Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted: 10:09 a.m.
The emotional Carlos Zambrano experienced a wild 2010 season - even by his standards.
Zambrano hopes to carry over the success he had down the stretch last season for the Cubs when he takes the ball Saturday against a Pittsburgh Pirates team that looks to continue to frustrate Chicago.
After Zambrano made the last six opening day starts for the Cubs, new manager Mike Quade decided to give the ball to Ryan Dempster on Friday. Dempster pitched well early and Chicago led 2-0 after four innings, but Pittsburgh's Neil Walker hit a grand slam in the fifth to put the Pirates ahead.
Andrew McCutchen then hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Dempster, and the Pirates won 6-3 at a rainy Wrigley Field.
"It's definitely good confidence builder for us," Walker said. "It's a good win to come into somebody else's opening day and steal a win."
Pittsburgh won its fifth straight season opener and continued to make things difficult for Chicago.
Despite going a major league-worst 57-105 in 2010 and suffering an 18th straight losing season, the Pirates were 10-5 against the Cubs.
Walker and McCutchen have been instrumental to this success.
Walker is hitting .467 with four homers and 11 RBIs in seven games against the Cubs since the start of last season, while McCutchen is batting .446 with 12 RBIs, 14 runs and a .530 on-base percentage in 15 games. McCutchen is also 5 for 7 with a triple and double lifetime against Zambrano.
"The kid Walker is a nice player and McCutchen is who he is," Quade said. "We got to figure out how to get them out better."
Zambrano finished last season 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA - his lowest ERA since 3.26 in 2005 - and always seemed to be in the headlines.
The passionate right-hander had a 7.45 ERA after four starts and was quickly banished to the bullpen. An embarrassing dugout skirmish in June led to a trip to the restricted list and anger-management counseling.
Zambrano managed to put all this behind him, however, and went 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his final 10 starts to knock more than two runs off his ERA.
The three-time All-Star, who often gets flustered when things don't go his way on the mound, is hoping to carry the mindset that he showed down the stretch of last season into 2011.
"My job here is to pitch, and not to criticize or do any other thing," he told the Cubs' official website. "Just pitch."
Zambrano made his lone start against the Pirates last season on Aug. 30, allowing one run in 5 1-3 innings of a 14-2 win. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his last 10 starts against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates counter with Paul Maholm, who went 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA in 32 starts last season. Maholm's ERA was the fifth-worst in the majors among qualifying pitchers and his .303 opponents' batting average was the worst.
The left-hander could run into trouble against a Chicago team that had 11 hits Thursday, led by Starlin Castro's three.
Maholm recorded a 2.25 ERA in winning his first three starts of the 2010 season against the Cubs, before being knocked around for eight runs in 3 1-3 innings in that loss at Wrigley Field on Aug. 30.
Despite owning a 6.42 career ERA against the Cubs - his second-worst against any NL opponent - Maholm is 7-2 lifetime versus Chicago.
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