Chicago (24-29) at Houston (20-34)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Fri Jun 4, 2010
  • TV: WGN, FSH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Carlos Zambrano’s(notes) anticipated return to the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation was delayed because a rain storm in Pittsburgh left PNC Park unplayable.

The Houston Astros probably wish the teams could have got that game in.

Scheduled to make his first start in six weeks, Zambrano will face one of his favorite opponents Friday night when the Cubs open a three-game series against an Astros team seeking its fourth straight victory.

Zambrano (1-3, 6.12 ERA) anchored Chicago’s rotation for the past several years, but management decided after his fourth start of 2010 that the right-hander could better serve the team by stabilizing a shaky bullpen.

The boisterous pitcher was displeased with the move, and vowed he would be back in the rotation.

With Tom Gorzelanny(notes) coming off another rough outing, the Cubs (24-29) decided now was the time for the three-time All-Star to return to his role of staff ace.

Zambrano, who hasn’t started since yielding two runs and six hits while striking out nine in six innings of a 4-0 loss to the New York Mets on April 20, was slated to take the mound in Wednesday’s series finale against Pittsburgh, but the game was postponed until Monday due to unplayable field conditions.

This pushes Zambrano’s start back a day, meaning he’ll face a Houston team he has limited to one run or fewer in 11 of his last 15 starts, including a no-hitter Sept. 14, 2008. His 2.54 ERA in 29 career games against the Astros is his lowest against any NL opponent.

The Cubs, who haven’t played since Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Pirates, will likely need another strong outing from Zambrano considering how the offense is struggling.

Chicago has totaled four runs in losing its last three, and has plated two runs or fewer in five of six.

“We’re not doing the job right now,” Alfonso Soriano(notes) told the Cubs’ official website. “We got to get better and score some runs, and we’re not getting the hit when we need it.”

Soriano, Chicago’s most consistent hitter with a .299 batting average and a team-high nine home runs, is 8 for 19 (.421) with a homer and five RBIs in his last six games against the Astros.

Houston (20-34) enters this series having won three straight, and is coming off a thrilling 6-4 win over Washington on Thursday.

After giving up two runs in the top of the ninth to fall behind 4-3, the Astros rallied for three in the bottom of the ninth, capped by Carlos Lee’s(notes) game-ending, two-run homer.

“That’s important going forward,” Lance Berkman(notes) said. “We’ve got to believe that no matter what the circumstances are, we have a chance to win it.”

Houston, which has scored the second-fewest runs in the majors with 174, is showing signs of turning things around, plating 19 runs during the winning streak.

Houston’s unstable offense is a big reason Felipe Paulino(notes) (0-7, 4.40) is still seeking his first win of the season.

Paulino is pitching well, allowing two runs or fewer in four of five starts, but he’s been backed by a major league-worst 1.97 run-support average. The right-hander has received zero runs of support over 14 innings in his last two starts, and has been backed by one run or fewer in seven of his last eight outings.

One of Paulino’s worst performances of the season came against the Cubs on April 15, when he gave up five runs and six hits in six innings of a 7-2 loss. That was Houston’s only loss in a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Zambrano Phi vs. F. Paulino Bos
11-6 Record 1-9
3.33 ERA 5.11
117 K 83
69 BB 46
1.45 WHIP 1.54


Friday, Jun 4