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Big Z At Altitude: Cubs vs. Rockies Preview, Friday 8/7, 8:10 CT

When the Cubs last saw the Rockies, it was a lot colder than it is today, the Rockies had a different manager, and the two teams split a brief two-game series at Wrigley Field in April. Since Clint Hurdle was fired and replaced by Jim Tracy on May 27, the Rockies are 41-21, best record in the NL since that date by a wide margin.

So it's a far different Rockies team the Cubs will see, and playing in Denver is always a challenge, though the Cubs are 8-7 there since 2004. Let's hope they can keep the game times straight -- this four-game, wraparound-till-Monday series has four different starting times (8:10 CT tonight, then 7:10 CT, 2:10 CT and 7:40 CT).

The Rockies have had, in their 16-year history, only four full qualifying seasons by a pitcher who had a season ERA under 4.00 -- Joe Kennedy in 2004, Jason Jennings in 2006, and Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez, tonight's starter, last year. Jimenez, currently with an ERA of 3.76, has a chance to be (along with Cook, who the Cubs won't see in this series) the first pitcher to accomplish that twice.

Meanwhile, Geovany Soto will be reactivated for tonight's game; at this writing it's not clear who will return to Iowa, but my choice would be Micah Hoffpauir, who needs more AB's. Lou says that Koyie Hill, who has done an outstanding job in starting the last 26 games in a row, will now be getting anywhere from 30-40% of the starts the rest of the way:

"We know the record," Piniella said. "He's done a really, really nice job, and we're appreciative, but we have to get Soto ready to catch, too. It might be 60-40, two-thirds, one-third, I don't know exactly how [they'll share playing time]. Believe me, we're not going to go strictly one way."

Finally, Bruce Miles' column today has some notes about whether Andrew Cashner will get a September callup (he won't) and some other notes about rising stars in the system, as well as praise for Bob Brenly's criticisms on Wednesday's telecast:

When Milton Bradley pulled up short on Willy Taveras' pop foul fly in the first inning, Brenly said: "Milton Bradley takes two more steps, that's an easy play for him."

And when Alfonso Soriano got picked off base in the seventh to kill whatever chance the Cubs had to rally against Justin Lehr, Brenly noted not only the pickoff, but Soriano's nonchalant manner at first.

"Do you know what I said about having a feel for the game?" Brenly asked. "There you go."

That was it. He didn't harp or bring up either situation later.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
Ubaldo Jimenez
7-6 W-L 8-9
3.35 ERA 3.76
101 SO 128
57 BB 54
8 HR 8
vs. Col -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Carlos Zambrano 7-4 27 20 0 0 0 0 123.2 110 52 46 8 57 101 3.35 1.35

2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez 8-9 22 22 1 0 0 0 143.2 126 61 60 8 54 128 3.76 1.25

Ubaldo Jimenez, despite his good record the last couple of years, has never defeated the Cubs: 0-3, 7.27 in four starts, and that's with three of them being in Wrigley Field. Most of that damage has been done by players other than those on the current roster; only Aramis Ramirez (3-for-5) has homered off him among players currently on the team. However, Alfonso Soriano, who is 1-for-6 vs. Jimenez, has 36 career AB in Coors Field, in which he has hit .472/.513/.944 with six doubles, a triple and three home runs. Coors Field seems the perfect place for a hitter like Soriano when he's hot.

Meanwhile, Z has never defeated the Rockies in Denver (0-2), though he is 2-4, 3.13 in eight overall starts vs. Colorado. He hasn't faced them in over two years, since June 27, 2007 at Wrigley Field, and not in Denver since August 4, 2004. (Amusement value: check out who led off for the Rockies that day.) Current Rockies are hitting .169 (10-for-59) against Z and none of them has homered off him.

TV tonight is once again cable-only, CSN Chicago and FSN Rocky Mountain. For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Rockies site Purple Row.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 9:15 pm, 10:15 pm and 11 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.