Zambrano looks to win his fifth straight decision and sixth in a row at Miller Park in a matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.
It seemed likely that Chicago (60-80) would try to trade Zambrano (7-6, 4.23 ERA) after his June suspension following a dugout incident involving former teammate Derrek Lee(notes). The right-hander had a 5.66 ERA at the time of his ban, and has two years left on a $91.5 million contract signed during the 2007 season.
Since returning to the rotation Aug. 9, Zambrano has gone 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six starts. He’s won his last three outings by striking out 23 and walking seven, and beat New York 5-3 on Saturday by allowing two runs over seven innings.
“To me, he seems a little calmer,” interim manager Mike Quade told the Cubs’ official website. “Inside, there’s no calm, because it’s ‘Z.’ If he attacks the strike zone with a good live fastball, he usually has good results.”
Zambrano has not lost at Miller Park since August 2006, going 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last six starts. That includes his no-hitter against Houston on Sept. 14, 2008, a game moved to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike.
Zambrano hasn’t lost to the Brewers since August 2007, going 2-0 with a 2.94 ERA in his last eight outings against them.
Hart has gone 9 for 21 over the last five games with two multihomer efforts in that span. The Brewers (65-74), though, lost both of those games while winning the other three.
Milwaukee leads the NL with 163 homers and has had five players reach 20 for the third time in four seasons. Ryan Braun hit his 20th in an 8-1 win over St. Louis on Wednesday.
Braun is hitting .403 with four homers and 20 RBIs in his last 32 games.
“Twenty is not a very significant number for me,” Braun told MLB.com. “It’s better than 19, but we still have 20-plus games left, so I’ll continue to compete every day.”
The Cubs finished their first homestand under Quade with a 5-4 mark after a 4-0 loss to the Astros on Wednesday.
The third baseman has two hits in his last 11 at-bats against Dave Bush(notes) (7-11, 4.71), who is 2-9 with a 5.62 ERA in 18 starts against Chicago. Bush has gone 0-5 with a 7.63 ERA in his last eight home outings versus the Cubs.
The right-hander yielded three runs over six innings and did not get a decision in a 5-4 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday.