Game Eighty-Seven: Cubs (51-35) vs. Cardinals (49-38)
Game Time – 7:15pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13/1.33) vs. Braden Looper (9-5, 4.26/1.40)
Updated – 5:30pm C.T. – Zambrano Activated – Jose Ascanio Optioned
Happy 4th of July from the CCO…. How American is this? Apple Pie, Chevrolet, Baseball, Fireworks and the Cubs and Cardinals on Independence Day!
Lou Piniella’s crew opens a big 3-game series tonight in St. Louis against the Cardinals. The Cubs have not played well of late and will receive a boost by activating Carlos Zambrano from the 15-day DL before the game. Piniella stated Zambrano will be on a pitch count in the 85-90 range and his team needs him to complete at least 6 innings of work. Jose Ascanio will likely be optioned down to make room from Zambrano with Sean Gallagher, for now, taking his place in the bullpen.
Tonight will also feature the return of Jim Edmonds to St. Louis in a Cubs’ uniform. Edmonds should be greeted warmly, but those that had a problem with Edmonds donning a Cubs’ jersey can only imagine what it will be like to see one of their favorite players of all-time in Cubs colors.
The Cardinals won 2 of 3 in their first meeting of the year at Busch Stadium (May 2nd – May 4th) and the two archrivals have 12 games left this season, starting with the first of three tonight.
The Cubs’ offense needs Aramis Ramirez to start hitting tonight. Ramirez is 0-for-his-last-21 and has not hit a home run in his last 64 at bats since leading the Cubs to the 3-game sweep over the White Sox.
Alfonso Soriano will rejoin the Cubs today in St. Louis after undergoing another round of X-rays on Thursday in Chicago. His broken hand has healed to the point where he will start hitting off a tee before tonight’s game. There is speculation that Soriano could return as soon as next weekend’s series against the Giants at Wrigley….the last before the All-Star break.
On June 2nd the Cubs began a very difficult 32 game stretch that featured 23 of the 32 away from Wrigley Field. The Cubs are 15-14 in the first 29 games and have won 4 of the 9 series with 2 ties. Starting with today’s game, the Cubs have 38 left at home and 38 remaining on the road….and after this series, 38 of the Cubs last 73 games are at the Friendly Confines.
The Cubs are 115-93 in the history of the organization on the 4th of July…. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to make his first start since June 18th in Tampa. Zambrano left the game in the 7th inning with what was diagnosed as a strained right shoulder. Reports have indicated Big Z is feeling fine and some have speculated that Zambrano being shutdown for 2 weeks could help the team down the road.
Tonight is a big game for the Cubs but most importantly Carlos Zambrano. Forget the rivalry, forget the standings, the Cubs must have a healthy Carlos Zambrano for the remainder of the season in order to compete for a division title.
Zambrano was not pitching well before being placed on the DL. He was 1-2 in 4 starts with a 5.68 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP while opponents hit .317 against him. Zambrano was struggling with command, and himself, in his last 3 starts after being nearly unhittable for the first two months of the season (4-1 in 5 starts in April with a 2.65 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, 3-0 in 6 starts in May with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP). Zambrano’s strikeout to walk ratio was horrible, 13 strikeouts to 12 walks, and after listing stat after stat, Zambrano needed a break.
Zambrano is 4-3 in 7 road starts this season with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP….tonight will be Big Z’s first start of the season against the Cardinals. Last year, 3-0 in 3 starts with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP versus the Redbirds.
Big Z’s career numbers versus Albert Pujols and company…. 8-4 in 19 games, 18 starts, with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP.
- Rick Ankiel – 0-for-4
- Chris Duncan – 3-for-12
- Troy Glaus – 1-for-3 with a double
- Adam Kennedy – 3-for-6
- Aaron Miles – 8-for-25 with a double
- Yadier Molina – 4-for-21 with a home run
- Albert Pujols – 11-for-47 with 2 doubles, 4 home runs and 6 walks
- Brendan Ryan – 0-for-3
- Skip Schumaker – 3-for-11 with a triple
The Cubs offense will face Braden Looper for the first time this season. After a rough month of May (2-3 in 5 starts with a 6.37 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP), Looper was solid in June and compiled his best numbers of the season (3-1 in 6 starts with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP).
Looper has pitched better on the road this season than at home. He is 4-3 in 9 starts with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP while opponents have hit .295 against him. Looper gives up his hits, but always seems to limit the damage. Looper received a no decision in the Cardinals 9-6 win over the Royals in his last outing. Looper gave up 3 runs, 2 earned, on 6 hits in 3 1/3 innings with 4 walks and 2 strikeouts….his shortest outing of the season.
The Cubs have struggled against Looper and his sinker in the past. The former reliever is 3-3 in 4 starts, 36 games, with 4 saves against the Cubs, a 2.37 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Last season Looper was 2-1 in 4 starts and held the Cubs to 5 runs on 17 hits while striking out 17 and walking 9 in 27 innings….a 1.67 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.
- Henry Blanco – 2-for-8 with 3 walks
- Ronny Cedeno – 1-for-5
- Mark DeRosa – 1-for-11
- Jim Edmonds – 0-for-1
- Mike Fontenot – 0-for-7
- Derrek Lee – 4-for-15 with a home run
- Matt Murton – 1-for-7
- Aramis Ramirez – 4-for-17
- Geovany Soto – 1-for-3 with a double
- Ryan Theriot – 3-for-11 with a walk
- Daryle Ward – 1-for-7 with a double and 2 walks
The offense must be patient against Looper and make him work.
On a side note…. Shaun and his wife welcomed the newest Cubs fan into the world at 12:03am on Friday morning. Congratulations on the birth of their son!
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….
Update – As expected, the Cubs activated Carlos Zambrano from the 15-day DL and optioned Jose Ascanio to Triple-A Iowa.