Except for Tyler Colvin in right, the Cubs go with a right-handed lineup against Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez. Included in the lineup scratches is first baseman Carlos Pena, who is 1-for-11 against left-handed pitching this year. He also has a hitting line of .185/.342/.222 with no homers and 4 RBI. Pena also is 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Stay with us for the minor-league roundup below, with news on a 12-strikeout performance.
From the handy-dandy game notes the Cubs send out: "Since the start of the 2010 season, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker and Marlon Byrd rank 1-2-3 in the National League in batting average against left-handed pitching. Soto leads the league with a .370 batting average (44-for-119), followed closely by Baker (.361, 56-for-155) and Byrd (.353, 65-for-184). Soto's .469 on-base percentage vs. lefties since the start of last season is the best in the majors."
Also: "Carlos Zambrano has 14 career wins against the Houston Astros, by far the most of any active pitcher in all of baseball. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang are next closest with 11 wins apiece against the Astros.
We'll see what manager Mike Quade says about the rotation picture in the wake of last night’s start by James Russell. I’m sure talk of giving Jeff Samardzija a start will be talked about.
The Cubs rank 14th in the NL in ERA, at 5.06. They’re also 14th in WHIP, at 1.50. A good performance by Zambrano tonight and a win by the Cubs would give them the series two games to one and would even their record at .500.
Here is how the Cubs rank in several offensive categories in the early going:
BA: 5th (.269)
R: 7th (45)
OBP: 5th (.335)
SLG: 6th (.411)
BB: 6th (38)
HR: 10th (8)
On this road trip:
Colvin: 3-for-15 (double and homer last night)
The performance of the day yesterday was turned in by Daytona starting pitcher Robert Whitenack, who walked none and struck out 12 in 6 innings of 1-hit ball in a 5-1 victory over Clearwater. Whitenack, 22, was an eight-round pick in 2009 out of SUNY Old Westbury in New York. He was the first baseball player ever drafted from that school and is its single-season strikeout leader with 79 in 67.1 innings in 2009. Whitenack is a 6-foot-5, 180-pound right-hander who went 8-7 with a 4.96 ERA last year at Peoria (starting the Road to Wrigley game in July) before moving up to high-A Daytona and going 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA. He took a no-hitter into the sixth before allowing a one-out triple.
"I'm not a strikeout pitcher, but I guess I was (Tuesday night)," Whitenack told the Daytona Beach News Journal. "I look basically to get the ball hit on the ground and rely on the defense. But I knew early on that all of my pitchers were moving well like they were supposed to. And that doesn't happen all the time. This was one of those rare times when everything was working."
Jae-Hoon Ha extending a hitting streak to five games, going 3-for-4. He's 10-for-23 (.435). Junior Lake was 2-for-3 with a double and a triple.
Class AA Tennessee had the night off.
With nine Smokies are batting over .300, manager Brian Harper is impressed. "We have a deep team," Harper told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "All of them are starters, so it's a challenge for me to rotate the lineup and get everybody a bat and keep everybody sharp. When one guy isn't hitting, the other guys pick him up."
Harper also told the paper that pitching prospect Trey McNutt would probably miss a start because of the middle-finger blister that knocked him out of his last start early.
I'm sure Class AAA Iowa can't wait to get home after falling 18-3 at Albuquerque. Thomas Diamond gave up 8 hits and 9 runs in 3.1 innings. RF Tony Campana (11-for-25, .440) extended his hitting streak to five games, going 1-for-4. Brian LaHair was 3-for-4 with a double. Bobby Scales (8-for-22, .364) extended his hitting streak to five games, going 1-for-4 with a triple.
Class A Peoria had Cuban center fielder Rubi Silva extend a hitting streak to six games as he went 3-for-5 with 2 doubles, 3 runs and 2 RBI. Silva is 10-for-27 (.370). Hayden Simpson, last year's No. 1 pick, worked 5 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runss (3 earned) with 1 walk and 2 strikeouts.