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Reading Room: Zambrano goes for three in a row

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Can last year's Zambrano Face be topped?
Can last year's Zambrano Face be topped?

Carlos Zambrano will take the mound for the Chicago Cubs in the opener of the first of two series against the Sox, and with it brings the promise of another outstanding fireworks display. Really, it's the only thing about the crosstown rivalry that I enjoy.

Two years ago, the Cubs sniffed out a suicide squeeze attempt with a pitchout as Chris Getz broke down (get it?) the third-base line. But Zambrano's pitch sailed high and wide, and Getz ended up with a steal of home. Zambrano then threw an extended tantrum cleverly disguised as "pitching." He plunked Dewayne Wise out of frustration, then kept throwing over to first, as if he suddenly remembered that retiring Wise was what he was supposed to do.

Wise stole second on him anyway. That was funny. And then Zambrano walked Scott Podsednik, Lou Piniella pulled him, and Zambrano pointed to God. It's unclear whether he was praising or blaming Him.

Last year, it only took one batter to light the fuse. Juan Pierre grounded a double past a drawn-in Derrek Lee, and Zambrano didn't think Lee's effort was sufficient. He made a bunch of terrible pitches afterward, then went after Lee in the dugout. The scuffle rendered the 6-0 White Sox victory, their 10th in a row, an afterthought.

If the rotation holds up, this will be the only time the White Sox face Zambrano, so it's now or never with regards to his temper.

So how will Big Z lose it? This time, it feels like the fifth inning, and he blames a tight strike zone on a game-changing gopher ball. Either that, or he's distracted by Southpaw doing that thing with the arms.

Christian Marrero Reading Room (categorized for your pleasure):

More Cubs-Sox

With both teams languishing under .500, the national networks have adjusted accordingly:

ESPN and Fox, which have shown this crosstown rivalry nationally many times in the past, have mostly taken a pass this season (Fox will televise the July 2 game at Wrigley). ESPN will show Yankees-Reds on Monday and Phillies-Cardinals on Wednesday rather than the Windy City series. ESPN passed over the finale at Wrigley on July 3 for "Battle Los Angeles" between the Angels and Dodgers.

Mark Gonzales writes a letter to Paul Sullivan about his half of the Cubs-Sox preview. He's not sensing a big resurgence, but I thought his perspective on Dayan Viciedo was worth noting (emphasis mine):

The fans are begging for Dayan Viciedo to be promoted from Triple-A Charlotte. Ozzie calls him the "Tank" because of his size, but I prefer to call him the "Cuban Crusher" because he has done a great job of keeping weight off that has enabled him to play right field well, and he can smack the ball as hard as anyone on the major league roster.

Tough guys

Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times follows our lead by talking to Robin Ventura, hitting some different angles, including the Nolan Ryan incident ("the game kind of picked me") and the ankle transplant that vastly improved his quality of life.

Danks passed all tests -- CT scan, blood pressure, and more -- to ensure that he suffered no damage from the line drive he took to the head on Saturday. "You can't hurt nothing," he said.

Ozzie Guillen passed a kidney stone prior to managing Sunday's victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Strategery

Back by popular demand, the return of Jake Peavy means the six-man rotation will go on. Guillen plans to use it through the All-Star break, or Peavy's return to the DL, whichever comes first. OK, I added the second part.

This will probably be popular, too -- Guillen finally admits that the whole running game thing isn't working. Here's the part I don't get (except that I probably do):

Pierre pointed out how opposing teams clearly were going to make adjustments and not let him run after watching what he did in 2010.

Given that Juan Pierre is the active leader in stolen bases, I'm not buying that other teams suddenly said, "Hey, maybe we should start keeping an eye on this guy." But I wouldn't expect Pierre to say, "I'm probably getting old," either. Especially in a contract year.

J.J. goes through Phil Humber's Pitch f/x data and finds that he trusted his slider more over his strong 7 2/3 innings against the Diamondbacks.

And the rest

James looks back at the last week of action and tries to rationalize the hell out of everything.

Paul Konerko rationalizes the hell out of Guillen's claim that his first baseman is a Hall of Famer. This about sums it up:

"I heard what Ozzie said, and it’s a compliment, of course," Konerko said Saturday. "The only thing I’ll say is, I followed the game as kid, and I’m a fan of its history. I’m not a Hall of Famer."

But a pretty darned good player.

"There are a lot of guys who are pretty darned good," Konerko said.

I think we can safely say that Ozzie-to-the-Marlins has supplanted Peavy-for-Zambrano as the new Konerko-to-the-Angels.