Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano has struggled this season in more ways than one. Through 70 innings — 11 starts, 16 relief appearances — he has posted a 5.27 ERA, 1.77 WHIP and 38 walks against 63 strikeouts. Oh, and there was that little incident back in June that cost him a month.
Perhaps some progress was made on Saturday. Big Z limited the division rival Cardinals to two earned runs over 5.2 innings on a steamy day at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, allowing his Cubs to grab a 3-2 victory. He struck out three batters and issued only two walks.
As the Associated Press notes, it was his first victory since June 20. It was also his first sign of life since his team-issued suspension.
Zambrano is owed $18 million annually through 2014, which will make a trade or any type of move extremely difficult. Essentially, the Cubbies are stuck with him. So they might as well throw him into the fire and see if he can settle in as a reliable third or fourth starter. Hey, every good team has a few innings eaters.
Stephen Piscotty took the brunt of a frightening outfield collision last week at PNC Park, but he only suffered a mild concussion and was cleared for baseball activities a couple days later.
Now he is back in the Cardinals’ starting lineup, batting second and playing right field Sunday in the first half of a doubleheader against the Braves at Atlanta’s Turner Field.
Piscotty has an impressive .867 OPS with seven home runs and 39 RBI over his first 62 major league games. He should be a big part of the Cardinals’ postseason push, drawing starts in the corner outfield spots and at first base.
St. Louis will get either the Pirates or Cubs in the NLDS.
Here we are, the final day of the regular season. And every game with playoff implications will start at the same time: 3:05 p.m. ET. What to watch …
American League Wild Card
NYY @ BAL
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
This is where the most intrigue lies heading into the day. We have the Yankees currently in position for hosting duties, but they’re only one game up on Houston. And then Houston is only one game up on Anaheim. Also at play here is that the Astros are just one game back of the Rangers in the American League West standings. If the Yankees, Astros, and Rangers all win on Sunday the current postseason map stays the same — the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday will be at Yankee Stadium with the Astros visiting. And the Angels would obviously be out. But if the Angels win and the Astros lose, we’ll have a play-in game Monday. And if the Yankees lose, the location of the Wild Card Game on Tuesday could change.
American League West
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
As we touched on above, the Astros are still in a position to force a tiebreaker for the division if the Angels beat the Rangers again in Arlington. It’ll be Garrett Richards against Cole Hamels in that one. Houston is throwing Lance McCullers vs. Robbie Ray in Arizona.
American League Best Record
KC @ MIN
TOR @ TB
If the AL Central-champion Royals (94-67) beat the Twins on Saturday behind deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, they’ll get the Wild Card Game winner in the ALDS and clinch homefield advantage throughout the postseason. But if they lose, the Blue Jays (93-68) could move into that top seed because they won their season series against Kansas City 4-3. Mark Buehrle is pitching for Toronto in what is supposed to be his final major league game.
National League Wild Card
CIN @ PIT
CHC @ MIL
Pittsburgh losing and Chicago winning on Saturday kept Wild Card Game hosting duties alive for Wrigley Field. If the Pirates fall again to the Reds and the Cubs win at Miller Park, the game Wild Card Game Wednesday will be in Chicago because the Cubs have the season-series edge (11-8) over the Bucs. Pittsburgh can wrap up clinching duties with a victory behind J.A. Happ.
Stay tuned. We’ll be covering all angles as the 2015 regular season comes to a close.