MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—The return of their star slugger wasn’t enough to help the Chicago Cubs avoid a loss against the worst team in the league.
Lee returned to the Cubs’ lineup Monday and went 1-for-4 with a two-run single in Chicago’s 11-6 series-opening loss. Lee, who is batting .260 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 35 games this season, had been on the 15-day disabled list since July 24 with post-traumatic inflammation of his right wrist.
Lee was also on the DL from April 21-June 25 after he fractured two bones in the same wrist.
“I got some good pitches to hit,” he said. “Got some good wood on them, but I wouldn’t exactly say I’m back in the groove quite yet.”
The Cubs (54-77), who have lost eight of nine, own the second-worst record in the NL, ahead of only the Pirates (51-81). Juan Pierre went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs for Chicago on Monday.
The Pirates ended a three-game losing streak by pounding out a season-high 19 hits. Freddy Sanchez had three of those hits to raise his NL-leading batting average to .349. Chris Duffy and Ronny Paulino each added three hits and two RBIs, and Jason Bay homered and drove in three runs.
“Everyone was getting good at bats, putting good wood on the ball,” said Sanchez, whose team bounced back from Sunday’s 13-1 loss to Houston. “It was good to see everyone hitting the ball well. It was one of those nights where everyone was getting good at bats.”
Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano (14-5, 3.31 ERA) will look to hold the Pirates in check on Tuesday. He allowed two runs in seven innings of Thursday’s 11-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, becoming the first 14-game winner in the NL.
Zambrano leads the league with 180 strikeouts, but also leads the majors with 99 walks and 3,125 pitches thrown. He struck out seven and walked just one against Philadelphia.
“If I were to pick one guy right now to start my rotation, that would be my guy,” teammate Phil Nevin said. “He reminds you a lot of Randy (Johnson) when he was young. He didn’t control the strike zone very well, although Carlos does better than Randy did at this age.
“Once he learns to command the strike zone and cut down on walks, there are a lot of things he’s going to do in this game—no hitters, perfect games, Cy Youngs.”
Zambrano has made 14 career appearances, including 12 starts, against the Pirates, going 7-3 with a 3.75 ERA. He gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings of a 6-0 loss to them on Aug. 4.
Pittsburgh counters with Paul Maholm (6-10, 4.82), who allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 5-3 win over the Houston Astros. He bounced back nicely after allowing a career-high seven earned runs in a 14-7 loss at Cincinnati on Aug. 19.
Maholm made his only start against the Cubs on Sept. 28 last season, allowing two runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 victory.