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(AP) – Disappointing seasons for the White Sox and Cubs fans can gain some excitement as the two teams square off six times against each other in the next two weeks.
Carlos Zambrano has had plenty of temperamental moments with the Cubs, including one that he’s perhaps still trying to recover from.
The right-hander will next return to the site of arguably his most high-profile outburst when his team travels across town to face the White Sox for the first time this season Monday night.
It’s been a little more than two weeks since Zambrano (5-4, 4.59 ERA) called the Cubs’ play “embarrassing” and “like a Triple-A team” amid a season-worst, eight-game skid. He also questioned closer Carlos Marmol’s decision making during a loss to rival St. Louis on June 5.
He later apologized for those statements but hasn’t helped his club lately with an 8.76 ERA in consecutive defeats.
“I have to keep my head up and keep pitching,” the right-hander told the team’s website.
In his previous game at U.S. Cellular Field on June 25, Zambrano gave up four runs after one inning and had to be separated from former teammate Derrek Lee during an ensuring dugout tirade. The Cubs (29-42) suspended their starter the next day and made him undergo anger management.
When he returned to the team July 31, Zambrano made three appearances out of the bullpen before rejoining the rotation and producing a stellar finish to the season, going 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in 11 starts.
Zambrano, though, is 0-2 with a 7.43 ERA in his last three games against the White Sox, who will try to continue moving closer to .500 after being 11 games under on May 6.
The White Sox (35-38) were also 11 games behind AL Central-leading Cleveland on that day after losing 18 of 22 but have whittled that deficit to 5 1/2 games with the Indians having struggled of late.
After scoring two runs over three straight defeats, the White Sox had a combined 14 in consecutive wins in Arizona, including an 8-2 victory Sunday that came after manager Ozzie Guillen passed a kidney stone.
Paul Konerko, batting .441 with nine home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 18 games, went deep for the third straight contest. Alex Rios hit his second in as many games, and A.J. Pierzynski doubled twice and drove in three runs.
That performance has Guillen hoping his team is ready for what he deemed a postseason-style series.
“When the games start against the Cubs, it’s a different ball game,” he said. “Chicago’s looking for this game and obviously the rivalry is there. You’ve got to step it up a notch because that’s as close as you come to the playoffs.”
The Cubs, meanwhile, have suffered back-to-back defeats after winning four of five. Alfonso Soriano’s third-inning homer gave them a three-run lead Sunday night against the New York Yankees but they allowed nine unanswered runs in a 10-4 defeat.
The chances for a quick turnaround don’t appear promising as they’ve dropped nine of 11 away from home, 11 of 15 to the White Sox and seven of their past nine games on the city’s south side.
The Cubs will also face Gavin Floyd (6-6, 3.94), who is 5-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 11 interleague starts. He has a 1.20 ERA in his two outings in the crosstown rivalry but received his only decision when he was on the wrong end of a 1-0 game at Wrigley Field last June.
The right-hander is 1-3 with a 4.08 ERA in his last five appearances and gave up a season-high 11 hits over eight innings during a 4-1 loss in Minnesota on Wednesday.
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