Which Zambrano Do We Get Tonight? - Cubs vs. Braves, Thursday 6/4, 6:10 CT

Which Carlos Zambrano will take the mound tonight in Atlanta, returning from his six-game suspension? Will it be the guy who, controlled and focused, threw a no-hitter in Milwaukee vs. the Astros last September? The guy who, until a call went against him last week at Wrigley Field, was mowing down Pirates? Or will it be the guy who went ballistic after that bad call, or the guy who stomped off the mound at Wrigley one start after the no-hitter, not even waiting for Lou Piniella to come and get him after one of the worst starts of his career?

We just don't know. And Z, who turned 28 on Monday, needs to grow up and use his considerable pitching talent to consistently win baseball games. There is no doubt in my mind that if Zambrano could channel his passion into his play, he could be among the best, if not the best, pitchers in baseball every single year. The Cubs are certainly paying him commensurate with that idea. Time to step up, Carlos.

From yesterday's Bruce Miles blog:

Lou said on his pregame radio show that [Koyie] Hill will get to catch more. Maybe that was his way of lighting a fire under Geovany Soto, who has 1 homer and 12 RBI and is 6-for-32 in throwing out runners.

Hill looked bad at the plate yesterday and Geo came in and drew a pinch-walk and threw out a runner; it'll take more than one day to prove this "lit a fire". Hill starts again tonight against the tough Jair Jurrjens.

If you are interested, before the Cubs game begins, to follow Randy Johnson's attempt for his 300th win in the first game of a doubleheader in Washington (forced by last night's rainout, and scheduled to be underway before this pregame post is up), here's the MLB.com Gameday for the Giants/Nationals first game. With the DC-area weather forecast calling for an 80% chance of rain today, they may not get this one in, either.

Via Twittermyer, tonight's lineup:

Soriano, lf; Theriot, ss; Fukudome, rf; Lee, 1b: Fontenot, 3b; Johnson, cf; Hill, c; Blanco, 2b; Zambrano, p

Other Twittermyer info: Nate McLouth will start in CF for the Braves tonight and bat third. And Rich Harden will have a rehab start at Iowa on Sunday; if all goes well he will return from the DL and start Friday, June 12 vs. the Twins.

Sammy Sosa. Blah, blah, blah, and blah. Won't he just go away?

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens
Braves
3-2 W-L 5-2
4.22 ERA 2.59
46 SO 40
21 BB 23
4 HR 4
vs. Atl -- vs. Cubs

I'm guessing the Tigers would love to have the Jair Jurrjens deal back -- all they got from it was one mediocre year out of Edgar Renteria, who then left as a free agent. The Braves, meanwhile, got an outstanding young starter who is only 23 -- and also Gorkys Hernandez, who just went to the Pirates yesterday as part of the Nate McLouth deal. Why can't the Cubs make trades like this? Jurrjens will be making his first career appearance against the Cubs. He was supposed to start last June 11 vs. the Cubs at Wrigley, but had a minor ankle problem from tripping on the dugout steps. Jeff Bennett started instead and broke Alfonso Soriano's wrist with a pitch in the first inning.

Z hasn't had much success vs. the Braves. In 10 lifetime starts he's 2-2, 4.62 and the last time he beat Atlanta was July 15, 2002, the second of back-to-back starts where he beat the Braves, ironically, in a year when the Braves were good and the Cubs were awful. (Check out the lineup that day, too.) Since then Z has lost twice to Atlanta and had a bunch of no-decisions. He handles most of their current lineup pretty well, including the just-acquired Nate McLouth (5-for-22, .227 vs. Z). Brian McCann is 5-for-9 against Zambrano.

Tonight's game is on cable -- lucky you, however, if you live outside Chicago or Atlanta; it's being picked up by the MLB Network for national distribution. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Overflow comment threads will post today at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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