Zambrano, a 22-year-old right hander, is coming off one of his most impressive outings of the season. He limited the Houston Astros to five hits while striking out 10 and walking two in Tuesday’s 3-0 victory, earning his first career shutout and complete game.
“You’ve got a guy throwing 97 to 93 (mph) with turbo-sink,” Astros shortstop Adam Everett said of Zambrano. “He’s not wild. He’s throwing strikes. There’s not much more you can say about that. He’s obviously dominated us. Every time he’s pitched against us, it’s just one of those things.”
Cubs manager Dusty Baker was equally impressed.
“He’s a power pitcher with a lot of movement,” he said. “It sinks, it moves, it cuts and darts. His potential is unlimited.”
Zambrano, who has allowed just six earned runs over 37 2-3 innings during his win streak, hopes to help the Cubs rebound from Saturday’s 10-5 loss to Los Angeles. The defeat, coupled with Houston’s 5-2 win over Cincinnati, dropped Chicago a half-game back of the Astros for first place in the NL Central.
Simon is batting .274 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs.
“He can play first base and he’s got a quality bat off the bench,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. “He’s almost a lifetime .300 hitter. He’s got a good personality.”
STANDINGS: Dodgers - 3rd place, 11 GB, NL West. Cubs - 2nd Place,
GB, NL Central.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Hideo Nomo (13-9, 2.86 ERA). Nomo allowed four earned runs and eight hits over five innings in the Dodgers’ 5-4 loss to Florida on Tuesday. In eleven career starts against the Cubs, the Japanese right-hander is 4-5 with a 5.54 ERA.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Zambrano (11-8, 3.07 ERA). This is Zambrano’s first start against the Dodgers. He has allowed four runs—three earned—and seven hits over only two innings in four career relief outings against Los Angeles.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .292 avg.; Jeromy Burnitz, 25 HRs and 61 RBIs; Shawn Green, 63 runs; Dave Roberts, 31 SBs. Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .305 avg.; Sammy Sosa, 28 HRs and 78 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 74 runs and 24 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Dodgers, 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - 3B Adrian Beltre has 18 RBIS in his last 12 starts. … OF Aramis Ramirez hit a pair of two-run homers Saturday. … The Dodgers are the first major league team to feature a staff with three pitchers born in Japan, RHP Masao Kida, RHP Nomo and LHP Kazuhisa Ishii. Cubs - INF Ramon Martinez returned to the lineup Saturday after being out since Monday due to a sore wrist. … Baker used RHP Mark Prior as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning Saturday. Prior struck out. … LHP Shawn Estes, who is 7-9 with a 5.48 ERA, will be skipped in the Cubs’ upcoming three-game series with Houston.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 29-33 on the road; Cubs - 32-31 at home.
INJURIES: Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; 1B Fred McGriff (abductor muscle), 15-day DL; OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (rotator cuff), 15-day DL; LHP Ishii (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day Cubs - INF 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. DL.