Carlos Zambrano's Return To The Rotation, Or The Blackhawks? Choices, Choices: Cubs vs. Pirates Preview, Wednesday 6/2, 6:05 CT

Since the puck drop for Stanley Cup Final Game Three won't be until about 7:15 Central time, you can watch the first hour or so of the Cubs game with no conflicts.

After that? Well... I assume most of you who are Blackhawks fans will switch over, unless Carlos Zambrano is doing something worth staying tuned to. Which is often the case. (And you can tune back to baseball during the hockey intermissions.)

It seems like a very long time has gone by since Z last started a game, but in reality, it's only 52 days since he started in New York on April 20 vs. the Mets and threw a good game -- two runs in six innings with nine strikeouts. It wasn't his fault that the Cubs failed to score. Gordon Wittenmyer writes that Z wasn't too talkative yesterday, and sums up his bullpen stint:

Zambrano was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts before going to the bullpen to help with late-inning setup problems. Those numbers are skewed a bit by a terrible Opening Day start.

He was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings of relief (13 appearances), including five consecutive scoreless appearances after he was told he could return to the rotation. Opponents had only one hit in 13 at-bats (.077) during that streak.

Do good tonight, Z. You need it and the team needs it. And GO BLACKHAWKS!

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Zach Duke
Zach Duke
Pirates
1-3 W-L 3-5
6.12 ERA 5.09
36 SO 40
13 BB 23
5 HR 7
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs

Zach Duke faced the Cubs four times last year and wound up with three losses and a no-decision, and they pounded him good in the last of the four on September 8 at PNC. Current Cubs are hitting .358 (77-for-215) with 19 doubles and seven HR off Duke, so you'd figure eventually this team would start hitting. Eventually. Maybe even tonight.

Carlos Zambrano was in the bullpen during the previous two series vs. the Pirates, so he hasn't started against them since his three 2009 outings (a win, a loss and a no-decision with a 3.44 ERA in 18.1 innings). His worst bullpen outing this year was against the Pirates on May 14 at Wrigley Field, when he allowed a three-run homer to Garrett Jones and put a tie game out of reach. No more of that, please. Ryan Doumit is the Pirate who hits Z best (8-for-17, three doubles).

Lineup via Twittermyer:

Lineup vs. LH Duke: riot, byrd, lee, nady (rf), rami, sori, soto, castro, z.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Pittsburgh, though I don't think too many will be watching. The Blackhawks are on Versus. Here is the rest of the MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 6 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 7, 8 and 8:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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