Game One Hundred Forty-Seven: Cubs (88-58) vs. Astros (80-67)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN (Chicago Area Only) – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Miller Park, Milwaukee
Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.58/1.31) vs. Randy Wolf (10-11, 4.45/1.39)
After receiving a day off on Friday and spending Saturday on call with the MLB front offices, Lou Piniella’s crew will return to work tonight against the hottest team in all of baseball….the Houston Astros. The unfortunate circumstances in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike has moved two of the three games to Miller Park in Milwaukee and the third game will be played on September 29th after the conclusion of the regular season if the game is needed to decide either the NL Wild Card or the Central Division Champion.
At the beginning of play on Sunday, the Cubs lead in the central is 6 games over the Brewers (7 in the loss column) and 8 1/2 over the Astros (9 in the loss column). The Brewers have a day-night doubleheader in Philadelphia and own a 2 game lead over the Phillies and a 2 1/2 game advantage over the red-hot Astros.
The Astros have won 14 of their last 15 and have many comparing their patented last season surge to the impressive run the Colorado Rockies made a year ago. Roy Oswalt and Randy Wolf are a combined 17-2 since July 27th and Geoff Blum and Ty Wigginton have led the offense. Randy Wolf told Holden Kushner on XM Radio Saturday that the team is playing relaxed, loose and with a lot of confidence. The Astros wanted these games played in Houston, and rightfully so, but with all of the damage in the Houston area, they chose for the right reasons to allow two of the three games to be moved to Miller Park….despite the fact the Brewers’ home field is known as ‘Wrigley Field North’.
For only the third time since 1961 weather has forced Major League Baseball to relocate games to a new location. Hurricane Ivan forced the Marlins to play the Montreal Expos at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago (September 13 – September 14) in 2004 and last season snow in Cleveland forced the Indians to open their home schedule at Miller Park against the Angels (April 10 – April 12). The last time the Cubs were involved in games being postponed due to a hurricane was in 2004.
Jason Marquis and Jack Cassel were originally scheduled to pitch in the opener on Friday night. Marquis will face Brian Moehler on Monday afternoon instead and hopefully the Cubs will not have to make a trip to Houston at the end of the season to play a meaningful game. The Cubs have 16 games left on the schedule and 15 games in 15 days before the last day of the season on September 28th….two weeks from today.
Carlos Zambrano will make his first start since facing these Astros on September 2nd at Wrigley. Zambrano will not face Carlos Lee but a very dangerous and confident lineup that includes Hunter Pence (19-for-59 in 15 games against the Cubs this season with a home run, 6 doubles and a triple – .322/.355/.508/.863) and Miguel Tejada (18-for-57 in 14 games against Cubs’ pitching this year with a home run, 5 doubles and 2 triples – .316/.339/.526/.865).
Maybe the down time gave the Cubs offense a chance to get a breathier, especially Derrek Lee. The Cubs need one of their leaders to step up and start producing or it might be time for Lou Piniella to move him down in the lineup…. Today is a big start for Carlos Zambrano. Reports over the last week and on Saturday from Randy Bush stated Big Z is feeling good and is ready to pitch. As good as Rich Harden was on Thursday and despite the fact Ryan Dempster has been the most consistent starter for Lou Piniella this season….the Cubs go as Carlos Zambrano goes. Zambrano is one of the team’s leaders as well as their emotional leader. The Cubs need Zambrano back on the hill for the remainder of the season if they are to play in October.
Zambrano left after completing 5 innings of work against the Astros on September 2nd. Zambrano threw the ball exceptionally well in the 1st inning with improved velocity and command, but gave up 2 runs in the 5th before telling Larry Rothschild he did not feel well. Zambrano struggled in August for the second year in a row and early runs from his offense will allow him to just concentrate on pitching a good game.
Zambrano is 6-4 in 12 road starts this season with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP….against Houston, he is 1-1 in 3 starts with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. While Zambrano will face a lineup without Carlos Lee, the Astros have proven to be a better team without Lee in the lineup. Today will be an excellent test to see how healthy, both mentally and physically, Zambrano actually is.
- Brad Ausmus – 9-for-43 with a double and 6 walks
- Lance Berkman – 9-for-60 with 4 home runs and 14 walks
- Geoff Blum – 5-for-24 with a double
- Michael Bourn – 1-for-5
- Jose Castillo – 5-for-21 with a home run
- Darin Erstad – 2-for-10
- Mark Loretta – 3-for-12 with a double
- David Newhan – 1-for-5 with a triple and 2 walks
- Hunter Pence – 4-for-14 with 2 doubles
- Miguel Tejada – 5-for-9 with a double and a home run
- Humberto Quintero – 1-for-2 with a double
- Ty Wigginton – 0-for-6
- Randy Wolf – 0-for-2
The last time Randy Wolf faced the Cubs he helped complete the 3-game sweep at Wrigley and tossed his first complete game shutout in more than 4 years (April 24, 2004). Wolf had pinpoint control and painted the outside corner against a Cubs lineup that was (and still is) struggling mightily at the plate from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Wolf has been a good pickup for the Astros but he is the same pitcher they knocked out after 4 innings back on May 12th. The Cubs beat Wolf and the Padres 12-3 with a starting lineup that featured only one lefty….Kosuke Fukudome.
Wolf is 2-7 in 15 starts on the road this season with a 6.13 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP. While the Astros are the home team, his best start of the year on the road came at Wrigley. The offense must make him work and not allow him to get comfortable on the hill….for the second time in less than two weeks.
Cubs stats against Wolf this season:
- Ronny Cedeno – 2-for-2 with a walk
- Mark DeRosa – 1-for-5 with a walk
- Kosuke Fukudome – 0-for-1 with 2 walks
- Reed Johnson – 0-for-5
- Derrek Lee – 3-for-6 with a double
- Aramis Ramirez – 1-for-7
- Alfonso Soriano – 2-for-7 with a home run
- Geovany Soto – 2-for-6 with a walk
- Ryan Theriot – 2-for-6 with a walk
- Carlos Zambrano – 1-for-2 with a double
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….
Update – According to a report on WGN.com and from the Sun-Times, tonight’s game between the Cubs and Astros will only be available on WGN (Channel 9) in Chicago. ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball agreement prohibts other games from being shown around the country during their time slot.