Cubs not focused on standings

The Cubs and manager Lou Piniella are realistic about their chances to overtake the Reds and the Cardinals in the Central division race.

Going into action Monday night, Piniella’s club was 10 games out in the loss column with 69 games left on the schedule.

“We have to win series,” Piniella said. “I don’t think you have to look at where we are in the standings until the middle of August. If we continue to win series, we will be in shape to make a run.”

Going into the Astros series, the Cubs had won seven of their past 11 games and had averaged six runs a game in that span. Throughout the season, the Cubs have averaged 6.4 runs per a game in their 42 wins and 2.3 runs per a game in their 51 losses.

Zambrano update: Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano will travel from Mesa, Ariz., to Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday. He will join the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate on Wednesday. At this time, it’s not known when Zambrano will pitch in a minor league game.

The Cubs assume that Zambrano will pitch either Wednesday or Thursday out of manager Ryne Sandberg’s bullpen. Cubs GM Jim Hendry said on Sunday that Zambrano would return to the Cubs some time before Aug. 1, if he’s able to successfully rebuild his arm strength. Zambrano threw one inning and struck one batter in Mesa, Ariz., one Monday night.

Silva struggling: Right-hander Carlos Silva, pulled after the first inning on Tuesday, has pitched 2 1/3 innings, given up 13 hits and 11 earned runs, walked five batter and notched two strikeouts in his last two starts. In Silva’s 10 previous starts he had not given up more than three runs or thrown less than 5 1/3 innings.