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.