Coming off his fourth multi-homer game of the season, Lee will try to help the Cubs get back to .500 for the first time in almost a month when they finish a three-game series with the visiting Colorado Rockies.
The Cubs, who are already in danger of watching the St. Louis Cardinals run away with the NL Central, have also been decimated by injuries. Starters Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and reliever Mike Remlinger are all currently on the disabled list.
“One thing’s for sure, these guys are very resilient,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “Hopefully somebody else will emerge a la Neifi Perez when Nomar went down. You have to stay focused, stay positive and realize you have a job to do.”
Prior was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a compression fracture near his right elbow. It is not known how long the right-hander will be out.
“It could have been a lot worse, it could have been my career,” said Prior, injured in Friday’s 10-3 win over the Rockies. “Everyone knows the risks going out there and playing. It’s a game that’s supposed to be fun, but there are some inherent risks that go with it. I’ll be back. I’ve been hit before and it’s no big deal.”
There’s no telling where the Cubs might be without Lee, who is second in batting average (.357) in the NL, and first in home runs (16) and RBIs (45).
“I think I’ve had my swing pretty much the whole season,” Lee said. “I don’t think I’ve been this hot for so long.”
Lee continued his torrid hitting with his second straight two-homer game, driving in three runs in a 5-1 victory Saturday, Chicago’s fifth win in seven games.
“He’s a big old man with big shoulders,” Baker said of Lee. “If anyone can do it, it’s him. He goes about his business quietly. He doesn’t boast or brag or flaunt what he’s doing.”
A victory Sunday would give the Cubs wins in back-to-back series for the first time this season.
Williams, 23, was 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in four games—including three starts — for the Giants this season before being optioned to Triple-A Fresno on April 25.
Williams and Aardsma are both expected to start in the minor leagues.
Saturday’s loss, the Rockies’ fifth in six games overall, dropped them to 4-22 on the road. They own the worst overall record in the NL.
STANDINGS (through May 27): Rockies - 5th place, 14 GB, NL West. Cubs - 3rd place, 8 1/2 GB, NL Central.
ROCKIES PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff Francis (4-2, 4.88 ERA). The rookie left-hander will try to rebound from his worst start since he was hit hard by San Francisco in his season debut April 8. Francis was reached for six runs and a season-high nine hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-1 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday. He had allowed only six runs in his previous three starts, spanning 17 2-3 innings. This will be his first career appearance against the Cubs.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Sergio Mitre (0-0, 2.57 ERA). The 24-year-old right-hander pitched well in his first appearance of the season Tuesday, limiting Houston to two runs and five hits over seven innings while walking one and striking out five in Chicago’s 4-2 victory. Mitre made 12 appearances for the Cubs in 2004—including nine starts—and went 2-4 with a 6.62 ERA. He is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in one career start against the Rockies.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Rockies - Clint Barmes, .335 avg., 7 HRs, and 34 runs; Barmes and Preston Wilson, 27 RBIs; Barmes and Matt Holliday, 4 SBs. Cubs - Lee, .357 avg., 16 HRs, 45 RBIs, 36 runs and 8 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Rockies - 1B Todd Helton went 0-for-4 Saturday and is 2-for-42 over the last 12 games. … SS Barmes is 4-for-29 in his last seven contests. … Colorado has scored two runs or fewer in 14 of 26 road games. Cubs - Chicago recalled RHP Roberto Novoa from Triple-A Iowa on Saturday to take Prior’s roster spot. … SS Perez has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, batting .372 (16-for-43) during that span. … The Cubs have won six of seven against the Rockies dating to last season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockies - 4-22 on the road; Cubs - 14-12 at home.
INJURIES: Rockies - 2B Aaron Miles (ribcage), 15-day DL; LHP Matthew Merricks (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Bobby Seay (pectoral), 15-day DL; RHP Aaron Cook (lung), 60-day DL; RHP Chin-hui Tsao (shoulder), 60-day DL. Cubs - RHP Prior (elbow), 15-day DL; SS Garciaparra (groin), 15-day DL; LHP Remlinger (finger), 15-day DL; RHP Wood (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Chad Fox (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Williamson (elbow), 60-day DL.