This will be the seventh time that Aaron Harang and Carlos Zambrano have started against one another during their careers. The Reds are 4-2 in these match-ups, with Harang taking the victory in 3 of those 4 wins and suffering the loss in both of the losses. Zambrano won the last time these two faced off back in May of 2008, when Harang allowed just 3 runs over 7 innings, but the Reds failed to put any runs on the board and managed only 4 hits in the game.
Harang has been outstanding so far this season, averaging nearly 7 innings per start and unintentionally walking only 3 of the 84 batters he has faced. His strikeouts are down slightly, but then so are his home runs allowed, so it's a worthwhile trade-off.
The main issue for Harang so far has been run support. The Reds' offense has scored just 1.04 R/G during his starts this season. Without looking it up, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that is one of the worst rates in the league. Given that the offense is averaging just 2.6 runs over the last 7 games, I can't imagine that Harang is looking forward to the daunting task facing him of trying to shut out the Cubs for a 2nd day in a row. Unfortunately, that may be what it takes to win this thing.
I say this because Zambrano has dominated the Reds for most of his career. He is 14-9 with a 3.03 ERA in 31 career games against the Reds and has allowed just 143 hits in 181.1 innings. If there is anything going in the Reds favor today it's that Zambrano looked pretty bad in his last start against the Cardinals, giving up 7 runs in 7 innings, including 3 home runs. I don't have a lot of confidence that the offense can do that sort of damage today, but maybe they can manage to put 4 or 5 runs on the board and not force Harang to be otherworldly in order to get a win.
A win today would make this road trip one of the best for the Reds in the past few years. Even if they lose though, a 6-4 road trip against division rivals should do a lot ot instill confidence in the young club. It should especially help them to know that they can win without scoring big since that may have to happen a lot this year.