Cubs

LIVE: Cubs-Padres still scoreless at Wrigley

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LIVE: Cubs-Padres still scoreless at Wrigley

Monday, April 18, 2011Posted: 12:00 PM

Associated Press

Carlos Zambrano has been far from stellar this season, but he still has not lost since June.

The right-hander looks to continue his undefeated run when the Chicago Cubs open a three-game set with the San Diego Padres on Monday night at Wrigley Field.

While Zambrano (2-0, 6.11 ERA) has allowed 12 runs over 17 2-3 innings in his three starts, he's received six runs of support in each of the last two. He gave up five runs in 5 2-3 innings but helped his cause with a solo homer in Chicago's 9-5 win at Houston on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of reasons you win and lose ball games, so there were more reasons for us to win because the club (picks) up Z," manager Mike Quade said.

The three-time All-Star has fared well since being put on the suspended list for a dugout tirade during a loss to the White Sox on June 25, which was also the last time he lost a decision. After a brief stint in the bullpen upon his return, Zambrano is 10-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 14 starts.

Zambrano has rarely had a problem with the Padres, going 7-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 12 starts. He went 1-0 in two starts versus San Diego in 2010, allowing one run over 13 innings.

The Cubs (7-8) hope Zambrano will put them in position to bounce back from Sunday's 9-5 loss at Colorado to conclude a 4-5 trip. Chicago has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.

"We've got some things to clean up, for sure," manager Mike Quade said. "But as far as effort - our guys are playing and getting after it. I'm very optimistic about this club getting better."

Starlin Castro went 7 for 9 with four RBIs in the weekend's last two games to raise his average to .418. The 21-year-old shortstop will try to perform better against the Padres than he did as a rookie last season, when he hit .214 with seven strikeouts in 28 at-bats versus San Diego.

Teammate Marlon Byrd is 1 for 19 over the last four games, but batted .348 in his last six against the Padres in 2010.

The Padres (7-8) will try for a fifth straight win at Wrigley after sweeping a four-game set there Aug. 16-19.

San Diego improved to 4-3 on the road this season Sunday, winning 8-6 to salvage a split of a four-game set in Houston.

Jorge Cantu had a home run and three RBIs and catcher Nick Hundley also homered to help the Padres score more than four runs for only the second time in seven games. Five of San Diego's seven wins have come by either one or two runs.

"I don't know what it is, maybe we were playing a big uphill battle," said closer Heath Bell, who converted his 38th straight save Sunday. "We've got to fight and scratch and claw for every win right now."

Hundley is batting .348 this season, but .115 in eight career games versus Chicago.

Padres' opening day starter Tim Stauffer (0-1, 4.80) takes the mound after he allowed two runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 3-2 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday.

The right-hander has lost both of his career starts against the Cubs - in 2005 and 2010 - but did not receive a single run of support in either outing.

Chicago's series against the Rockies began a stretch of 19 straight games against NL West opponents.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

Mark Schanowski, Mark Carman and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the D'Backs thanks to a surprisingly solid start from Tyler Chatwood. Should the Cubs trust him more than they trust Yu Darvish? Meanwhile, the bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

12:00- The guys preview the huge series against the Dodgers at Wrigley.

16:00- The White Sox lose 2 of 3 in Detroit but Kap is still excited about the future.

20:00- The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs are becoming a fight. So who will win the East? And can anybody even threaten the Warriors?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

After starting the season 2-7 on the road, two weeks without Jon Lester looked like a possible death sentence for the Cubs. Instead, it now looks like a turning point.

Somebody needed to step up. Anybody. Bullpen or rotation, but preferably both. Well, that is exactly what happened and the Cubs are quickly back to the .500 mark at 10-10.

Jose Quintana was the first to accept the challenge, dominating the surprising Pirates with the eleven strikeouts and then seven shutout innings against the lowly Marlins in his next outing. He pitched "like a Porcshe" while attacking batters in both games with precision handling and it was contagious. Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood followed his lead while the bullpen turned around their production, too.

Our stats guru, Chris Kamka, offered up these facts to show the startling improvements.

In the first nine games, the Cubs' team ERA, starter ERA and reliever ERA all ranked 29th or worse in MLB. It's a team game, but it was obvious which part of the team was struggling. Over the last 11 games, everything has changed. Since that opening road trip from Hell, the Cubs have led the majors in all three categories. The relievers have posted a 1.85 ERA and the starters are at a blistering 1.66 ERA with six quality starts since Lester went on the injured list. 

Yes, it's a small sample size in a 162 game season. However, if we're going to overreact to a disastrous start, it's only fair to also hyperbolize this spectacular stretch. We asked for somebody to step-up. The Cubs' pitching staff did just that.    

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