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Thru 3: Nats 1, Zambrano 1

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Carlos Zambrano is a good-hitting pitcher. Perhaps the best-hitting pitcher in baseball. Everyone knows it. Yet no one seems to be able to do anything about it.

Witness Garrett Mock just a few minutes ago in the bottom of the third inning. With Zambrano at the plate, one out and no one on, Mock threw two straight balls to the Cubs pitcher. So you know what was coming next. Yep, a 90-mph fastball right down the middle. Hello, left-field bleachers.

That was homer No. 4 of the season for Zambrano, the 20th of his career. Think about that. In 2,573 career games, Ozzie Smith hit a total of 28 homers.

Fortunately for the Nats, The Big Z’s blast came with no one on, and it’s the lone blemish on Mock’s pitching line so far. The Nats haven’t done much against Zambrano at the plate, though they did turn two singles, a fielder’s choice and a Wil Nieves sac fly into a run in the second. So that’s where we stand at Wrigley, 1-1.

Meanwhile, a couple of pregame news items I’m just now getting to…

— Nyjer Morgan is out of the lineup because he woke up this morning with flu-like symptoms. It’s possible he could play before the night’s over, and interim manager Jim Riggleman is hopeful he’ll be fine by tomorrow at the latest.

— Sean Burnett played catch this afternoon and reported no problems with his bruised left thumb. Burnett, who was hurt on a comeback Sunday against the Brewers, is available if needed tonight.

— Mike Rizzo revealed five of the six farmhands who will play in the Arizona Fall League: Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Chris Marrero, Derek Norris and Danny Espinosa. One more spot will be filled by a yet-to-be-determined reliever. For those wondering, you’re only allowed to send two players to the league who have yet to reach Class AA. The Nats get to send three, though, because Strasburg is on a major league contract, so he doesn’t apply.

— Finally, you may notice third base coach Pat Listach is wearing No. 4 tonight. He’s officially switched from No. 37, ceding the number to Strasburg. And no, Listach didn’t demand any money. “Nobody bribed me,” he insisted.

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Mark Zuckerman

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