Back and Blue: Zambrano vs. 'Stros

Back and Blue: Sore Zambrano vs. Astros

Carlos Zambrano will close this three-game series in Houston on Wednesday night, facing the Astros' Roy Oswalt.

Zambrano has not faced the Astros this year. In his career, he's 4-4 with a 3.26 ERA against Houston. He won his last outing against St. Louis, throwing six shutout innings. But the big right-hander had to leave the game when his back tightened up on him. It's the second straight game in which his back has knocked him out.

The Cubs have a series of back and stomach exercises for Zambrano to do, but they won't kick in instantly and the team has to be careful.

This month, Zambrano is 2-1 in three starts with a 1.06 ERA. He does seem to fare better at home than on the road, and is 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA away from Wrigley Field. But he's also struck out more batters on the road (76) than at home (63).

The Cubs came into this series 3-3 against Houston this season. The Cubs lost a series, 2-1, in Houston April 29-May 1, and took two out of three at Wrigley Field May 23-25.

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt
• 14-9, 2.57 ERA in 2005
• 1-0, 3.60 ERA vs. CHC in 2005

CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano
• 9-5, 3.17 ERA in 2005
• 0-2, 4.86 ERA vs. HOU in 2004

Player to watch
Corey Patterson must have figured things out during his month-long stint at Triple-A Iowa. After hitting .232 with the Cubs before he was sent down, Patterson now is batting .276 (8-for-29) since returning. He's 12-for-39 lifetime against Oswalt with two home runs.

"You want these guys to get a taste of this. You can say, 'I'll handle it when I get there' or 'I know what I'm doing,' but you don't really know until you get there." -- Cubs manager Dusty Baker on making the adjustment from the Minors to the Major Leagues

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
Official game notes

On television
• HOU: Fox Sports Southwest; ESPN
• CHC: Comcast Sports Net; ESPN

On radio
• HOU: KTRH 740 AM; KLAT 1010 (Español)
• CHC: WGN 720 AM

Quick hits
Michael Barrett is 3-for-12 against Oswalt, Jeromy Burnitz is 4-for-18, Derrek Lee is 8-for-27, Aramis Ramirez is 9-for-37, and Todd Walker is 7-for-35. ... Brad Ausmus is 4-for-17 lifetime against Zambrano, Lance Berkman is 5-for-27, Craig Biggio is 8-for-21, Adam Everett is 2-for-13 and Jose Vizcaino is 6-for-16. ... Mark your calendars: the Aug. 27 game against Florida at Wrigley Field will start at 12:25 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on FOX.

On deck
• Friday: at Colorado, 4:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: at Colorado, 7:05 p.m. CT
• Sunday: at Colorado, 2:05 p.m. CT

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.