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Mr. Zambrano Goes To Washington: Cubs vs. Nationals Preview, Friday 7/17, 6:05 CT

WASHINGTON -- A reminder that this is a news item, not politics: Lou Piniella got to visit the Oval Office yesterday, bringing several members of his extended family to meet President Obama, and reminding everyone afterwards:
"A few of [Obama's] top advisors are Cubs fans," Piniella said prior to Thursday night's Cubs-Nationals game at Nationals Park, "so we still have a chance,"

Piniella, his wife, and their children and grandchildren toured much of the White House, including the Situation Room, the Rose Garden and the Oval Office, where they spent about five minutes with Obama himself.

Piniella said he didn't talk baseball with Obama, which is probably just as well. Finally, after watching Obama depart the grounds via helicopter, the Piniellas had lunch with [David] Axelrod and [Rahm] Emanuel. Piniella said he was grateful they didn't ride him about the Cubs' disappointing first half, nor make any lineup suggestions.

"We talked about the prospects for the Cubs in second half of the year," Piniella said. "We didn't talk about the prospects of the White Sox."

Remember -- if you comment on this part of the post, please keep your own politics to yourself. (And try to imagine the same scenario if it had been Carlos Zambrano and his family meeting the President.)

Aramis Ramirez confirms what we've all noticed, that he's well short of 100%:
"I won't be at full strength this year," he said. "I'd have to take another month or so -- month and a half -- but that ain't going to happen. I'm good enough to play, so that's what I'm going to do."

Good enough? He estimated he was at 80-85 percent strength when he returned. But now he refuses to give a percentage.

"I thought it was going to be better," he said. "To be honest with you, I thought it was going to be a lot better. I played three games of rehab and felt great. Then I started playing every day, and that's a lot of swings, a lot of stuff, a lot of games."

And a lot of discomfort, especially on check swings.

"I've just got to battle through it now," he said. "It's good enough to play. I won't do anything stupid, but if I'm good enough to play, I'm going to play."
Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
vs. Craig Stammen
Craig Stammen
5-4 W-L 2-4
3.53 ERA 4.45
82 SO 27
43 BB 17
7 HR 5
vs. Was -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Carlos Zambrano 5-4 22 16 0 0 0 0 102.0 90 43 40 7 43 82 3.53 1.30

2009 - Craig Stammen 2-4 10 10 1 0 0 0 60.2 62 33 30 5 12 27 4.45 1.22

Craig Stammen is a 25-year-old rookie who has made 10 major league starts. Some of them have been bad, and some good, including his last one before the break, his first ML complete game against the Astros on July 11. This will be his first start vs. the Cubs. He's so mysterious there don't seem to be any photos of him to be found.

Z has won his last four starts vs. the Nats -- 4-0, 1.65, and threw seven shutout innings the last time he pitched in Nats Park on April 26, 2008. Given the fact that the Nats offense is built, in part, around Adam Dunn, I would suggest that Z pitch carefully to Dunn (or maybe even just walk him) -- Dunn has seven career HR off Z in 56 AB, along with 15 walks. The only other Nat who has hit Z at all is Josh Willingham (5-for-7, a HR).

Cable only again today -- CSN Chicago and MASN, the Washington/Baltimore area cable sports outlet. For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday 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.