Carlos Zambrano never got the chance to begin earning his new contract in his last start. The right-hander gets another opportunity to do just that Thursday afternoon as the Chicago Cubs look to complete a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
Two days after signing a five-year, $91.5 million extension with the Cubs, Zambrano (14-9, 3.86 ERA) took the mound Sunday against St. Louis. The game, however, was postponed by rain after the Chicago ace retired all nine batters he faced.
Although his performance didn’t count in the statistics, it was in stark contrast to his two previous starts, when he allowed 13 runs and 21 hits in 12 2-3 innings.
“Oh way better. Yeah,” Zambrano said after the rainout. “I was throwing the ball where I wanted and I was feeling good with all my pitches today and it was going to be a good game today.”
Zambrano - one win behind NL leader Tim Hudson of Atlanta - pitched five scoreless innings in a 12-1 win over the Giants at Wrigley Field on July 18. He is 4-0 with a 2.98 ERA in six career starts against San Francisco, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the last three.
Ryan Klesko is one of the few Giants who has had success against Zambrano. He is 5-for-11 with a home run.
The Cubs (65-60) scored two unearned runs in the 10th inning and moved back into sole possession of first place in the NL Central on Wednesday with a 4-2 victory.
Cliff Floyd, who had a go-ahead two-run single in the ninth inning Tuesday, led off the 10th with a double. Pinch-runner Felix Pie moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when shortstop Rich Aurilia misplayed Jason Kendall’s sharp grounder.
“I got the barrel of the bat on it,” said Kendall, who admitted he was looking for a sacrifice fly. “I tried to elevate it and didn’t. Fortunately enough we got a good kick.”
Aramis Ramirez had a two-run double for the Cubs, who have won five of six to move one game ahead of Milwaukee in the Central.
“Floyd got us going,” manager Lou Piniella said. “When you’re playing aggressive, good things can happen. It was a good win for us.”
The Giants (55-72) lost their sixth straight at home, matching a season high. They haven’t dropped seven consecutive home games since an eight-game skid from Sept 7-15, 1993. The final three losses came to the Cubs, marking the last time they swept a three-game series in San Francisco.
Matt Cain (5-13, 3.78) looks to continue his run of solid outings for the Giants. Despite his unimpressive won-loss record, the right-hander has pitched very well lately. He is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in his past five starts, walking seven and striking out 35.
Cain was sharp for seven innings to beat Florida in a 4-3 victory on Saturday, giving up three runs - two on his first eight pitches - and six hits while walking one and striking out seven.
Cain was matched up against Zambrano on July 18 in Chicago and was tagged for six runs, four hits and five walks in four innings of the 12-1 loss. He is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs.