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Pirates Vs. Cubs: Bucs Aim To Build On Strong Opening Day Performance

After a surprisingly strong performance in their season debut on Friday, the Pirates aim for an encore against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday at 1:05 PM. The Pirates recorded a 6-3 victory, thanks to a two-run homer by Andrew McCutchen, strong starting pitching by Kevin Correia and a decisive grand slam by Neil Walker.

Today, the Cubs will send Carlos Zambrano to the hill. Zambrano pitched well down the stretch last year, but he still has control issues, and the Pirates can exploit them if they're as patient as they were Friday (which, unfortunately, they usually aren't). The Pirates, meanwhile, will start Paul Maholm, who is coming off a rough season in which he posted a 5.10 ERA and generally struggled with the Bucs' weak defense behind him.

You can follow the game with other fans at Bucs Dugout (Pirates) and Bleed Cubbie Blue (Cubs). And in case you missed it yesterday, Bleed Cubbie Blue's Al Yellon answers some questions about the Cubs, including one about Zambrano:

After struggling at the start of last season, Carlos Zambrano kept runs off the board down the stretch, although he still struggled with his control. What do you expect from him in 2011?

Big Z went through anger management with a psychologist after his incident last year in the dugout during a game vs. the White Sox. He was lights-out after his return, except, as you mention, for a few issues with command. He no longer has to worry about the pressure of starting on Opening Day, which in the past seemed to have him too amped up. (Last year, he got absolutely pounded by the Braves.) Ryan Dempster will start the game for the Cubs. I expect Zambrano to have an excellent season, one of his best - he's healthy and in great shape, and people forget he's not yet 30, because he's been around so long.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.