Z Masterpiece

Game One Hundred Three – Cubs 6 Reds 0
WP – Carlos Zambrano (14-7) LP – Matt Belisle (5-8) Save – None

wflag.jpg For the second day in a row the Cubs played in front of a home crowd at Great American Ball Park. There were clearly more of the Faithful on hand once again and Carlos Zambrano treated them to arguably his best outing of the season, a stark contrast to the way he pitched the last time he took the mound in Cincinnati. Zambrano gave up just 2 hits in 7 1/3 innings of work, walked 3 and struck out 6 and was 3-for-4 at the plate. Zambrano dominated the Reds in route to his Major League leading 14th victory and when he left the game in the 8th inning he was given a standing ovation. Will Ohman and Bobby Howry pitched the last 1 2/3 innings of the game and gave up just a hit to help preserve the shutout.

Derrek Lee hit his second home run in as many days, his 11th of the season, to give Zambrano the early lead. Alfonso Soriano had another big day at the plate as well and appeared to hit a 2-run home run in the 2nd inning but Joe West ruled it fan interference and Soriano had to settle for his 30th double of the year. Aramis Ramirez drove in the first run of the game and Angel Pagan drove in 2 runs in the 9th with a 2-out single to center that sealed the victory. The Cubs finished a very difficult 6-game road trip with a 4-2 record and with the win are back to 7 games above .500 for the third time this season.

Carlos Zambrano was simply unhittable. He surrendered just the 2 hits and actually gave up more free passes, 3, than base hits. Brandon Phillips recorded the first hit of the day in the 1st inning with 2 outs and that is all Zambrano would give up until a bloop single to center by Javier Valentin with 2 outs in the 7th (Angel Pagan took a bad route on the ball and it should have been caught) but Zambrano pitched around the hit and struck out Edwin Encarnacion to end the inning.

cz729pub.jpg Zambrano was in cruise control until Ryan Freel hit a liner of his foot in the 6th inning. Aramis Ramirez made a fine play on the ricochet to throw out Freel but Zambrano would later leave the game in the 8th inning after a second visit to the mound by Mark O’Neal….all indications after the game were that Zambrano is O.K.

The Cubs defense once again had a solid outing, especially Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. The final out of the game was recorded on another good defensive play….Mike Fontenot dove to take a way a hit by Jeff Keppinger and threw him out at 1st to end the game. Mark DeRosa started and played the entire game in right field, his third different position in as many games.

Ryan Theriot jump-started the Cubs offense once again with 1-out in the 1st inning. He singled to right ahead of Matt Belisle hitting Derrek Lee with the second pitch of the at bat. Aramis Ramirez, aka the RBI Machine, came through once again. He doubled to right to score Theriot and the Cubs were in business….2nd and 3rd with only 1-out. Mark DeRosa then hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Lee from 3rd but Mike Fontenot broke his bat and tapped out to the mound to end the inning.

Carlos Zambrano singled down the 3rd base line with 2-outs in the 2nd inning. Alfonso Soriano then followed with what appeared to be a home run to left. The ball never left the park and was ruled fan interference. Soriano was given 2nd base with a double, Zambrano returned to 3rd and Piniella sprinted from the dugout. Piniella argued with Joe West, who made the call, that it was a home run and was quite animated while doing so. The umpires had a meeting of the minds and ruled that a fan did interfere and it was a ground rule double….the boos outweighed the cheers by a big margin. Ryan Theriot then popped out to Phillips in short right to end the inning.

The Cubs had another chance in the 3rd after Ramirez and DeRosa both singled with 1-out but Fontenot struck out and Pagan grounded out to end the inning. After Koyie Hill struck out to start the 4th (he struck out 4 times on the afternoon….the Golden Sombrero), Zambrano followed with a single to left. Soriano hit into a force play that retired Zambrano at 2nd. Soriano then stole 2nd but Theriot flied out to end the inning.

The Cubs went quietly in the 5th and 6th innings but Soriano led off the 7th with a single to center. He stole 2nd with Derrek Lee at the plate. Lee then took a 1-2 offering from Matt Belisle over the right field wall….his 2nd home run of the series and his 3rd in his last 4 games. Belisle was lifted for Victor Santos. DeRosa singled with 2 outs but Fontenot ended the inning a batter later.

In the 8th, Zambrano recorded his 3rd hit of the day to tie a career high.

Ryan Theriot reached in the 9th on an infield single. Aramis Ramirez drew a 1-out walk and both advanced on a passed ball by Javier Valentin. Mark DeRosa walked to load the bases but Mike Fontenot swung at the first pitch and popped out to short for the second out of the inning. Angel Pagan followed with a single to center that scored Theriot and Ramirez to give Piniella’s bullpen a comfortable lead in the 9th.

Sunday was all about Carlos Zambrano. He dominated every aspect of the game and came up big when his team needed him to do so. This was a good win for the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano.

The Cubs return to Chicago to open a 7-game homestand on Monday night against the Philadelphia Phillies. The next week is very important for Lou Piniella’s crew. They play two of the better teams in the NL….the Phillies and New York Mets. Ted Lilly is scheduled to take the mound on Monday against lefty and Phily ace, Cole Hamels.

Photo Gallery I from July 28th
Photo Gallery II from July 28th
Photo Gallery from July 29th

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt