On Z Winning End

Game One Hundred Forty-Seven – Cubs 5 Cardinals 3
WP – Carlos Zambrano (16-12) LP – Adam Wainwright (13-11) Save – Bobby Howry (8)

wflag.jpg Lou Piniella’s crew won their 3rd game in a row for the first time since August 16th – August 18 behind one of Carlos Zambrano’s best outings of the season. Zambrano made only one mistake on the night and out pitched Adam Wainwright in an ole fashion pitcher’s duel. Zambrano gave up only 1 run, a solo home run by Albert Pujols, on 4 hits on 101 pitches in 8 innings. Zambrano kept his emotions intact, threw strikes and was very efficient. Zambrano was going to take the mound in the 9th but after Jason Kendall walked to load the bases in the top of the inning, Lou Piniella was forced to call on Daryle Ward with his club up 2-1. Ward responded with a bases clearing double to center and appeared to give the Cubs a comfortable 4-run lead in the 9th inning.

Ryan Dempster started the 9th by retiring Albert Pujols. Jim Edmonds followed with his 12th home run of the season and with 2 outs, Ryan Ludwick added an opposite field home run to right center that cut the Cubs lead to 5-3. Yadier Molina singled to left after Ludwick’s home run and Piniella removed Dempster for Bobby Howry. Russell Branyan and So Taguchi singled off of Howry to load the bases but Aaron Miles grounded out on the first pitch to end the game.

Cliff Floyd broke a 1-1 tie in the 7th with his 3rd home run in as many games, his 8th of the year. Carlos Zambrano recorded his longest outing since June 22nd against the White Sox and tied a career high with his 16th win of the season. The Cubs won for the 5th time in 7 games, improved their record to 5 games above .500 and increased their lead in the central to a game and a half with 15 left.

Anyone that thought wins would come easy the rest of the season should know better, and Friday night was a perfect example. All of the teams remaining on the Cubs’ schedule have impressive offensives and if one of Piniella’s pitchers are “just a little off” or lose focus in any way, those teams are all capable of coming back from big deficits. There is no breathing room, no matter how big the lead is.

The Cubs won for the 5th time in 6 games at Busch Stadium this year because of the performance of Carlos Zambrano, not in spite of it. Zambrano was dominating all night and to put it simply, he pitched the way a staff’s ace is supposed to pitch in a big game…. and the Cubs and Cardinals playing meaningful games in September does not get much bigger.

Zambrano started his outing by retiring the Cardinals in order on 19 pitches. Jim Edmonds walked to start the 2nd but was stranded at 3rd when Yadier Molina grounded out to Mark DeRosa.

Adam Wainwright led off the 3rd with an infield single, the first hit of the game. Zambrano could not make the play that allowed Wainwright to reach. He did not let it affect him and retired the next three batters he faced to end the inning. Albert Pujols led off the 4th with an infield single to the hole between 2nd and 3rd. Aramis Ramirez stopped the ball but could not field it cleanly. Jim Edmonds grounded into a 6-4-3 double play and Skip Schumaker grounded out to complete the 4th.

Scott Spiezio led of the 5th with a walk. Molina flied out and Wainwright popped out to Derrek Lee on a bunt attempt for the second out. Brendan Ryan grounded out for the last out of the inning. Zambrano appeared to settle in. He retired the first two in the 6th. Pujols then hit his 31st home run of the year, his first in 21 games, to right center….with 2 outs. Edmonds swung at the first pitch and grounded out to 2nd to end the inning.

Zambrano retired the Cardinals in order for the first time in the 7th and retired 6 in a row before Aaron Miles singled to left with 2 outs in the 8th….the Cardinals 4th and last hit off of Zambrano. Rick Ankiel flied out to right center for the third out in the 8th.

Carlos Zambrano did his job….in impressive fashion.

Adam Wainwright was just as good as Zambrano. The Cubs offense could not take advantage of his control problems in the 1st inning and allowed him to settle in. Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a walk. Rick Ankiel made a show string catch to rob Ryan Theriot of a hit. With Derrek Lee at the plate, Molina threw out Soriano at 2nd. Lee walked and Ramirez singled but Cliff Floyd flied out to right on a 3-2 pitch.

Wainwright retired the next 7 batters he faced. Aramis Ramirez doubled to right past a diving Ankiel with 1-out in the 4th. The ball bounced in the stands for a ground rule double….it could have been more. Floyd grounded out to, Ramirez advanced and scored on a bloop to right by Mark DeRosa….a 2-out RBI.

Once again Wainwright retired the next 7 batters he faced. Cliff Floyd led of the 7th with his 8th homer of the season to right. Jason Kendall singled with 2 outs in the 7th and advanced to 2nd on a throwing error by Scott Schumaker. Zambrano struck out swinging to end the inning. Zambrano wanted to break the bat over his knee, but he did not.

Felix Pie was inserted into center as a defensive substitution in the 8th. Pie replaced Floyd behind Ramirez in the lineup. With the Cubs up, 2-1, Tony LaRussa brought in his closer to keep the Cubs from adding onto the slimmest of leads.

Jason Isringhausen retired Ramirez to start the inning. Felix Pie doubled off the wall in right. DeRosa grounded out to 3rd, Pie advanced to 3rd. LaRussa intentionally walked Jacque Jones but Isringhausen could not find the strike zone and walked Jason Kendall to load the bases (Isringhausen appeared to be pitching around Kendall). LaRussa forced Piniella’s hand and Piniella removed Zambrano for Daryle Ward. Ward then doubled over the head of Jim Edmonds. Ward cleared the bases, all 3 runners came in and gave Piniella a little breathing room. But it turned out to be the difference in the game.

The Cubs played a good game, a total team effor….PERIOD.

The Cubs and Cardinals are scheduled to play two on Saturday. Ted Lilly will face Braden Looper in game one at 12:10pm C.T. and Sean Marshall will face Joel Pineiro under the lights at 7:10pm C.T.

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney