Waiting to Z

Game Thirty-Seven – Cubs 10 Mets 1
WP – Carlos Zambrano (4-3) LP – John Maine (5-1) Save – None

wflag.jpg Questions have been raised in the media about the relationship between Carlos Zambrano and Lou Piniella but on Tuesday night it was clear to see Zambrano listened to his skipper and turned in his best outing of the season. Zambrano’s 1st inning struggles this year have been well documented but after retiring the Mets in order on just 7 pitches to start the game, Zambrano appeared to get into a rhythm and for the first time this season he pitched the way he is capable of for an entire game.

The Cubs offense gave Zambrano an early lead to work with. They scored 3 runs in the first 2 innings of off John Maine and handed him his first loss of the season. Aramis Ramirez put an end to the Cubs’ drought with the bases loaded and his towering grand slam was the big blow of the 6-run 6th inning when the Cubs put the game out of reach. The Cubs scored 9 of their 10 runs with 2-outs.

Carlos Zambrano stepped up the way his team needed him to and threw his longest outing of the year against arguably the best offense in the National League. Zambrano gave up 1 run (a home run by Shawn Green) on 6 hits and 3 strikeouts in 8 solid innings. Zambrano did give up 3 walks but 2 of them came in the 8th inning with the game well in hand. The Cubs defense gave Zambrano the help he needed. Alfonso Soriano recorded his 5th outfield assist of the year in the 2nd inning, with a nice block by Michael Barrett, when he threw out Shawn Green at the plate. Daryle Ward made several nice scoops at 1st filling in for Derrek Lee and Cesar Izturis had a solid game at short.

Carlos Zambrano threw strikes and most importantly, he kept the ball down. He recorded 16 groundouts, by far his highest total of the year. After retiring the Mets in order to start the game he gave up a lead off single to Carlos Delgado in the 2nd. David Wright grounded into a 6-4-3 double play (1 of 2 on the night for the Cubs) but Shawn Green followed with a double off the top of the right field wall. Paul Lo Duca singled to left on a 3-2 pitch but Soriano’s throw (and Barrett’s block) kept the Mets off the board and Zambrano left the field pumping his fist. After a 2-out hustle double by Jose Reyes in the 3rd, Zambrano appeared to go into melt down mode but he retired Endy Chavez on a ground out to short to end the inning.

Zambrano’s most impressive inning of the game came in the 4th when he retired the heart of the Mets lineup in order. He threw first pitch strikes to Beltran, Delgado and Wright; retired Beltran and Delgado on groundouts and Wright looked at strike 3….a pretty pitch after brushing him off the plate. In the 5th, Shawn Green led off the inning with a home run to right (the 11th dinger Zambrano has allowed this season). Paul Lo Duca grounded out after Zambrano fell behind in the count 3 to nothing. Damion Easley singled to center and Zambrano appeared to be hitting a wall. He walked pinch hitter David Newhan on 4 pitches but collected himself and retired Reyes and Chavez on groundouts to the left side.

When Zambrano took the hill in the bottom of the 6th his offense had given him a big 8-run lead and Zambrano took over. Unfortunately he did hit Carlos Delgado in the hand, he stayed in the game but left the next inning and is listed as day-to-day with a bruised finger. In the 7th Zambrano was in cruise control and retired the Mets in order on just 9 pitches. After retiring Reyes on 1-pitch to start the 8th, he walked Chavez and Beltran but induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Julio Franco to end the inning. Zambrano hit in the 9th but Scott Eyre took the hill and retired the Mets in order with the final out being recorded by Mike Fontenot.

Carlos Zambrano was the definition of an ace on Tuesday night.

The Cubs offense walked 6 times on Tuesday night and their patience at the plate in the 1st inning led to an early lead. Ryan Theriot walked to lead off the game (Theriot was on base 4 times on the night, 1-3, 3 walks and 2 runs scored, Theriot also has a 9-game hitting streak), stole 2nd with Soriano at the plate and moved to 3rd when Lo Duca’s throw sailed into center. Soriano walked and moved into scoring position when Aramis Ramirez popped out to Lo Duca in foul ground behind home plate. With Soriano tagging and moving to 2nd it allowed him to score on a ground rule double to left center off the bat of Daryle Ward.

Jacque Jones led off the 2nd with a single to center and moved into scoring position when Cesar Izturis extended his hitting streak to 8 games with a single to center. Zambrano sacrificed them into scoring position, Theriot struck out but Cliff Floyd (3-5 with a RBI and a run scored in his first start back at Shea) singled to center. Jacque Jones scored but Izturis was held at 3rd….Beltran made an excellent throw and he would have been out at the plate. Soriano flied out to right to end the inning.

The Cubs came up empty after loading the bases in the 3rd. Daryle Ward (2-4 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored) singled to left center with 1-out and moved to 3rd on a double off the top of the right field wall by Michael Barrett. Jones grounded out, the Mets intentionally walked Izturis and Carlos Zambrano came very close to clearing the bases (the ball went foul down the left field line, but it had the distance) before striking out to end the inning (0-16 in the month with the bases loaded).

Scott Schoeneweis took the hill for the Mets in the 6th. Zambrano singled to right with 1-out and Theriot followed with a 4-pitch walk. Floyd singled to right and Mike Quade held Zambrano at 3rd to load the bases. Soriano popped out to shallow left (0-17) but Aramis Ramirez cleared the bases with a grand slam to left that ended up in the second deck. Daryle Ward drew a walk to chase Schoeneweis from the game. Aaron Sele gave up a double off to right by Barrett. A bad relay from Shawn Green got away from Easley and allowed Ward to score. Jones followed with another double to score Barrett….the Cubs sent 10 to the plate in the 6th inning.

Mike Fontenot pinch hit for Aramis Ramirez in the 8th and lead off the inning with a ground rule double to left….his first career major league hit. A wild pitch moved him to 3rd and he scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Michael Barrett.

Tuesday was a good win for the Cubs and hopefully a good start for Carlos Zambrano.

Rich Hill is scheduled to start the third game of the series against Jorge Sosa.

Quote of the Day

"There are only two seasons ... winter and baseball." - Bill Veeck

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