Cubs-Giants Preview

A series against the Chicago Cubs may be what the stumbling San
Francisco Giants need to get back on track, but they probably
aren’t looking forward to facing Carlos Zambrano.

Zambrano makes his first start in more than a month as the
volatile right-hander leads the Cubs into a four-game road series
against the Giants on Monday night.

San Francisco (63-49) has scored nine runs while dropping four
of five and trails NL West-leading San Diego by two games while
leading Philadelphia by one-half game for the wild card. The Giants
lost three of four at Atlanta over the weekend, falling 6-3 on
Sunday.

“We’ve had rough stretches before and have battled back and
found ways to win games,” said first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who
homered Sunday.

The struggling offense could get some help by facing the lowly
Cubs (47-64), who have lost 10 of 11 and were swept by Cincinnati
over the weekend. Chicago has a 7.47 ERA over those 11 games,
losing 11-4 on Sunday.

“Spiraling out of control? We need to turn it around, no
question,” said manager Lou Piniella, who will not be with the team
during this series while attending to his ill mother. “It’s no fun
to go out there and get beat. … We’ve got San Francisco, we’ve
got St. Louis and then we’ve got San Diego and then Atlanta. We
better be up to the challenge to play better.”

While his team isn’t in a playoff race, Zambrano (3-6, 5.61 ERA)
is still facing a lot of pressure as he tries to redeem himself
during what has been a disappointing season. Zambrano got into an
altercation with Derrek Lee during a June 25 dugout meltdown and
was placed on the restricted list while he underwent
anger-management therapy.

The right-hander has made three relief appearances since being
activated, giving up two runs and six hits in 3 2-3 innings. His
return to the rotation comes because Chicago is short-handed after
Ted Lilly was traded and Carlos Silva was placed on the 15-day
disabled list.

Zambrano, the Cubs’ opening day starter who was demoted to the
bullpen in April after struggling in his first four starts, told
the team’s official website he is eager to return to form.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you lose it,” he
said. “When you lose it, you realize you have something good in
your career, your life, and I don’t want to lose this
opportunity.”

Facing San Francisco might be a good way for him to start things
off. Zambrano is 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA in eight starts against the
Giants, pitching a two-hitter at AT&T Park on Sept. 25.

Edgar Renteria has had some success against Zambrano, hitting
.387 and walking seven times, but he hasn’t played since Thursday
because of a strained left biceps.

Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 3.20) will take the mound for San
Francisco, trying to avoid a third straight loss.

The left-hander, making his first start against the Cubs, gave
up four runs and nine hits in a season-low four innings of a 6-1
loss to Colorado on Wednesday.