The 22-year-old right-hander looks to win his fourth straight game as the Chicago Cubs try to complete a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium.
Zambrano, who boasts a 2.03 ERA during his winning streak, continued his best stretch of the season with last Thursday’s 9-4 win over the AL West-leading San Francisco Giants. He allowed four runs and nine hits over eight innings, while striking out five and walking five.
In that game, Zambrano struck out Barry Bonds with the bases loaded in the fifth inning to end a threat. He responded by pounded his chest and pumping his fists as he walked off the field.
“I just try to be myself,” Zambrano said. “I don’t try to (embarrass) anybody. He’s a big man in baseball.
“It was a situation that was a big deal in the game. I was happy.”
Behind an excellent young starting rotation that also includes 26-year-old Kerry Wood, 22-year-old Mark Prior and 28-year-old Matt Clement, the Cubs have climbed into second place in the NL Central, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Houston Astros.
The Cubs have won seven of nine, including Wednesday’s 3-2 win. Wood struck out 10 and Sammy Sosa hit his 25th home run of the season—a 448-foot two-run shot.
STANDINGS: Cubs - 2nd place, 2 1/2 GB, NL Central. Padres - 5th place, 27 GB, NL West.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Zambrano (9-8, 3.33 ERA). Zambrano is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts against San Diego.
PADRES PROBABLE STARTER: Kevin Jarvis (4-3, 4.26 ERA). Jarvis’ four-game win streak was snapped with Friday’s 6-0 loss to Philadelphia. The right-hander allowed five runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings, while walking two and striking out one. Jarvis is 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA in seven career starts against San Diego.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .305 avg.; Sosa, 25 HRs; Moises Alou, 71 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 65 runs and 21 SBs. Padres - Loretta, .320 avg. and 51 runs; Ryan Klesko, 20 HRs and 59 RBIs; Ramon Vazquez, 9 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - RHP Zambrano (2), RHP Wood (2), RHP Prior and LHP Shawn Estes have combined to hit six home runs this season. The team record for home runs by pitchers is nine set in 1961. … Chicago has allowed four runs or fewer in 66 of its 112 games this season. … OF Doug Glanville is hitless in just two at-bats since rejoining the Cubs in a trade with the Texas Rangers on July 30. Padres - GM Kevin Towers has put off trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates, saying that if San Diego acquires OF Brian Giles and C Jason Kendall, it’ll be in the offseason. … 2B Loretta is hitting .363 (89-for-245) since May 27. … RHP Trevor Hoffman, sidelined all season after having two offseason shoulder surgeries, threw 30 pitches off a mound and said he felt fine. It was his second throwing session in the last several days. He could be back in September.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 30-25 on the road; Padres - 22-34 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - 2B Grudzielanek (hand), 15-day DL; OF Tom Goodwin (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL. Padres - INF Keith Lockhart (back), 15-day DL; OF Jason Bay (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Hoffman (shoulder), 60-day DL.