Carlos Zambrano meets the Cubs

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In addition to Ozzie Guillen’s return, tonight’s Cubs-Marlins tilt matches up Carlos Zambrano against his old buddies brings the Cubs to Carlos Zambrano’s house.*  And despite the fact that he blew up all the time and walked out on the team last season in Atlanta, they seem magnanimous enough:

“He had a lot of friends on this team,” Marlon Byrd said. “That’s what people forget. You see his antics on the field, and the reasons he was suspended, and all the other b.s. But at the same time, you still have friends he has guys he texts on this team, and talks to on this team We’re going to see him and hopefully he’s looking good and feeling good.”

That sentiment was echoed by many. Gosh, the Cubs seem centered.  Probably because they are, reports Patrick Mooney:

But now that Theo Epstein has been given the keys to the kingdom, there is a sense of stability and confidence in the long-range plan. People have noticed how quiet it is around this team.

“Everybody just focuses on what we do – playing baseball,” outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. “Everybody’s relaxed and enjoys what we do.

This is a first that I can recall, by the way: a losing team — the Cubs are 3-7 — with good chemistry and a peaceful clubhouse. And here I thought those things are what caused a team to win.

*Yeah, I wrote that Zambrano was facing the Cubs tonight. Not sure why I thought that.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.