(Sports Network) – Venezuelan righty Carlos Zambrano seeks a third straight successful start tonight when the Chicago Cubs wrap their stay at Minute Maid Park with the third and final contest of a three-game set with the host Houston Astros.
The teams have split the opening two games this week, with the Astros using Hunter Pence’s two-run RBI double in the eighth to cap off an 11-2 rout on Tuesday. Pence finished the game 3-for-5 while knocking in four runs.
Brett Myers (1-0) earned his first win of the season with seven strong innings, allowing a run on eight hits and no walks while striking out five.
James Russell (1-1), making his first major league start because of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner both being on the disabled list, lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing five runs — four earned — on seven hits.
Zambrano, who’ll turn 30 on June 1, has won 14 of 22 career decisions against the Astros in 31 appearances, including a pair of shutouts and a 2.63 earned run average.
He got his 2011 off to a quality start with six innings of five-hit, three-run ball in the Cubs’ 5-3 defeat of Pittsburgh on April 2, then recorded his first win at Milwaukee on April 8 after allowing seven hits and four runs in six innings of a 7-4 triumph.
The occasionally outspoken Zambrano split time between the rotation and the bullpen last season and was 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 36 appearances, including 20 starts.
His best statistical season came in 2007, when he recorded 18 victories in a career-high 34 starts and posted a 3.95 ERA in 216 1/3 innings.
Countering for Houston will be Dominican lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who’s been both ineffective and unlucky in a pair of 2011 starts.
The 32-year-old was raked for nine hits and seven runs in just four innings of his season debut on April 2 at Philadelphia, dropping a 9-4 decision and emerging with a bloated 15.75 ERA.
He regained his touch six days later against Florida but took a hard-luck no- decision after allowing eight hits and a single run in seven innings of a game Houston lost, 4-3.
Rodriguez is 5-4 in 16 career starts against Chicago and has a 3.79 ERA in 99 2/3 innings, with 102 hits allowed and 68 strikeouts.
Houston won 11 of its 18 matchups with Chicago last year.