After struggling for much of the season, the Chicago Cubs’ offense appears to be breaking out of its funk.
The Cubs look to build off one of their best offensive games of the season and win three in a row for the first time in four weeks when they continue a three-game series against the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Chicago (29-26) defeated the Astros 7-1 in Tuesday’s series opener and has scored 13 runs in winning its last two games after plating 15 in its previous five. The Cubs are 13th in the NL in runs (244) after leading the league in scoring (855) en route to a second consecutive NL Central crown last season.
Derrek Lee(notes) went 2 for 3 with three walks and two runs and is hitting .375 (12 for 32) with five RBIs and a .513 on-base percentage during a season-high eight-game hitting streak. The Cubs first baseman is 12 for 24 with two home runs, three doubles and six walks lifetime versus scheduled starter Wandy Rodriguez(notes) (5-5, 2.97 ERA).
On Friday, Zambrano allowed two hits, five walks and struck out seven in 6 2-3 shutout innings in a 2-1 win over Cincinnati for his 100th career victory.
Thirteen of his wins have come over the Astros.
At Houston on opening day, Zambrano gave up one run and five hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 4-2 win, improving to 8-2 with a 1.96 ERA in his last 13 starts against the Astros. The three-time All-Star threw a no-hitter against the Astros on Sept. 14 and has yielded one run or fewer in nine of his last 13 versus them.
The Astros were limited to five hits Tuesday after batting .309 in winning six of their previous eight.
Lance Berkman(notes) hit his 299th career homer and is 8 for 23 (.348) with four home runs and six RBIs in his last six games against the Cubs. He’s not had the same success against Zambrano, though, batting just .154 (10 for 65) with four home runs, 18 strikeouts and 15 walks lifetime versus him.
After an outstanding start to the season, Rodriguez looks to break out of his recent slump.
On May 20, Rodriguez’s 1.83 ERA was second-best in the NL, but he’s since dropped to 10th. He’s yielded 18 runs - 12 earned - in 13 2-3 innings in losing his last three starts after allowing only 13 runs over 59 innings in his first nine.
On Thursday, the left-hander was tagged for a season-high seven runs and 10 hits - including four home runs - in five innings of a 10-3 loss to Colorado.
“I’m missing location, I’m getting behind in the count, I need to throw first strikes,” Rodriguez said. “My arm is all right. Everything feels strong. I don’t know what’s happening.”
Rodriguez made his first start of the season against the Cubs on April 7, permitting one run and four hits in six innings of a 3-2, 10-inning win. He’s 2-0 with a 0.98 ERA in four home starts versus Chicago since 2006.