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Game Eighty-Eight – Cubs 6 Astros 0
WP – Carlos Zambrano (11-7) LP – Jason Jennings (1-5) Save – None

wflag.jpg Carlos Zambrano continued his recent dominance over the Astros and allowed just 3 hits while throwing 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. With the win, Zambrano became the first National League pitcher to reach 11 wins on the season and with his strong performance he lowered his ERA on the year to 3.83, the first time his ERA has been below 4 all season. Zambrano also had a big day at the plate. He was 2-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored. Carlos Marmol and Bobby Howry did not allow a run in their 2 1/3 innings of relief and combined with Zambrano for the pitching staff’s 6th shutout on the year.

The Cubs offense pounded out 14 hits, with 2 extra base hits, doubles by Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee and for the 10th game in a row did not hit a round tripper, their longest streak since 1988. But the offense continued to put pressure on the Astros, especially their defense. The Astros committed 4 errors with two coming on one play in the 4th inning that gave Carlos Zambrano all the runs he would need. With the win the Cubs have won 11 of their last 15 at the Friendly Confines and improved their home record to 21-21.

The Cubs started the second half with a solid effort. Carlos Zambrano rebounded from a less than stellar outing against the Pirates; he threw the ball well with a lot of movement and was effective despite pitching behind in the count most of the afternoon. Piniella’s crew continued to show improvement on the base paths and put themselves in position to score runs….the little things always add up. While the Cubs scored 6 runs, they did leave 14 on base and were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Early on Jason Jennings held the Cubs offense at bay. Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging the first three times he faced Jennings but finished the day with a solid double to left and a solid single to right. Ryan Theriot reached base three times with a 2-for-4 afternoon that included a walk. Jennings allowed two hits in the first two innings….a Theriot single in the 1st and an infield single by Jacque Jones in the 2nd. Theriot singled to right with two outs in the 3rd, stole 2nd with Derrek Lee at the plate but Lee walked after a good at bat and Aramis Ramirez flied out to right center to end the inning….the Cubs left 4 on base through the first 3 innings.

Cliff Floyd led off the 4th with a single to center and went to 3rd on a single to left center by Mark DeRosa. Jones hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Floyd for the first run of the day and DeRosa advanced to 2nd on the play….two very good baserunning plays that led to runs. Geovany Soto stepped in and worked the count to 3-2 and appeared to hit a routine ground out to Mike Lamb at 3rd but Lamb threw low and Lance Berkman could not scoop the ball out of the dirt. Mark DeRosa rounded 3rd very aggressively and Berkman tried to throw behind DeRosa to get the out but the ball sailed into the stands….DeRosa scored and Soto was given 3rd base on the error. With the infield in, Carlos Zambrano dumped a single into left field to score Soto with the Cubs’ third run.

Cliff Floyd reached on an infield single with 2 outs in the 5th and advanced to 3rd on a bloop single to right center by Mark DeRosa but Berkman robbed Jones of a single and a RBI with a diving stop of Jones’ grounder that appeared to be heading to rightfield.

Carlos Zambrano singled to left center with 1-out in the 6th. He advanced to 3rd on the Cubs’ first extra base hit of the day, a double to left by Soriano….his 25th of the season. Phil Garner went to his pen for Chad Qualls and with the infield in, Theriot grounded out to short for the second out of the inning. Derrek Lee worked a walk to load the bases and Qualls could not find the strike zone. He walked Aramis Ramirez with the bases loaded to force in a run. Cliff Floyd flied out to center to end the inning.

The Cubs added two tack on runs in the 8th after a leadoff single to right by Soriano. Theriot walked and after a wild pitch advanced Soriano and Theriot to 2nd and 3rd, Lee hit a ringing double to right center.

Geovany Soto was hitless in his season debut but reached base twice on errors and scored a run.

Carlos Zambrano did not allow his first hit until 4th inning but a well-timed double play erased Hunter Pence and Zambrano ended up facing the minimum through 5 innings. He also made a fine defensive play to end the 5th inning. Luke Scott hit a bouncer up the middle that Zambrano stopped with his bare hand and picked the ball up and threw Scott out at 1st for the out.

Zambrano gave up his second hit of the day to Eric Munson in the 6th but a botched sacrifice bunt by Jason Jennings took the momentum away and Zambrano struck out Pence to end the inning.

The only trouble Zambrano had all afternoon came in the 7th inning. Carlos Lee singled to right with 1-out after Zambrano did not get the call on a 1-2 pitch. Mark Loretta walked and the Astros had a runner in scoring position for the first time in the game. Lou Piniella visited Zambrano, who had thrown 106 pitches at that point, 60 for strikes and decided to leave him in. Mike Lamb followed with a fly out to the warning track in left (the wind appeared to knock the ball down) and Luke Scott walked to load the bases. Piniella made the slow walk again and brought in Carlos Marmol to end the inning. Marmol did his job and retired Munson on a fly out to center to end the inning and end the threat.

Marmol retired the Astros in order in the 8th with a strikeout and recorded 4 outs on just 14 pitches….Senor Nasty! Bobby Howry pitched the 9th. He threw the ball a lot better than he did in Pittsburgh. The two singles Howry gave up were not hit hard, the infield single by Lee was a tapper to 3rd base side of the mound and Loretta’s was a bloop to center. Howry struck out Luke Scott to end the game and preserve the shutout.

Friday afternoon was a solid win….now it’s time for Roy O on Saturday.

Ted Lilly will take the mound on Saturday afternoon against Roy Oswalt. Lilly will try to beat the Astros for the first time in his career and get off to a good start in the second half.

Quote of the Day

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

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