They’ll now turn to Carlos Zambrano in a bid to extend their NL Central lead Tuesday when they continue their four-game set against the Brewers at Miller Park.
Chicago (62-46) doubled its margin atop the division Monday with a 6-4 victory to take a two-game lead in the Central. The Cubs scratched out four runs against CC Sabathia, who had allowed six combined in winning his first four starts with the Brewers (60-48), then pulled out the victory in the ninth when Derrek Lee snapped a 4-all tie with an RBI double off Milwaukee closer Salomon Torres.
“The way we’ve been playing, we just needed a win. Period,” said Lee, whose team had squandered a five-game All-Star break lead before gaining back two games the past two days. “On the road, it makes it even better.”
Zambrano (11-4, 2.96 ERA) will try to feed off that momentum as he seeks his fourth win in five starts. The hard-throwing right-hander threw 125 pitches Thursday against Florida, limiting the Marlins to two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory. Despite the high pitch count, he lasted deep into the game by not walking a batter after issuing six in a loss to Houston in his previous start.
Zambrano, who is 9-8 in 22 lifetime appearances against Milwaukee, has limited the Brewers to one run in 13 innings over two starts this season without a decision. He matched zeros over 6 2-3 innings with Ben Sheets (10-3, 2.87) - Milwaukee’s scheduled starter Tuesday - to open the season March 31, then watched his bullpen squander a two-run, ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 defeat May 1.
Zambrano, who is 21-for-59 (.356) at the plate with two homers and eight RBIs this season, is 5-for-14 lifetime against Sheets, and Lee is 16-for-49 (.327) with six homers and 12 RBIs.
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun homered Monday, continuing a torrid surge dating to the All-Star break. He is 20-for-45 (.444) with six homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.022 slugging percentage in his last 11 games. Braun is also 4-for-12 with a homer lifetime versus Zambrano.
Milwaukee has lost three of four after going undefeated on a seven-game road trip to start the second half of the season.
“You have to make the opposition earn it by hitting their way on, not walking guys and having defensive miscues in the field,” manager Ned Yost told the Brewers’ official Web site. “That’s what ended up getting us.”
The Brewers will try to regroup behind Sheets, who was bailed out of a loss his last time out. The right-hander yielded three runs in seven innings Thursday at St. Louis, before the Brewers rallied for a 4-3 victory.
Sheets has won his last three decisions versus the Cubs, against whom he is 10-7 with a 3.76 ERA in 24 lifetime starts.
Yost may keep Bill Hall - 7-for-38 (.184) with 17 strikeouts against Zambrano - out of the lineup, though his potential replacement, Russell Branyan, has fared little better against the right-hander - batting .156 (5-for-32) with 15 strikeouts.