Z Ace?

Game One Hundred Twenty-Six – Cubs 1 Giants 4
WP – Matt Cain (6-13) LP – Carlos Zambrano (14-10) Save – Brad Hennessey (13)

For the 8th time in 27 starts Carlos Zambrano could not complete 6 innings and struggled against another team with a record below .500. Zambrano was making his second start after signing his new contract last Friday. He was spectacular against the Cardinals on Sunday before the rain came but he was the total opposite on Thursday afternoon. Zambrano worked out of trouble in the 1st inning, a defensive miscue in the 2nd inning and despite several baserunners in the first 3 innings had only allowed 2 hits and no runs. Zambrano lost his command in the 4th inning and walked the bases loaded. Dave Roberts drove in the first two runs of the game with a bloop single to right following a 2-out walk to Matt Cain. Cain drove in the Giants other 2 runs of the game with his 2nd career home run in the 6th inning. Cain appeared very surprised when the ball left his bat, the long ball was just his 4th hit of the season. Zambrano departed a batter later when he walked Dave Roberts with his 103rd pitch of his short outing.

The Cubs offense was non-existent against Matt Cain. They managed 8 hits and left 7 on base but poor baserunning kept the Cubs off the board in the 2nd inning and allowed Matt Cain to settle in. Jason Kendall scored the Cubs only run after a lead off double in the 7th. Mike Fontenot drove him in but the free-swinging Cubs offense could not mount another comeback.

While it is never good to see a team’s number one pitcher perform the way Zambrano did on Thursday, the Cubs won the series and took 2 of 3 from a very hot Giants team at home. Lou Piniella’s crew has won 5 of their last 7 and remain atop of the Central Division. Piniella said after the game, “We win two out of three the rest of the year, I think we’re all going to be happy….”

Carlos Zambrano lost to the Giants for the first time in his career and continues to beat himself. After a spectacular June and July, Zambrano has lost 3 in a row and has not posted a win since July 29th in Cincinnati. Zambrano has given up 18 earned runs on 29 hits in 23 innings and the home run he surrendered to Matt Cain was the only one of the series. Walks continue to be his undoing. He walked 4 more on Thursday and for the month Zambrano has walked more (16) than he has struck out (15). Zambrano has to turn his season back around if he still has thoughts on delivering on his promise. To be quite frank, it is time for Zambrano to grow up and pitch the way the Cubs have paid him to….the excuses are over, they no longer exist, his job now is to pitch deep into ballgames and to WIN them.

Ray Durham battled Zambrano to start the 4th inning. He worked a walk after a 10-pitch at bat. Rich Aurilia hit a grounder up the middle that Ryan Theriot made a good play on to force Durham at 2nd but Mike Fontenot could not get Aurilia at 1st. Omar Vizquel walked but Zambrano retired Guillermo Rodriguez on the first pitch. He got ahead of Matt Cain, 1-2, before walking him to load the bases. Dave Roberts followed with a bloop single to right to score Aurilia and Vizquel.

In the 6th, Rodriguez hit a ground rule double to left with 1-out. Matt Cain followed and took a 1-1 pitch just over the wall in left. Zambrano walked Roberts and then Piniella went and got him…. Scott Eyre finished the inning. The Cubs bullpen did not allow a run in relief of Zambrano and gave the offense a chance for another comeback.

Jacque Jones recorded the Cubs’ first hit of the day, a single to right in the 1st inning but Derrek Lee flied out on the first pitch he saw and Aramis Ramirez ended the inning with a fly out to center. Daryle Ward led off the 2nd with a ringing double to right. But with DeRosa at the plate, Rodriguez picked off Ward from 2nd base….it was not close. Mark DeRosa ended up walking and with 2 outs, Mike Fontenot doubled to right. Cain then retired Carlos Zambrano on 3 pitches….all swinging for the fence, to end the inning. Ward’s misadventure at 2nd base cost the Cubs a possible huge inning.

Ryan Theriot singled to left center to start the 3rd but Cain retired Jones, Lee and Ramirez in order….Theriot never moved. Other than Zambrano reaching on an error by Aurilia in the 5th inning, the Cubs did not record another hit until Ramirez blooped a single into right with 1-out in the 6th inning. Ramirez advanced to 2nd on a passed ball but DeRosa grounded back to the mound to end the inning.

Jason Kendall led off the 7th with a double to left center. Fontenot followed with a single up the middle to score Kendall after a very good at bat (10 pitches). Matt Murton pinch hit for Scott Eyre, swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Ryan Theriot followed with a 2-out double to right but again the CUBS SWUNG AT THE FIRST PITCH, this time it was Jacque Jones and he grounded out to 2nd to end the inning. Matt Murton and Jacque Jones made 3 outs on 2 pitches….

Theriot’s double in the 7th was the last hit of the game for the Cubs.

Lou Piniella takes his crew east to the desert on Friday to open a 3-game series against the first place Diamondbacks. Sean Marshall is scheduled to pitch game one against Micah Owings.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver