Scott Kazmir (6-5, 5.27 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (8-1, 2.89 ERA)
Kazmir’s stuff was alive against the Dodgers, but too many deep counts didn’t enable him to get past the fifth inning, yielding two earned runs on three hits and four walks while striking out five men. He threw 106 pitches, forcing his exit. He has given up only four earned runs in his past 17 innings, dropping his ERA from 6.34 to 5.26. Kazmir is making his Wrigley Field debut. He has faced the Cubs once, giving up one earned run in 4 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
Strength – Boasts heat that can top out at around 97 m.p.h, and also has a great slider and emerging change-up. Can rack up strikeouts, especially against lefty bats.
Weakness – Has work to do on his command and endurance. His smallish frame is a concern, because he has already endured plenty of injury issues.
Silva should be 9-0. In his last start, the right-hander gave up two runs on seven hits over seven innings, but one of the runs could have been prevented if his defense stepped up. Silva did throw a career-high 123 pitches, so the extra day of rest should help. He was quick enough in his last start to recognize that he needed to change speeds more to keep the White Sox off balance. It worked.
Jered Weaver (6-3, 3.29 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (2-5, 2.90 ERA)
Weaver is coming off a solid effort in a win against the Dodgers on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, yielding three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven across six innings. The slender right-hander has been among the AL leaders all season in strikeouts and was on top after his most recent effort with 96 in 87 2/3 innings. He has a 2.39 ERA in day games and has yielded three or fewer runs in 11 of his 14 starts. Weaver’s 4-2, 4.44 in eight road tests. He will be pitching in Wrigley Field and against the Cubs for the first time.
Strength – Is a reliable work horse who combines a low-90s, four-seam fastball with a slightly slower two-seamer and great movement. Has good command of four pitches and deception in his delivery.
Weakness – Challenges hitters a little too much, despite not having overwhelming strikeout ability. This leads to too many homers hit against him.
In his last outing, Lilly was “brilliant,” as Lou Piniella said. The left-hander had a no-hitter through eight innings on Sunday and lost his bid when pinch-hitter Juan Pierre singled to lead off the ninth. Lilly was then pulled after throwing 108 pitches. The lefty got the win, which snapped a personal five-game losing streak. In three starts this month, he’s 1-1 with a 1.52 ERA. In his career, Lilly is 5-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 10 starts against the Angels.
Joe Saunders (5-7, 4.70 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (2-5, 5.66 ERA)
Saunders returns to the road, to Wrigley Field for the first time in his career, and he probably welcomes it. His home struggles continued on Monday night against the Brewers, who cuffed him around for six earned runs on six hits, including a pair of homers and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Saunders is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in six road assignments, but he has yielded 33 earned runs in 44 innings (6.75 ERA) while going 1-6 at home. Command of his two-seam fastball is imperative for Saunders, who didn’t have it during a five-run third inning that included Ryan Braun’s grand slam.
Strength – Is a battler. Uses a solid fastball and change-up to keep hitters off balance, as well as to challenge them when the need arises. Knows how to pitch to contact.
Weakness – Can be prone to serving up too many long balls, especially when he becomes a little too predictable with his pitches. Doesn’t strike a lot of batters out.
Zambrano took the loss in his last start Tuesday against the Athletics, and it was an ugly game. The Cubs made four errors, so only two of the five runs off Zambrano were earned. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first, but wasn’t so lucky in a four-run fourth. Zambrano went six innings, striking out four. And he even got a RBI single. Big Z admitted he was aiming for the building beyond the left-field bleachers in his last at-bat in the sixth.
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not
Get ready for more pitching folks. The Angels are going to lead off the series with Scott Kazmir (6-5) who has won his last three coming into the weekend, and has not given up more then 2 runs in any of those starts. Sounds like a perfect recipe for our struggling bats.
We also have to deal with their bats which do not sport the best of averages (.258 17th overall in the majors), but they do hit for power ( 71 HR’s ranked eighth in the majors) and drive in runs (310 RBI’s ranked 7th overall). With Kendry Morales injured the Angels lean on Torri Hunter to be the stud in their lineup he is batting .304 in his last 7 games with 1 HR and 6 RBI’s. Let’s hope those winds keep blowing in, probably too much to ask for at this point in the season.
The angels are struggling to find a leadoff hitter. Macier Izturis and Erick Aybar are both injured which is causing some lineup shuffles. This also leaves them with a rather spotty infield on the defensive side of the ball. Torii Hunter has also struggled in the field as of late where he has faced some criticism. Sounds like this series could be interesting considering the Cubs on again off again defense and the Angels patchwork infield.