The right-hander tries to continue his summer surge and help the Cubs get back on the winning track when they continue their four-game set with the Giants at Wrigley Field on Wednesday afternoon.
After tying his career high with 16 wins in 2006, Zambrano (11-7, 3.83 ERA) got off to a slow start this season. He went 5-5 with a 5.62 ERA through his first 12 starts, a stretch which culminated with a loss to Atlanta on June 1, when he fought with then-Cubs catcher Michael Barrett in the dugout and clubhouse.
Zambrano has been phenomenal since, going 6-2 with a 1.55 ERA and a .144 opponents batting average in his last eight outings - all quality starts. He is also increasing his stock for possible free agency at season’s end.
“I’m pitching good. I think I want to focus more on baseball. The contract I know will come if I do a good job,” said Zambrano, who indicated Monday he hopes to remain with the Cubs.
Against Houston on Friday, Zambrano limited the Astros to three hits and three walks while striking out seven in 6 2-3 innings of Chicago’s 6-0 victory. That contest was the first of four straight wins for the Cubs (48-44) coming out of the All-Star break - a run which ended with a 4-2 loss to the Giants (39-52) on Tuesday night.
The defeat dropped Chicago 4 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Cubs also failed to improve to six games over .500 for the first time since June 11, 2005, when they were 33-27.
Dave Roberts forced in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk in the top of the eighth inning to help San Francisco snap its five-game losing streak.
The walk to Roberts came two batters after Bonds lined out to left in a pinch-hitting appearance. Bonds, who did not play in Monday’s series opener while resting his sore legs, extended his hitless streak to 21 at-bats - two shy of the longest drought of his career, set during his 1986 rookie season.
He also has not homered since July 3 against Cincinnati and remains stuck at 751 career home runs, four behind Hank Aaron’s all-time record.
Bonds, who will likely be held out of the starting lineup for one more day Wednesday, got booed lustily in his first at-bat at Wrigley this year.
“That’s baseball. The crowd, that’s what they’re supposed to do,” Bonds said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting. Everybody gets pumped up for it. What can you say? If there is that kind of excitement to a stadium you’ve got to be doing something right.”
Catcher Jason Kendall, making his Cubs debut after being acquired from Oakland in a Monday trade, went 0-for-3 and made a pair of defensive miscues but also appreciated the Wrigley fans after receiving a standing ovation before his first at-bat.
“You get chills. I don’t care how long you’ve been playing,” Kendall said. “It’s special. It’s something I’ll remember. Very, very cool.”
Giants starter Matt Cain (3-10, 3.53) continues to pitch better than his record would indicate. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but received no run support en route to a 9-1 defeat.
San Francisco has scored a total of 10 runs for Cain in his 10 losses this season.
Cain was dominant in winning his only start at Wrigley, allowing one unearned run and four hits while striking out seven in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-2 victory on Sept. 2. That was his most recent appearance versus the Cubs, improving to 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in three career starts against them.