Game Seventy-Two – Cubs 5 White Sox 1
WP – Carlos Zambrano (8-6) LP – Mark Buehrle (4-4) Save – None
For the second time in as many starts Carlos Zambrano found himself in the middle of a pitcher’s duel but this time the Cubs offense scored enough runs to get him the win. Zambrano was a few mistakes short of perfection with the only run he allowed coming off a solo home run by Paul Konerko. Zambrano struck out the first four batters he faced and seven of the first nine while tying a career high with 12 strikeouts on the afternoon.
Alfonso Soriano led off the game with his 13th home run of the season and Aramis Ramirez had a big impact after being activated from the DL before the game. Ramirez hit his 14th home run in the 1st inning and drove in the third run of the game in the 9th inning. The first game of the series was much closer than the final score indicates. Felix Pie’s bases loaded, 2-out, seeing-eye single in the 9th gave Lou Piniella’s crew those all-important tack on runs and the Cubs put an end to their 2-game losing streak. Carlos Zambrano paired up with newly acquired Rob Bowen and did not miss a beat. Zambrano struck out the first four batters he faced and did not allow a ball out of the infield until 1-out in the 4th when Tadahito Iguchi singled to center for the first hit off of Zambrano. Jim Thome walked after the Iguchi single but Zambrano settled down and struck out Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski grounded out to end the inning.
Zambrano did not let up in the 5th and struck out the first two batters he faced and retired the White Sox in order (Dye, Mackowiak and Fields). After the walk he issued to Thome, Zambrano retired the next 9 batters before Konerko homered with 1-out in the 7th to cut the Cubs lead to 2-1. Pierzynski followed the home run with a single to right but a good defensive play by Angel Pagan in right kept Pierzynski off of 2nd, it looked like a sure double down the 1st base line but Pagan hustled, cut the ball off and kept the runner at 1st base. Zambrano settled down and induced a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Jermaine Dye to end the inning.
Zambrano’s 12th strikeout of the game came in the bottom of the 8th, Josh Fields looked at a generously called third strike….Z’s line on the day was 1 run on 3 hits, 1 walk and 12 strikeouts in 8 innings on 113 pitches, 74 for strikes.
Mark Buehrle was just as dominant as Zambrano except he made two mistakes to Zambrano’s one….the Cubs scored 2 runs on 4 hits while Buehrle was on the mound. On the 8th pitch of the at bat, Soriano hit a home run to left to start the game. Mike Fontenot was robbed of a least a single on a great diving catch by Darin Erstad….but it came at a price. Erstad was just activated from the DL and had to leave the game after the top of the 1st. Erstad re-aggravated his sprained left ankle when he made the catch on a line drive to center by Fontenot. With 2-outs in the 1st inning, Aramis Ramirez made his return to the Cubs’ lineup. Ramirez hit a line drive over the right field wall for his 14th of the year.
The Cubs managed just one more scoring chance off of Buehrle in the 4th. Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to 8 games with a single to center and Ramirez was hit in the foot by a pitch. Mark DeRosa struck out and Rob Bowen grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Soriano led off the 6th with a single to left but Fontenot could not sacrifice him to 2nd. Fontenot popped up the bunt toward 1st, Konerko could not make the catch but threw out Soriano at 2nd. Lee followed with a fly out to the warning track in right that just missed leaving the Cell….it appeared to be hit better than the result. Ramirez flied out to end the inning and Buehrle retired the last 6 batters he faced.
Mike Fontenot led off the 9th with a single to right off of Nick Masset. Derrek Lee walked and Aramis Ramirez singled up the middle to drive in Fontenot. Ozzie Guillen went to his pen for Ryan Bukvich. DeRosa sacrificed both runners to 2nd and 3rd with a nice bunt and Rob Bowen walked to load the bases. Guillen brought in Matt Thornton to face Angel Pagan and Felix Pie. Pagan broke his bat and grounded out to Konerko to force Lee at the plate. Felix Pie however, hit a single to left that scored Jacque Jones (pinch ran for Ramirez) and Bowen for the last 2 runs of the day.
It was a good day for the Cubs and a great game for Carlos Zambrano. Big Z dominated the White Sox and put together another outstanding start but most importantly his team got a win.
Rich Hill is scheduled to take the mound against Javier Vazquez on Saturday at the Cell, just after high noon.