Miami (53-48) at Chicago (59-42)

Light Snow Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 29° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Thu Jul 24, 2008
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The Chicago Cubs should be relieved to return home. Even if they’re facing the pesky Florida Marlins.

With their ace on the mound, the first-place Cubs look to bounce back from a disappointing road trip while trying to avoid an 11th consecutive loss to the Marlins on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series.

Chicago (59-42) won 10-6 at Arizona to conclude a frustrating 2-4 road trip where they scored four runs in those losses and 19 in the pair of victories.

Despite still owning the NL’s best record, the Cubs hold a one-game lead over surging Milwaukee in the Central Division after leading by 4 1/2 at the All-Star break. Chicago opens a four-game set at Milwaukee on Monday.

“I know we’ve been through stretches when we have a hard time but we’re still playing hard and still playing good baseball,” Wednesday’s winning pitcher Ted Lilly told the Cubs’ official Web site.

While Chicago is 22-30 on the road, it is an NL-best 37-12 at Wrigley, where it will play for the first time since the All-Star break in its first meeting with Florida (53-48) in 2008.

The Marlins, a game behind NL East co-leaders Philadelphia and New York, have dominated the Cubs of late, going 6-0 last season while winning four in a row overall in Chicago. The Cubs last beat Florida 3-1 on April 25, 2006.

Chicago All-Star Alfonso Soriano returned from the disabled list with a broken finger Wednesday. In his first game since June 11, Soriano went 1-for-5 with a double and an RBI. The Cubs went 16-18 during his recent absence.

“I hope I can continue to feel like I did (Wednesday),” Soriano said. “I felt very comfortable at home plate.”

Derrek Lee went 2-for-5 with his first homer since June 20, while Reed Johnson had three hits, including a grand slam to highlight a six-run eighth inning for the Cubs.

Lee has seven homers and 17 RBIs in 20 games against his former Marlins team since being traded to Chicago after the 2003 season.

The Cubs hope returning home will help Carlos Zambrano (10-4, 2.98 ERA) bounce back from his last outing at Houston, where he allowed four runs, six hits and walked a season-high six in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-1 loss on Saturday.

“It’s kind of like when you have a car and the wheels are (wobbling) too much,” Zambrano told the Cubs’ official Web site. “You’ve got to have control of the wheel. My sinker was running a lot.”

The right-hander, who homered in that contest, is 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA in seven starts versus Florida.

The Marlins enter this contest after losing 9-4 to Atlanta to conclude a 3-3 homestand. Jorge Cantu had two hits and Luis Gonzalez hit a three-run homer for Florida, which averaged fewer than four runs in its last six games.

Dan Uggla went 0-for-4 and is 1-for-22 since the break, while fellow All-Star Hanley Ramirez is mired in a 2-for-21 slump.

“We’ve definitely got to turn it up and start playing some better baseball,” said Uggla, who is hitting .302 (13-for-43) with two homers and nine RBIs in 12 career games versus Chicago.

Scott Olsen (6-4, 3.84), who attended high school in north suburban Chicago, tries for a third straight win Thursday for Florida. He received plenty of run support despite allowing three earned runs and eight hits in five innings of a 9-5 win over the Phillies on Saturday.

The left-hander, who is 2-0 with a 4.78 ERA over his last five games since losing at Seattle on June 17, is 1-0 in four starts with a 3.80 ERA against Chicago.

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Starting Pitchers

S. Olsen CWS vs. C. Zambrano Mia
8-11 Record 14-6
4.20 ERA 3.91
113 K 130
69 BB 72
1.31 WHIP 1.29

Scoreboard

Thursday, Jul 24