Before the 2007 season began, Chicago Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano predicted he would win this year’s NL Cy Young Award. A month and a half into the season, though, the New York Mets’ John Maine is looking more like the frontrunner.
Zambrano and Maine square off Tuesday night at Shea Stadium when the Cubs and Mets continue their four-game series.
Last season, Zambrano (3-3, 5.83 ERA) tied for the league lead with 16 wins, and his 210 strikeouts were fourth-best in the NL. The Cubs (17-19) rewarded their two-time All-Star with a $12.4 million, one-year deal in late March, and Zambrano said in return he would win this season’s Cy Young.
The right-hander has hardly looked like one of the top pitchers in the league, though, allowing four or more runs in five of his eight stats and yielding a league-high 10 home runs.
He was tagged for six runs - four earned - and seven hits in six innings of a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
“It’s not frustration,” he said. “I don’t know that word, for real. It’s like when you’re married, you don’t talk to your wife about divorce.”
Zambrano won both of his starts over the Mets last season, allowing seven runs in 13 innings in those games. He’s 2-1 with a 4.76 ERA in four games - three starts - in his career against them.
While Zambrano is off to a slow start, Maine (5-0, 1.79) has been outstanding thus far.
Maine has the third-best ERA in the NL, and his .188 opponent batting average is fifth-best in the league. The NL East-leading Mets (24-13) have won all seven times Maine has pitched this season, and he’s allowed two or fewer runs in six of those outings.
One day after his 26th birthday, the right-hander gave up three runs and five hits in six innings of Wednesday’s 5-3 win over San Francisco, but did not factor in the decision. He had allowed two runs in 20 2-3 innings in winning his previous three starts before Wednesday.
Maine pitched very well in his only start against the Cubs last season, giving up just three hits in seven innings of New York’s 1-0, 10-inning victory last July 26 at Shea Stadium.
The Mets overcame a 4-0 deficit after two innings to win for the fifth time in six games, and for the ninth time in their last 12 overall.
“We just kept grinding it out. We never give up,” manager Willie Randolph said.
David Wright went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and is batting .429 (12-for-28) with two home runs, four doubles and six RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
The Cubs have lost four of their last five games after winning nine of their previous 11.
First baseman Derrek Lee missed Monday’s game because of neck spasms, and traveled back to Chicago for tests. Manager Lou Piniella said the injury isn’t serious, though, and he expects Lee, who leads the majors with a .390 batting average, to be back for this game.
Alfonso Soriano is just 2-for-13 (.154) in his career against Maine, but both of those hits have been home runs.