An inconsistent offense has been one of the biggest reasons for the Chicago Cubs’ slow start to 2009. In early May, they’re finally starting to resemble the team that boasted a fearsome lineup a year ago.
The Cubs look to build off another solid performance and win their third straight Sunday when they wrap up their four-game series against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.
After beating Florida 8-6 on Friday to get back to .500, Chicago (12-11) won 6-1 on Saturday. The Cubs, who were second in the majors with 855 runs scored last season, had combined to score only two in losing their previous two games.
“It’s good to put two good games together,” manager Lou Piniella told the Cubs’ official Web site. “You need consistency over a period of eight to 10 games. Let’s hope this is the start of us swinging the bats and putting some runs on the board.”
Ryan Theriot homered for the second consecutive day and Derrek Lee added a solo shot for Chicago, which had lost seven of nine before winning the last two. Theriot, who also tripled, had gone 620 at-bats without a homer before his grand slam Friday.
“He’s on a power streak,” Lee said of the shortstop. “I told him before the game they come in bunches, and sure enough, he hit one out of here.”
While Theriot’s homers have been a surprise, the Cubs are hoping Lee’s homer is a sign of things to come.
Lee’s home run, his second of the season, marked just his second RBI in his last 10 games - less than ideal production from somebody batting in the cleanup spot while Aramis Ramirez nurses a left calf strain. Piniella said he’s hopeful Ramirez will return to the lineup “very soon.”
Before Sunday’s game, the Cubs will honor two of the best pitchers in franchise history by retiring No. 31, which was worn by both Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Jenkins won 167 games in 10 seasons with the Cubs, while Maddux recorded 133 victories during his 10-year career on Chicago’s North Side.
Another prominent Cubs pitcher will be in the spotlight Sunday, as Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 4.64 ERA) takes the ball seeking his 99th career victory.
Bouncing back from a couple of subpar outings, the right-hander gave up three runs and eight hits in seven innings of an 11-3 win over Arizona on Thursday.
Zambrano is 4-0 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts versus the Marlins since 2003. He hasn’t lost to Florida since July 1, 2002 - his second career start.
The Marlins (14-10) managed only five hits Saturday to drop their second in a row after winning their previous three.
Hanley Ramirez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first start since being hit on the right hand against the New York Mets on Monday. The Florida shortstop is 2-for-10 with a homer lifetime against Zambrano.
Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 6.92) again seeks his first win since defeating Washington on opening day.
The right-hander has yielded at least four runs in four of his five starts. He gave up four runs and six hits in five innings of a 7-4 road loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday, but did not factor in the decision.
Nolasco, originally drafted by the Cubs in 2001, is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in two career games - one start - against Chicago, but both of those appearances came in his 2006 rookie season.