Zffective

Game Forty-Seven – Cubs 4 Dodgers 2
WP – Carlos Zambrano (5-4) LP – Mark Hendrickson (2-2) Save – Ryan Dempster (11)

wflag.jpg Carlos Zambrano returned to form at Chavez Ravine on Saturday afternoon and turned in arguably his best outing of the season. While Zambrano did surrender 2 runs, he kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard until the 7th inning and did not walk a batter until 2 outs in the 8th inning. He showed the command that has been eluding him this year and set a season high in strikeouts with 8.

Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa hit back-to-back home runs for the first time this season in the 2nd inning and the Cubs added two very important insurance runs in the 4th inning in large part due to the hustle of Carlos Zambrano. Will Ohman struck out Jeff Kent with the bases loaded in the 8th and Ryan Dempster, while not a textbook save, did record three outs in the 9th for his 11th of the year.

Carlos Zambrano silenced the critics, at least for one day, with a commanding performance against the best team in the west. While the Dodgers were without Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent in the starting lineup with the way Zambrano pitched on Saturday it probably would not have mattered. Zambrano settled in, threw first pitch strikes, worked fast on the mound with low pitch counts and most importantly stayed away from the big inning early in the game.

Pitch Counts per inning:

  • 1st inning – 11
  • 2nd inning – 14
  • 3rd inning – 9
  • 4th inning – 20
  • 5th inning – 14
  • 6th inning – 17

Zambrano sat down the Dodgers in order in the 1st inning, recording two of his eight strikeouts. He did allow his first hit of the day in the 2nd to Luis Gonzalez but a well-timed double play off the bat of Wilson Betemit ended the inning and Zambrano faced the minimum through two. Zambrano retired the Dodgers in order again in the 3rd but got into a little trouble in the 4th.

Juan Pierre singled to lead off the inning and after a single by Tony Abreu put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs, Nomar popped out to Derrek Lee in foul ground for the first out of the inning. Russell Martin grounded out to 3rd but the runners advanced 90 feet before Luis Gonzalez looked at strike three to end the inning.

Andre Ethier hit a ground rule double to right with 1-out in the 5th but Zambrano retired Martin and pinch-hitter Brady Clark to end the inning. Zambrano retired the Dodgers in order for the third time in the 6th. Wilson Betemit ended the shutout with 2 outs in the 7th when he homered to right and appeared Zambrano was about to lose his composure. After running the count to 3-2 on Andre Ethier, Zambrano retired him on a ground out to 2nd to end the inning.

When Zambrano took the hill to start the 8th he had thrown just 103 pitches. After retiring Martin to start the inning, professional hitter Olmedo Saenz singled to left. Pierre followed with a single to center and Zambrano struck out Abreu on 3 pitches. Nomar singled to center to score Saenz and Martin drew the first walk on the day by Zambrano….the last batter he faced in the game. With the bases loaded, Lou Piniella went to the pen for Will Ohman.

Luis Gonzalez was the scheduled to hit for the Dodgers but when Piniella brought in Ohman, Grady Little decided to pinch-hit for Gonzalez with Jeff Kent. With the bases loaded, Ohman went right after Kent and threw fastballs for strikes. After a breaking ball in the dirt, Ohman went back to curveball, Kent could not check his swing and struck out to end the inning.

Ryan Dempster pitched the 9th and had trouble keeping the ball down. He struck out Betemit to start the inning but gave up back-to-back singles to Ethier and pinch hitter Mike Lieberthal on two pitches. Olmedo Saenz fell behind in the count and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Zambrano gave up 2 runs on 8 hits in 7 2/3 innings with 8 strikeouts and 2 walks on 125 pitches. Lou Piniella needs Zambrano to put wins on the board….and on Saturday he did his job.

The Cubs received a much-needed win against the left-hander, Mark Hendrickson. For the second day in a row they put up double digits in hits. Aramis Ramirez led off the 2nd and hit the first pitch from Hendrickson over the wall in right for his 12th homerun of the season. Mark DeRosa followed with his 5th homer of the year over the short fence in right….the first time the Cubs have hit back-to-back home runs all season. Matt Murton followed with a single up the middle and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch but was unable to score on a single to left by Cesar Izturis. Carlos Zambrano tried to bunt for a single and ended up sacrificing Izturis to 2nd but Soriano struck out to end the inning.

The Cubs were retired in order in the 3rd. Matt Murton doubled down the left field line with 1-out in the 4th and scored on a single by Henry Blanco. Izturis grounded into a force out that erased Blanco but Carlos Zambrano reached on a check swing infield single….he hustled down the line and beat out the throw by Ramon Martinez. Zambrano’s hustle kept the inning alive for Alfonso Soriano who singled to left to score Izturis from 2nd. The Cubs managed just 1 hit from the 5th inning on.

The entire team played a solid game. For one of the few times this season, the starting pitching was sharp, the offense plated enough runs to win the game, the defense made plays and the bullpen did their job.

Rich Hill is scheduled to start the series finale on Sunday afternoon against Randy Wolf….a win would give the Cubs a .500 road trip.

Quote of the Day

"Be who you are and say what you feel. Because, those who mind, don't matter and those who matter, don't mind." - Theodor Seuss Geisel

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