
According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, it could be another 10 days to two weeks before Scott Eyre is able to return from the DL.
From Down on the Farm….
The Cubs made a couple of promotions in their Minor League system on Friday. According to a report from Scout.com, Matt Matulia was promoted from the Daytona Cubs to the Tennessee Smokies. Matulia was hitting .317 for High-A Daytona.
Blake Lalli was promoted from Peoria to Daytona. Lalli was hitting .283 with the Chiefs after hitting .295 a year ago for Ryne Sandberg.
Dae-Eun Rhee was placed on the 7-day DL with right triceps tendentious.
Bill Muldowney (right-handed pitcher) and Elvis Lara (infielder) were added to the Chiefs’ 25-man roster on Friday. Muldowney was the Opening Day starter for the Chiefs a year ago but discomfort in his pitching arm ended his 2007 season early. Muldowney was the Cubs 8th round pick in 2006.
Elvis Lara signed with the Cubs as a free agent in 2006. He spent 2007 in rookie ball. Lara is used primarily as a second baseman but can play third as well.
From the Cubstory Book….
The 25th Anniversary of the famous tirade of Lee Elia is coming up on Tuesday. Mr. Elia joined Bruce Levine on Saturday morning and talked about that Friday afternoon a quarter of a century ago. Lee Elia has embraced what took place and the interview was both classy and very informative. Check out www.leeunplugged.com.
This writer wonders what Mr. Elia thinks about bloggers and where in his 85-15% formula we would fall. There will be more on Tuesday about the anniversary….and you can PRINT IT!
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….