Cubs

LIVE: Zambrano goes deep, Cubs lead 6-5

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LIVE: Zambrano goes deep, Cubs lead 6-5

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Posted: 11:37 a.m.
Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs were counting on Carlos Zambrano to carry over his success from the end of last season into 2011.

While he hasn't been as sharp as the Cubs likely would have hoped, Zambrano's lengthy streak of winning decisions remains alive.

Seeking a career-best 10th consecutive victory, Zambrano takes the mound Wednesday night as the visiting Cubs and Houston Astros conclude their three-game set.

After going 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA over his last 10 starts of 2010, Zambrano (1-0, 5.25 ERA) brought high hopes into this year.

While Zambrano has been shaky at times in his first two outings, surrendering seven earned runs over 12 innings, the Cubs are 2-0 when the three-time All-Star takes the mound.

Despite allowing four runs in six innings of Friday's 7-4 victory at Milwaukee, the right-hander earned his ninth straight winning decision - matching the longest run of his career from June 5-July 30, 2006.

"I'm keeping the streak going," Zambrano, who has recorded a 1.91 ERA en route to winning seven straight road starts, told the Cubs' official website. "It's about winning."

The 29-year-old Zambrano has experienced plenty of that against the Astros (3-8) lately, going 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his last six starts in the series - including a no-hitter Sept. 14, 2008, at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Zambrano is 13-8 with a 2.65 ERA in 29 career starts versus the Astros.

Houston's Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 6.55) seemed to settle down in his last start after giving up seven runs in four innings a 9-4 loss at Philadelphia on April 2.

Rodriguez allowed one run and eight hits over seven innings of Friday's 4-3 loss to Florida.

"You see how Wandy threw, he threw amazing," first baseman Brett Wallace said. "He went out there and gave us a great chance to win. Our defense played well behind him, for the most part. Next time, we can hopefully put up a few more runs."

Scoring wasn't an issue for Houston on Tuesday night, when it recorded its highest run total of the season in an 11-2 win over Chicago (5-6).

Houston collected at least 10 hits for a fifth consecutive game for the first time since May 1-5, 2009, and raised its home batting average to .339.

Michael Bourn, Angel Sanchez and Hunter Pence combined to go 9 for 15 with seven runs scored and seven RBIs hitting 1-2-3 in the Astros' lineup.

"Bourn and Sanchez are doing an outstanding job," Pence said. "It feels like every at-bat I've got runners everywhere. It feels good. When they're doing that the offense is coming around and that's a good ball game when they're doing that."

Rodriguez, who has gone 2-0 while allowing no more than one run in each of his last five home starts against the Cubs, hasn't faced Chicago at Minute Maid Park since opposing Zambrano in a 2-1 Astros win June 10, 2009. Neither pitcher factored in the decision.

The left-hander went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts against Chicago at Wrigley Field last season.

Houston outfielder Carlos Lee is hitting .379 (22 for 58) with five home runs against Zambrano. He is the only Astros player to have homered off the Venezuela native.

Chicago outfielder Alfonso Soriano, 2 for 14 over his last four games, is 2 for 26 (.077) with eight strikeouts lifetime against Rodriguez.

After going 3 for 5 in Monday's 5-4 win in the series opener, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro extended his hitting streak to five games with two more hits Tuesday.

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

Ken Rosenthal: Giants viewed as top-bidder for Nicholas Castellanos

Ken Rosenthal: Giants viewed as top-bidder for Nicholas Castellanos

As the budget-conscious Cubs figure out their 2020 payroll, an NL West team has emerged in the race to sign free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subcription required), a team interested in Castellanos views the Giants as the top-bidder for the outfielder's services.

The Giants recently named Cubs front office assistant Scott Harris as their general manager, so San Francisco has some ties to Castellanos. The Giants 2020 luxury tax payroll is currently projected to be $186 million (per Roster Resource) so they could sign Castellanos without going over MLB's $208 million threshold.

Castellanos was a stellar addition last season after the Cubs acquired him at the trade deadline. He posted a .321/.356/.646 line with 16 home runs and 21 doubles in 51 games. That performance upped the 27-year-old's value entering free agency.

The Cubs are looking to get under the luxury tax threshold to avoid being penalized a second straight season. Signing Castellanos would complicate this, but the Cubs are still pursuing him, as they could potentially sign him and clear payroll in a corresponding move.

But if it turns into a bidding war, the Cubs may find themselves unable to bring Castellanos back.

Padres connected to Willson Contreras, but asking price is 'absurd'

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USA TODAY

Padres connected to Willson Contreras, but asking price is 'absurd'

If the Cubs trade any of their core position players this offseason, the expectation is they'll receive top-of-the-line prospects and/or controllable, impact big-league players in return.

Tuesday, ESPN's Jeff Passan appeared on NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan's radio show — Kap & Company. According to Passan, the Padres have been connected to Willson Contreras, but the Cubs' asking price for the catcher is "absurd."

The Padres are looking to add a starting catcher and have one of MLB's top farm systems. They'd be a solid trade partner for Contreras, but the Cubs aren't going to trade him if they deem the return package to be inadequate.

From the Cubs' perspective, it makes sense to ask for an "absurd" package for Contreras. He's 27, a back-to-back All-Star starter, under contract through 2022 and only projected to make $4.5 million next season.

The Cubs don't need to deal Contreras this winter, but they'd be foolish not to listen to any inquiries for him — or any of their core players. They can always say no, but there's the chance they get blown away by an offer, too. 

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