Game Fifty-Four: Cubs (24-29) vs. Astros (20-34)
Game Time – 7:05pm CDT
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: WIND-AM 560, XM Radio Channel 187
Location – Minute Maid Park, Houston
Carlos Zambrano (1-3, 6.12/1.70) vs. Felipe Paulino (0-7, 4.40/1.47)
After escaping the downpour in Pittsburgh, the Cubs spent Thursday’s off day getting away from baseball. Reportedly Lou Piniella charted a boat and his entire coaching staff went fishing to forget about the “day job”.
Can the Chicago Cubs get back on the winning track tonight? Carlos Zambrano’s return was delayed by 48 hours and Lou Piniella needs the ‘good’ Z to take the hill tonight. Before the rain, the Cubs were reeling. They had lost three in a row and three of their last four … many thought if the Cubs lost the finale in Pittsburgh more changes would be on the horizon.
The rumors are beginning to fly that this is a big trip for the Cubs. The goal is for the team to be back at .500 before they face the White Sox on June 11. That is a lot of work and ground to make up in seven games.
Jim Hendry told the media … “I have a sense that we can play better. I think we’ve seen that. And we’ve played pretty well against the good teams when we’re clicking. I think we’re good enough to be a contending club. I don’t feel we should be under .500 at this point.”
Hendry indicated that if play does not improve changes might have to be made.
The Derrek Lee and Xavier Nady rumors were shot down and it appears no changes will be made, as far as a fire sale, until closer to the trade deadline.
Lou Piniella’s crew is 1-2 against the Astros this season … without Lance Berkman in the lineup. The Astros just took two of three from the Nationals (their second home series win of the season, Pirates in April) and traditionally play very good ball against the Cubs.
The offense will not get a break either. After tonight’s game, the Cubs face Roy Oswalt on Saturday night and Brett Myers on Sunday afternoon. Right now the plan for the Cubs is Ryan Dempster (Saturday) and Randy Wells(Sunday) in the final two games of the series … Carlos Silva is penciled in for the makeup Monday morning (11:35am CDT first pitch) in Pittsburgh.
The Astros feature several so-called Cubs killers. Geoff Blum is the newest addition to the list … while Houston’s left fielder is one of the original Cubs killers for this generation of the Faithful. It is always interesting when Carlos Lee and Carlos Zambrano face one another … hopefully Big Z will start El Caballo’s weekend on a bad note.
Pat Hughes and Dave Otto can be heard on WIND-AM 560 … sister station of WGN. The Cubs allowed WGN Radio to air the Blackhawks Stanley Cup game against the Flyers … GO HAWKS!
Tonight it all starts with Big Z … and just winning a ballgame. Carlos Zambrano’s return to the rotation was delayed by a couple of days. The first two innings will be huge for Zambrano who is expected to be on a 90-pitch limit tonight. The Cubs need a win and would like their Opening Day starter to pitch like an ace for the remainder of the season.
The last time Carlos Zambrano started a game he took the loss on April 20 in New York. Zambrano received no run support and was hung with the loss. Big Z gave up two runs on six hits in six innings with nine strikeouts and three walks.
As a starter, Zambrano is 1-2 in four games with a 7.45 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP … out of the pen, Big Z was 0-1 in 13 games with a 4.15 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP.
Zambrano will face the Astros for the first time this season. Z is 13-7 in 29 career games, 27 starts, with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP … in 2009, Z was 1-0 in three starts versus Houston with a 1.29 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP.
In 15 career games, 13 starts, at Minute Maid, Big Z is 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.
Astros’ Career Numbers against Carlos Zambrano
- Lance Berkman – 10-for-68 with 4 home runs and 15 walks
- Geoff Blum – 5-for-35 with a double and 3 walks
- Michael Bourn – 3-for-13 with 5 walks
- Jeff Keppinger – 5-for-26 with a double and a walk
- Carlos Lee – 21-for-55 with 5 doubles, 5 home runs and 5 walks
- Hunter Pence – 5-for-22 with 2 doubles and 2 walks
- Cory Sullivan – 3-for-4 with a home run and 2 walks
The Cubs are in a dangerous spot tonight. They are facing a winless pitcher that is coming off three stellar outings. The Astros are 2-1 in Felipe Paulino’s last three starts and the righty has allowed only four earned runs over that span.
For as bad as Felipe Paulino has been this season … he’s been lights out of late with nothing to show for it. Paulino is 0-1 since May 19 with a 1.64 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Paulino has shutdown three offenses much better than the Cubs (Rockies, Brewers and Reds).
Paulino is coming off a dominating outing versus the Reds. He picked up a no-decision after throwing eight innings of shutout ball. The Reds managed only four hits and Paulino walked four and struck out five.
The 26-year old right-hander is 0-4 in six home starts this season with a 3.89 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP.
Lou Piniella’s offense must be patient tonight and make him work. In 59 1/3 innings, Paulino has walked 34 batters. The opportunities figure to be there once again.
The Cubs beat Paulino back on April 16 at Wrigley … the only game Lou’s crew won during that weekend series. The Cubs managed five runs on six hits in six innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
Tonight will be Paulino’s third career start versus Chicago. He is 0-2 in three games, two starts, with a 7.82 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP.
Cubs Career Numbers against Felipe Paulino
- Jeff Baker – 0-for-2
- Marlon Byrd – 1-for-3 with a double
- Mike Fontenot – 1-for-4 with 2 walks
- Koyie Hill – 1-for-4 with a triple and a walk
- Derrek Lee – 1-for-5 with a home run and a walk
- Aramis Ramirez – 1-for-4
- Alfonso Soriano – 3-for-4 with a double and a home run
- Geovany Soto – 0-for-1
- Ryan Theriot – 1-for-4 with a double
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …