Carlos Zambrano's Return To The Rotation, Or The Blackhawks? Choices, Choices, Part Deux: Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Friday 6/4, 7:05 CT

Unlike Wednesday, when the Cubs' rain delay and postponement made for uninterrupted viewing of the Blackhawks, tonight Z's return to the rotation goes head-to-head with hockey at 7 pm CDT. There will be, of course, two hockey intermissions when you can switch over to the baseball game.

It seems somehow fitting to have Carlos Zambrano return to the rotation against the Astros, the team against which he had his greatest game, his no-hitter against them at Miller Park on September 14, 2008. Perhaps Z can make a statement -- and give this team a real lift -- by having yet another great one tonight. (No, I'm not predicting another no-hitter.)

Speaking of no-hitters, or games that should have been, Yahoo's Jeff Passan wrote about Wednesday's "imperfect game" and its aftermath. He skillfully destroys all the arguments against replay and lays out a good system -- very similar to the one I have proposed -- for using replay in the future.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Felipe Paulino
Felipe Paulino
Astros
1-3 W-L 0-7
6.12 ERA 4.40
36 SO 54
13 BB 34
5 HR 2
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Carlos Zambrano 1-3 18 4 0 0 0 0 32.1 42 23 22 5 13 36 6.12 1.70


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Felipe Paulino 0-7 10 10 0 0 0 0 59.1 53 37 29 2 34 54 4.40 1.47

Despite his 0-7 record, Felipe Paulino hasn't been that bad this year. He gave up no runs in eight innings in his last start, but wound up with a no-decision when he left the game in a scoreless tie; the Astros lost in the 10th. He was the starting pitcher in the only game the Cubs have won vs. Houston this year, April 16 at Wrigley Field. His biggest weakness appears to be control -- 34 walks in 59.1 innings. Current Cubs are hitting .278 (10-for-36) against him with six walks. Be patient tonight, Cubs hitters.

Carlos Zambrano has not faced the Astros this year, but in three starts last year was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 21 total innings, and of course threw the previously mentioned no-hitter against them in 2008. Many Astros hitters have long histories against him -- Lance Berkman has 68 career AB (.147, but with 4 HR and 15 walks) and Carlos Lee, 55 AB (.382, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 5 doubles). Go get 'em, Z. Show us you belong back in the rotation.

Lineup via Twittermyer:

New leadoff man. Lineup: byrd, riot, lee, rami, fuke, sori, soto, castro, z

Today's game is on WGN and FSN Houston, though I don't think too many will be watching. The Blackhawks are again on Versus. A reminder that if you are looking for the Cubs game on local radio in Chicago, it's on WIND (560) tonight so the Blackhawks can be on WGN. 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 Astros site The Crawfish Boxes.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 7 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 8, 9 and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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