The one-time staff ace seeks to continue his second-half turnaround and pitch the Cubs to a second straight victory under new skipper Mike Quade tonight, when Chicago continues a three-game series with the homestanding Washington Nationals.
The Cubs played their first game since the startling and abrupt retirement of manager Lou Piniella in Monday's opener of this series, and got Quade's interim tenure off to an excellent start by coming through with a 9-1 win over the Nationals. Rookie Casey Coleman took a shutout into the seventh inning and received plenty of support from his teammates, with Chicago banging out 15 hits on the evening.
Blake DeWitt went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI to pace the Cubs offensively, while Tyler Colvin andAlfonso Soriano each had big hits during a five-run third inning that gave Coleman a comfortable early lead. Colvin delivered a two-run single to put Chicago up by a 3-0 count, with Soriano following with a two-RBI triple to cap the uprising.
Making just his second start in the majors, Coleman (1-1) earned his first big league win after limiting Washington to one run and three hits over 6 1/3 strong innings.
Quade, who had been serving as the Cubs' third base coach prior to Piniella's departure, and Coleman became the first manager-pitcher combo to record their first victory in the majors since Tampa Bay's Larry Rothschild and Rolando Arrojo accomplished the feat in 1998. Rothschild, incidentally, is now Chicago's pitching coach.
"A good night...this game can humble you in a hurry," said Quade afterward. "It was a great night, but those guys played well. They made it easy for me. It was a stress-free night and fun to watch."
Washington lost for the fifth time in its last seven games and received a poor outing from starter Livan Hernandez (8-9), with the well-traveled veteran rocked for seven runs and 10 hits before exiting after just 4 1/3 innings.
The Nationals will be hoping for a better effort tonight out of John Lannan, and the left-hander has certainly provided his team with a lift as of late. He enters tonight's matchup having won three consecutive starts and has posted a very solid 3.09 earned run average in four mound trips since returning from a six-week banishment to the minors on August 1.
Lannan extended his streak by holding National League East leader Atlanta to two runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 6-2 triumph last Thursday at Turner Field. Six days earlier, the former Siena College star yielded two runs and four hits in seven innings to best Arizona at Nationals Park on August 13.
The 25-year-old sports a 2-1 record with a 3.46 ERA in four lifetime starts against Chicago and received a no-decision in an April 26 clash with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Lannan gave up three runs and issued five walks through six innings during that contest.
Zambrano has also pitched well since rejoining his team's rotation earlier this month, surrendering two runs or less in three August starts while recording a win and two no-decisions. The excitable right-hander has struggled with his command, however, having walked 15 batters in 16 2/3 innings of work during that period.
The three-time All-Star handed out six free passes in Thursday's encounter with San Diego, but still managed to surrender only one run and four hits before leaving after six innings in an eventual no-decision.
Zambrano has been shuffled between starting and relief roles during a roller- coaster 2010 campaign in which he also served a month-long suspension for a well-publicized dugout meltdown in a game against the White Sox on June 25. After being reinstated by the team in late July, the native Venezuelan has gone 1-0 with a 3.10 ERA over three starts and a trio of appearances out of the bullpen.
The 29-year-old will be aiming to build on a 7-3 record and 3.57 ERA in 14 career games against Washington, 11 of which have come in a starting role. Zambrano has won both of his two previous starts at Nationals Park and permitted just one unearned run in 12 innings over the course of those games.
Chicago has now won five straight times over the Nationals in Washington, but dropped two of three tests between the teams in the Windy City back in April.