In a season in which no NL pitcher has stood above the rest, a starter that will not come close to reaching 20 wins and plays for the league’s worst team could win the Cy Young Award.
Zambrano (16-6, 3.63 ERA) looks to set a career high in wins and take over the league lead. He’s tied with Derek Lowe and Brad Penny of the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as Arizona’s Brandon Webb, who leads the NL with a 2.88 ERA. Zambrano ranks fifth in that category, and is fourth with 201 strikeouts—one shy of his career high.
“I have good numbers,” said Zambrano, second in the league with a .211 opponents batting average. “My ERA is a little higher than Webb and (Chris) Carpenter. Everything else is there. I can be a good contender.”
Control problems and not pitching deep into many games may hurt Zambrano’s cause. He does not rank among the top 15 in innings (207) and has not thrown a complete game in 32 starts, partly because of his major league-leading 111 walks.
If contributions at the plate had anything to do with the award, Zambrano’s chances would be greatly enhanced. The right-hander, whose 11 RBIs are five more than the rest of Chicago’s pitching staff combined, hit his sixth homer of the season in an 11-4 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday.
If he homers Friday, Zambrano will break a tie with Ferguson Jenkins for the single-season franchise record among pitchers.
“I will do the same that I’ve been doing this year,” he said. “I won’t try to swing hard, especially since I’m coming (back) from a back injury. I want to finish strong and come next year ready.”
Since missing two weeks earlier this month with a sore back, Zambrano has made two starts and beat Cincinnati in both, allowing four runs and striking out 13 in 14 innings.
He has not faced the Rockies this year, and is 1-3 with a 3.24 ERA in six starts against them.
Zambrano has been one of the few bright spots on a Cubs team which is tied with Pittsburgh for the NL’s worst record. He’s also the only one still in the rotation among Chicago’s top four projected starters to open the season—Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are hurt, and Greg Maddux was traded.
The Cubs (65-94), though, are coming off a two-game sweep of Milwaukee at Wrigley Field and have won four in a row at home.
The Rockies (74-85) have lost 16 of 19 on the road, part of the reason they are in the NL West basement.
Colorado was swept at home in a three-game set with the Dodgers this week, losing 19-11 in the finale Thursday.
Josh Fogg (10-9, 5.62) will wrap up a mediocre first season with Colorado. He’ll finish with the highest ERA of his five-year career.
The right-hander did win his most recent outing, giving up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-4 victory over Atlanta last Friday. He had been 0-2 with a 13.05 ERA in his previous five starts.
Fogg won his only start against the Cubs this season, improving to 5-7 with a 6.10 ERA in 18 starts against them.
Cubs center fielder Juan Pierre is 12-for-24 against Fogg, and is one hit shy of reaching 200 for the fourth time in his career.