(AP) – The rain-soaked weekend that ended the Chicago Cubs’ most recent homestand with a game cut short and a game postponed before it started, may turn out to benefit the Cubs.
With his start pushed back a day because of the weather, Carlos Zambrano looks to continue his dominance at Great American Ball Park and prevent the surging Reds from winning their fourth in a row.
Zambrano (4-1, 4.35 ERA) was originally slated to square off against San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum in Sunday’s series finale at Wrigley Field, but the game was postponed because of rain 2 1/2 hours before the scheduled first pitch.
Instead of having to pitch at Wrigley, where he is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA, Zambrano will get the chance to continue his remarkable success on the road.
Zambrano has posted a 2.43 ERA in winning his last 10 road games, and has a 0.75 ERA in winning his last five starts at Great American Ball Park. The right-hander is also 7-1 with a 1.56 ERA in his last eight starts against the Reds.
Although Zambrano, who didn’t receive a decision in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to St. Louis after allowing four runs and eight hits in seven innings, has regularly shut down Cincinnati, Chicago (17-21) has had little luck in this series.
The Reds (23-17) took two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley last weekend, and are 14-5 against Chicago since the start of last season, winning all six series.
Jay Bruce has been instrumental to this success. He homered and drove in three runs last weekend, and is batting .440 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in his last seven games in this series.
Bruce and Brandon Phillips each had two-run doubles in the seventh inning in Sunday’s 9-7 win over St. Louis to sweep a three-game series from the Cardinals for the first time since 2007. Cincinnati has won nine of 11 and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis atop the NL Central.
“We just can’t worry about (the Cardinals),” Phillips said. “We have to worry about other teams, too.”
The Cubs, in particular, are likely one team Phillips is worried about.
Phillips is batting .417 with eight RBIs during a six-game hitting streak after going 1 for 11 against the Cubs. In 62 games against Chicago since 2007, Phillips is batting .194, his lowest mark against any NL opponent.
The All-Star second baseman is hitting .209 with 11 strikeouts in 43 career at-bats against Zambrano.
The Reds counter with Homer Bailey (2-0, 0.69), who has had no trouble shutting down Houston after spending the first month of the season on the disabled list.
At Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, Bailey allowed five hits in seven scoreless innings in a 7-3 win. This came five days after he allowed one run in six innings in a 10-4 win over the Astros. The right-hander has stuck out 12 and walked one in 13 innings.
“Slowly but surely, while he’s winning he’s building his endurance and building his confidence,” Dusty Baker said.
Bailey hasn’t had much luck against the Cubs, however, going 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA in four starts, allowing 29 hits and 13 walks in 20 innings.
The Cubs went 3-5 on their just-completed homestand, leaving 45 men on base while going 7-for-43 with runners in scoring position in those defeats.
“My sense is that there were more missed opportunities to score runs than anything else,” Mike Quade said.
Starlin Castro is leading the offense, batting .600 with six RBIs in his last five games after hitting .080 with no RBIs in his previous six.
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