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.

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler won't be making a surprise return to the Cubs next season.

Fowler is closing in on a deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay last week to a one-year deal, pretty much sealing Fowler's future with the Cubs.

In two seasons in Chicago, Fowler batted .261/.367/.427 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and a World Series ring.

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

The Cubs are reportedly on the verge of adding another pitcher who’s notched the final out of a World Series as Theo Epstein’s front office builds out the bullpen for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs are nearing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Koji Uehara, according to Nikkan Sports in Japan, which would open up even more possibilities for the defending champs in front of All-Star closer Wade Davis.

The Cubs made their biggest splash during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland by trading young outfielder Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis, who finished off Game 5 in the 2015 World Series.

Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, the beginning of three straight seasons where he put up 20-plus saves. The Cubs have not confirmed an agreement is in place.

The Cubs needed another lefty presence with Mike Montgomery – the pitcher on the mound when the 108-year drought ended in November – moving to the rotation and Travis Wood likely leaving as a free agent.

Uehara throws right-handed, but he shuts down left-handed hitters (.183 batting average, .555 OPS across 800 at-bats) and has appeared in seven postseason series after a distinguished career in Japan.

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Uehara will turn 42 the day after Opening Day. But an array of relievers should help preserve Uehara, strengthen Carl Edwards Jr. (who’s generously listed at 170 pounds) and maybe prevent the late-season injuries that marginalized Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the playoffs.

“We’re going to try to build up a ton of depth,” Epstein said. “We’re going to try to build up a really talented, deep bullpen with a lot of different options that you can use in close games.

“Instead of three late-game options, it would be ideal if you had five or six. And you could always like who you’re turning to in the ‘pen and not feel the need to use a Rondon four out of five times.

“(We could) use them every other day and occasional back-to-backs. And that would help keep them fresh down the stretch – and help keep them strong in October.”