Here we are again: the Cubs down 1-0 in the NLDS and looking extremely tight and nervous.  The situation is arguably worse this year, as the Cubs are sending to the mound in Game 2 a man who has had nothing his last couple times out.  Let’s pretend that Carlos hasn’t been crappy lately; what do the numbers say?

Game 2: Zambrano vs. Billingsley

Martin, Ethier, and Kemp have eaten Zambrano for lunch in their short careers, but the sample sizes are small.  Still, this is troubling.  Zambrano’s two starts against the Dodgers this year:

May 28th in Chicago: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 3 K, W

June 7th @ L.A.: 6.2 IP, 13 H (!!), 7 R, 1 BB, 6 K, L

All together: 14.2 IP, 19 H, 8 R, 5 BB, 9 K, 1-1

So one pretty good start and one bad start, both pre-Manny.

What about Billingsley versus the Cubs?  Let’s forget career stats and just look at this year:

May 26th @ Chicago: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K, L

June 5th in L.A.: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 8 K, ND

All together: 11 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 BB, 15 K, 0-1

Neither pitcher really excelled in his starts against the opposing team this year, though Billingsley’s strikeout total is impressive.  This is probably a better matchup for the Cubs than Lowe, but that’s not really saying much.

Were Zambrano pitching at the top of his game, I’d be optimistic about tonight; however, given his recent performance, I have a bad feeling that this one will get out of hand early.  The Cubs will probably put more than 2 on the board against Billingsley, but it won’t matter if Z craps the bed.  As Cubs fans, all we can hope for is that our mercurial faux ace pitches like he did earlier in the season.

One last thing: if the Cubs do lose tonight, they will have a better chance of reeling off three straight to win the series than they did last year after falling behind 0-2.  The Dodgers will likely have a tough time with Harden even if he’s not completely on his game, and Lilly matches up very favorably with either short-rest Lowe or whatever guy the Dodgers select to pitch Game 4.  However, the most probable road to a series victory obviously begins with a win tonight.