Carlos Zambrano bounced back from two sub-par outings his last time out. He’s endured very few rough starts while pitching in Pittsburgh.
The Chicago ace looks to help the first-place Cubs to a fourth straight victory and continue their dominance over the struggling Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
After giving up 14 earned runs in 10 1-3 innings over his previous two starts, Zambrano (13-5, 3.29 ERA) overcame a sore tooth and four walks to allow a run and six hits in seven innings of Chicago’s 3-2 win over Cincinnati on Thursday - his first victory in four starts.
“I think I’m trying to do too much and I’m trying to be too perfect,” Zambrano told the Cubs’ official Web site. “Any time I’m on the mound, I just want to take my time and make a good pitch and whatever happens, happens.”
While Zambrano has done that more often than not, he continues to be a force at the plate after homering against the Reds to extend his hitting streak to seven games he’s started.
“Carlos is one of those guys who swings the bat like a five or six guy in the lineup, not like a nine-hole guy,” Cincinnati pitcher Josh Fogg said of Zambrano, who is hitting .361 (26-for-72) with four homers and 13 RBIs this season.
Back on the mound, Zambrano looks to continue his success at PNC Park where he is 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 11 starts. The right-hander is 10-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 21 starts overall versus the Pirates, including 1-0 in three outings this season.
Chicago (81-50) had little trouble improving to 12-4 against Pittsburgh this season with a 12-3 rout on Monday night to increase its lead to five games over idle Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Kosuke Fukudome was one of four Cubs with three hits and recorded a career high four RBIs, while Aramis Ramirez hit his third three-run homer in three days. Hitting .161 this month heading into Monday, Fukudome is 4-for-5 with a homer and six RBIs in his last two games.
“He looked pretty impressive to me,” manager Lou Piniella said of Fukudome, who is batting .268 with nine home runs and 53 RBIs in his first major league season. “He’s looking like the hitter he was early in the season.”
Ramirez, meanwhile, is 5-for-12 with three home runs and 10 RBIs over his last three games, while Alfonso Soriano had three hits Monday and is 7-for-15 with three homers and five RBIs against Pittsburgh’s Tuesday starter Ian Snell.
Snell (5-10, 5.60) is coming off his best start of the season after allowing four hits while striking out eight in seven scoreless innings of a 4-1 victory at St. Louis on Tuesday for the club’s most recent win.
“He’s been building toward this and hopefully he can maintain some of it,” Pirates manager John Russell said.
The right-hander, however, is 1-5 with a 6.31 ERA in eight starts against the Cubs and 0-1 in two outings versus them in 2008.
On Monday, Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss homered for Pittsburgh (57-74), which has lost five in a row and nine of 11. LaRoche is 5-for-14 with two homers in his last four games, while Moss is 4-for-11 with two home runs - one off Zambrano - against the Cubs this season.