Pittsburgh (7-19) at Chicago (13-10)

  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Mon May 1, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Heading into spring training, Chicago Cubs rookie Sean Marshall was an afterthought for the starting rotation. Now he’s one of its most dependable members.

Marshall (2-0, 4.22 ERA) looks to improve to 3-0 when he makes his fifth career start for the Cubs in the opener of a two-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday at Wrigley Field.

Chicago (13-10) began its eight-game homestand by winning back-to-back games against Florida, with Marshall tossing seven scoreless innings in a 3-1 win last Tuesday. The 23-year-old left-hander allowed two hits, two walks and struck out seven.

“He was phenomenal,” Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. “What a great game. You can’t say enough about the start (he) had tonight. It was awesome.”

The Cubs have struggled since Marshall’s performance, however, losing three of their last four games. Chicago got blown out in the final two games of a weekend set against Milwaukee by a combined score of 25-2—losing 16-2 on Saturday and 9-0 in Sunday’s finale.

Right-hander Carlos Zambrano allowed seven runs, eight hits and five walks in just four innings to drop to 0-2 with a 5.35 ERA in six starts.

Marshall and Grege Maddux are a combined 7-0 with a 2.47 ERA this season, while the team’s other starters have gone 1-7 with a 6.10 ERA.

Marshall’s control has been key to his success, as he has yet to walk more than three batters in a start. In his first major league road outing, April 14 at Pittsburgh, he allowed four runs and five hits in five innings, walking one and striking out two to earn his first win in an 11-6 Cubs victory.

The Pirates (7-19), owners of the league’s worst record, rebounded from a winless six-game road trip to take two of three games from Philadelphia at home over the weekend, winning 3-1 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday before suffering a 5-1 defeat Sunday.

Left-hander Oliver Perez continued to struggle in the series finale, allowing four runs in 3 2-3 innings to drop to 1-4 with a 7.53 ERA.

“We saw balls thrown all over the place, bounce in the dirt, thrown to the backstop,” Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy said.

Perez, a 12-game winner during a 2004 season in which his 239 strikeouts were fourth in the NL, is 8-9 with a 6.22 ERA in 26 starts since.

The Pirates hope for a better outing from right-hander Victor Santos (1-4, 6.48) in the series opener. Though he’s just 3-4 in his career versus the Cubs, Santos has allowed three runs or less in seven of his eight starts against them.

His last time out versus Chicago, however, came in the 11-6 loss on April 14, when he was beaten by Marshall. Santos lasted just 4 1-3 innings, allowing six runs and 10 hits.

Pittsburgh is just 1-12 on the road and has been outscored 72-46.

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Starting Pitchers

V. Santos SF vs. S. Marshall CIN
5-9 Record 6-9
5.70 ERA 5.59
81 K 77
42 BB 59
1.66 WHIP 1.52