"It's amazing how you play 161 games and it comes down to the last game," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "It's unbelievable."
Before Saturday's game, a 7-3 Chicago win, Piniella said Carlos Zambrano would start in the series finale and most likely go only two innings. The last time Zambrano pitched at Miller Park, he made history, throwing a no-hitter Sept. 14 against the Houston Astros. The game had been relocated to Milwaukee from Houston because of Hurricane Ike.
Asked what he'd do if Zambrano didn't give up a hit over his two innings, Piniella laughed. More important, Zambrano probably would have insisted on at least one at-bat before he was pulled.
"I might as well hit him fourth," Piniella said.
That's old news. After Saturday's game, Guzman was announced as the starter. The young right-hander underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow last August and has overcome shoulder surgery as well. He's 0-7 in 32 career games. Maybe Sunday, he'll get a win.
Zambrano told pitching coach Larry Rothschild he would prefer to throw on the side Sunday, then have a bullpen session Monday at Wrigley Field. Big Z is slated to start Game 2 of the NLDS, no matter who the Cubs are playing.
The Cubs aren't slacking off in this series.
"We want to win," Chicago's Ted Lilly said. "We need that heading into the playoffs. We need to be aggressive, we need to play hard and have that kind of mentality and aggressiveness."
Cubs special assistant Ivan DeJesus is preparing for the Mets or the Dodgers, compiling the advance work and reports from the team's scouts. The only thing certain is the Cubs will open at home on Wednesday.
"It doesn't really matter," Piniella said of the first-round opponent. "You've got to be prepared. There will be four teams in the playoffs, and whoever it is, it is. You have to be ready for whoever is there."
The probable postseason roster is nearly complete. Piniella had names jotted down on two blue pieces of paper on his desk and tucked the information away before reporters could see it. He will meet with the coaches Monday to finalize the list.
Milwaukee will start lefty CC Sabathia on Sunday as it tries to secure a postseason berth.
"It'll be interesting to see what happens," Piniella said. "The young man can pitch, there's no question about it. At the same time, we've had some nice swings off him. He's a top-notch pitcher. What a competitor. You can see what he's done for the Brewers since he's been here."
CHC: RHP Angel Guzman (0-0, 7.04 ERA)
Guzman will get the start in the regular-season finale. The Cubs had considered Zambrano, but he wanted a side day on Sunday instead in preparation for the postseason. Guzman most likely will not be on the playoff roster. The young right-hander is coming back from elbow surgery last August, and also has had shoulder surgery. This will be his 14th career start and first since May 17, 2007.
MIL: LHP CC Sabathia (16-10, 2.80 ERA)
Sabathia will be pitching on short rest for the third straight start. Since joining the Brewers, he is 10-2 with a 1.78 ERA in 16 starts. And the Brewers are trying to get everything they can out of the lefty. The Cubs have faced him twice, and won both games. On July 28 at Miller Park, Sabathia gave up three earned runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings. On Sept. 16 at Wrigley Field, he took the loss, giving up four runs on nine hits over seven innings.
The Cubs will take Monday off and then work out Tuesday at Wrigley Field in preparation for the NLDS. ... There will be a rally Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago to celebrate the Cubs' second consecutive NL Central title. ... The Cubs are 9-6 against the Brewers for the season, including 5-1 at Miller Park. ... Lilly's 184 strikeouts are the fourth highest by a Cubs left-hander in a single season. The top three include Ken Holtzman (202), Hippo Vaughn (195) and Dick Ellsworth (185).
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