Game Ninety-Seven: Cubs (51-45) vs. Astros (50-48)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Carlos Zambrano (7-4, 3.48/1.35) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (10-6, 2.72/1.23)
The Cubs enter play tonight a half game up on the Cardinals in the Central Division … with the Astros on both of their tails, just two games back. This series was originally a three-game slate when the schedule came out but due to the rainout on May 15 it became a four-game challenge for Lou Piniella’s crew.
The Cubs will face the best two pitchers in the Astros’ rotation in the first two games … Wandy Rodriguez tonight and Roy Oswalt on Tuesday. The Cubs will counter with Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster … Dempster is scheduled to come off the DL on Tuesday.
The Cubs will not have to deal with Lance Berkman this series. He was placed on the 15-day DL last week with a strained left calf muscle. The Astros still have more than enough offense without Berkman … Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez, Geoff Blum and Hunter Pence have had some of their better games against the Cubs this season.
The Cubs have seven games remaining on the schedule against the Astros this season (three-game series from August 31 – September 2 at Wrigley) and are 6-4 versus Houston this year, 1-1 at Wrigley.
Derrek Lee is expected back in the starting lineup tonight. Lee left Saturday’s game with neck spasms in the eighth inning … Lee’s neck locked up on him when he slid into second base trying to break up a double play in the sixth inning. If Lee is able to go, it might be a good time to give Alfonso Soriano a breathier. The Cubs have only two days off between today and September 2 (August 6 and August 24, and a total of four for the remainder of the season) and Soriano has struggled mightily in his career against Wandy Rodriguez.
In other news … B.J. Ryan reports to the Iowa Cubs today. Ryan is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday and if all goes well could join the Cubs within a week. Ted Lilly had his knee scoped today. The Cubs expect him to miss only four to five starts with an optimistic return slated for August 15.
While the offense must do their job against Wandy Rodriguez and try to figure out a way to put a crooked number on the board against the southpaw, it all begins with Carlos Zambrano … and one win at a time. Carlos Zambrano has posted a victory in his last three starts. Despite giving up a season-high 10 hits to the Phillies, Zambrano out pitched Jamie Moyer and salvaged the final game of the series against Philadelphia … and started the Cubs current four-game winning streak. The Cubs will need Big Z to keep the high-powered Astros’ offense off the board while they try to figure out Wandy Rodriguez.
Zambrano is 3-1 in his last five starts with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. Opponents have hit just .246 against him … and no home runs.
Tonight will be Zambrano’s third start of the season against Houston. He beat the ‘Stros on Opening Day then received a no decision back on June 10 in Houston. Zambrano completed a season-high eight innings of work the last time he faced the Astros. He allowed just one run on three his with two walks and three strikeouts. The Astros won the game 2-1 on a bases-loaded single to center by Geoff Blum off of Angel Guzman. Big Z is 1-0 against the Astros this year with a 1.29 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP (two runs on eight hits with five walks and nine strikeouts in 14 innings).
The Astros are playing much better ball than they were when the Cubs last faced them in Houston back in June (June 9 – June 11). The Astros took two of three then thanks to two walk-off hits by Geoff Blum. Houston enters play tonight only two games back of the Cubs and Lou Piniella’s crew can put a little distance between them and the Astros by winning the series. It all starts with Carlos Zambrano … and throwing strikes.
- Geoff Blum – 5-for-32 with a double and 3 walks
- Michael Bourn – 3-for-12 with 3 walks
- Chris Coste – 1-for-3
- Darin Erstad – 2-for-14 with a walk
- Jeff Keppinger – 5-for-26 with a double and a walk
- Carlos Lee – 19-for-52 with 5 doubles, 4 home runs and 5 walks
- Kaz Matsui – 2-for-10 with 4 walks
- Hunter Pence – 4-for-20 with 2 doubles and a walk
- Ivan Rodriguez – 3-for-10
- Wandy Rodriguez – 1-for-3
- Miguel Tejada – 7-for-18 with a double and a home run
After years of underachieving, Wandy Rodriguez has finally put it together this year and his is one of the reasons the Astros is in the thick of the Central Division race. Rodriguez has been unbeatable of late … and just about unhittable as well. Rodriguez has won his last four starts and his team has posted a victory in his last six outings. The last time the Astros’ southpaw posted a loss was back on June 16 in Arlington against the Rangers.
Wandy Rodriguez is 4-0 in his last four starts with a 0.62 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP … just two runs, both earned, on 21 hits in 29 innings with five walks and 27 strikeouts. To say the Cubs must take advantage of every opportunity they get tonight would be an understatement. Rodriguez is simply not making any mistakes right now or beating himself … like he has in the past.
Rodriguez has not beaten the Cubs this season. He has two no decisions to show for his dominating work … the Cubs have managed only two runs off of him in two games (two runs on nine hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 13 innings). His team posted a 3-2 win in Houston back on April 7 and on June 10 in Houston, the Astros beat the Cubs 2-1.
Wandy Rodriguez is 5-4 in 10 starts on the road this year with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP.
- Milton Bradley – 2-for-12
- Mike Fontenot – 0-for-5
- Kosuke Fukudome – 1-for-6
- Koyie Hill – 1-for-2
- Reed Johnson – 2-for-11 with a walk
- Derrek Lee – 12-for-27 with 3 doubles, 2 home runs and 6 walks
- Aramis Ramirez – 6-for-26 with a walk
- Alfonso Soriano – 1-for-14 with 3 walks
- Ryan Theriot – 10-for-21 with 4 doubles and 2 walks
- Carlos Zambrano – 1-for-6 with a home run
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….