The last time that Big Z faced the Dodgers, he saw his seven-game winning streak come to a close with a (then) season-high seven runs allowed. In a fit of rage, Zambrano savagely attacked a Gatorade water cooler, making highlight reels across the country.
Since then, Zambrano has pitched a no-hitter against the Brewers and regained his composure on and off the mound. Even after giving up eight runs two outings ago, Big Z was relatively calm when leaving the field. (No watercoolers were harmed.)
So which Zambrano will the Dodgers be facing on Thursday at Wrigley Field? My money is on the Carlos Zambrano that pitched against the Dodgers on May 28, giving up just one run over eight stellar innings.
Despite his past two outings, he has never failed to turn it around when slumping. The added pressure of the postseason and the demotion to No. 2 starter will be the fire in Zambrano's belly.
Big Z also has another motivation to turn it on: He needs to prove that he can get it done in the postseason: In four starts, he is 0-1 with a 4.37 ERA. Last year, he went six strong innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up only one run. It wasn't enough for the win, and Marmol gave up the game-winning run in the seventh inning.
Marmol is a different pitcher this year, but don't expect Zambrano to hand the ball over to Lou so easily in the late innings this postseason. Big Z is a workhorse, and he'll be looking to go nine innings against the Dodgers.
We will not see a repeat of the watercooler incident. L.A. is 13th in the NL in runs scored this season. The question will not end up being whether or not Zambrano is turned on—the question is going to be, "How will the Cubs' NL-best offense fare against the Dodgers' NL-best pitching?"