Z Third Times Z Charm

Game One Hundred Forty-One – Cubs 5 Pirates 1
WP – Carlos Zambrano (15-12) LP – Ian Snell (9-12) Save – None

wflag.jpg Carlos Zambrano ended the worst losing streak of his career with one of his best outings of the season when his team needed him the most. Zambrano stepped up and delivered on the promise he made during a press conference last week and beat the Pirates for the first time this year. Zambrano allowed only 1 hit through the first 6 innings and left in the 7th with bases loaded after two very questionable calls by home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Carlos Marmol gave up a sacrifice fly to Jack Wilson, the only run Zambrano was credited with in 6+ innings. Zambrano struck out 8, walked 5 and gave up 2 hits on 112 pitches. Carlos Marmol pitched out of a bases loaded and no out jam in the 8th, giving up just 1 run and Bobby Howry retired the only batter he faced with the bases loaded in the 8th. Marmol and Howry combined to strand 5 runners in 2 innings. Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect 9th to preserve the win.

The Cubs’ offense hit the ball hard all night but several fine defensive plays by the Pirates outfield kept the game close. Ryan Theriot tripled and scored on a RBI single by Derrek Lee in the 1st inning. Alfonso Soriano hit his 23rd home run of the season with one on in the 5th and Jacque Jones drove in the last 2 runs of the game, including a triple in the 9th that scored Mark DeRosa with an all-important tack on run.

Lou Piniella’s crew picked up their second win in the last six games and improved to 3 games above .500. The Cubs are now 4-4 in September.

Carlos Zambrano took the mound on Saturday night with a purpose and his pant legs hiked up to around his knees. Zambrano was trying to mix things up and it worked. Zambrano won for the first time since July 29th in Cincinnati in very impressive fashion. He worked very quickly and had very good command despite throwing from behind in the count most of the night. Zambrano threw first pitch strikes to 11 of the 25 batters he faced and did not allow a Pirate leadoff hitter to reach base until the 7th inning. Carlos Zambrano was the Carlos Zambrano from June and July and if he can stay on track for his next 4 starts….

Zambrano kept his emotions in line until the 7th inning. He did not receive strike calls on two pitches to Ronny Paulino and ended up walking him to load the bases. Lou Piniella quickly removed Zambrano and he left staring at the home plate umpire. In this writer’s humble opinion both of those pitches were strikes and Zambrano had every right to be upset with Sam Holbrook.

Zambrano struck out Nyjer Morgan to start the game then gave up a single to left to Nate McLouth. Freddy Sanchez followed with a fly out to deep left center, Jacque Jones made a very good running catch. Jason Bay stepped in. Zambrano has more than struggled against Bay in his career and ended up walking him. Zambrano then struck out Adam LaRoche to end the inning.

Zambrano retired the Pirates in order in the 2nd with two strikeouts. He walked McLouth with 2 outs in the 3rd but retired Freddy Sanchez on a grounder to 3rd….Derrek Lee made a very good grab of a bad throw by Aramis Ramirez and tagged Sanchez out.

With Jason Bay out of the lineup (Bay left in the 3rd inning with right knee soreness), Zambrano retired the first two batters he faced in the 4th but gave up a 2-out walk to Jose Bautista. Zambrano struck out Ronny Paulino to end the inning.

After Soriano’s home run in the top of the 5th, Zambrano retired the Pirates in order in the bottom of the inning….a true shutdown inning for Big Z. Zambrano threw a very quick 1-2-3 6th inning and appeared to be on his way to a very long outing. Adam LaRoche singled to start to start the 7th, only the second hit Zambrano allowed. Jose Bautista just missed a home run on a 3-2 offering from Zambrano and then he walked him on the next pitch. Zambrano got ahead of Paulino 0-2 and ended up walking him to load the bases. Zambrano did not agree with two bad calls from the home plate umpire and Piniella quickly made a change and brought in Carlos Marmol.

Zambrano stared at Sam Holbrook as he left the field, appeared to be on the verge of losing it in the dugout but ended up staying and watching Marmol finish the inning.

Jack Wilson hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in left, LaRoche tagged and scored the only run the Pirates would get. Marmol struck out pinch hitter, Josh Phelps and retired Morgan on 1 pitch, a ground out to 2nd. Marmol took the mound in the 8th and struggled throwing strikes. He hit McLouth to start the inning on a 0-2 pitch. Jason Kendall threw out Sanchez at 1st after a swinging bunt. Marmol struck out Ryan Doumit but balked with LaRoche at the plate. Marmol ended up walking LaRoche and Bautista to load the bases. Piniella brought in Bobby Howry to get the last out.

Howry retired Ronny Paulino on a ground out to 2nd to end the inning. Howry threw 3 pitches, all strikes.

Felix Pie made a great diving catch in the 9th inning that allowed Ryan Dempster to retire the Pirates in order. Dempster struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced on 13 pitches, 10 were strikes.

Ryan Theriot tripled down the right field line with 1-out in the 1st. Derrek Lee followed with a single to left on the next pitch from Ian Snell, Theriot scored. The Cubs could not put another run on the board after Aramis Ramirez blooped a single to left and Cliff Floyd advanced them 90′. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Mark DeRosa looked at strike three to end the inning.

Carlos Zambrano singled with 2 outs in the 2nd. Soriano followed with a fly out to the warning track just to the left of straight away center….Nyjer Morgan made a very good catch to take away at least a double from Soriano, but he also did the Cubs a favor. He kept Zambrano from running the bases….

Aramis Ramirez was robbed of extra bases by Morgan in the 3rd and the Cubs were not able to score in the 4th after a 1-out single by DeRosa. Jason Kendall was caught stealing to end the inning.

Jacque Jones walked to lead off the 5th. Zambrano bunted him to 2nd then Soriano followed with a 2-run home run to left. The ball appeared to go off the heal of McLouth’s glove and it was unclear at first whether McLouth caught the ball or not.

Jason Kendall made his first start in Pittsbugh since being traded to the Oakland A’s after the 2004 season. Kendall doubled to left center to start the 7th and took 3rd on an error by Morgan. With the infield in, Jacque Jones hit a grounder to 1st that was misplayed by LaRoche. Kendall scored but Sanchez threw out Jones trying to advance to 2nd….he was out by a mile.

Franquelis Osoria retired the Cubs in order on 4 pitches in the 8th. He hit DeRosa with 1-out in the 9th. McLouth robbed Kendall of extra bases with a great running catch toward the foul line in left. Jim Tracy brought in lefty, John Grabow to face Jacque Jones. Jones promptly tripled to left center to drive in DeRosa for the 5th and final run of the game.

Saturday night was a big win for the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano. While the phrase, “it was only the Pirates“, might be used….the Cubs beat a team they struggle mightily against and a team that Zambrano has not faired well against over the past couple of years. The Cubs improved their record on the year against the Bucs to 5-6.

Steve Trachsel is scheduled to face Matt Morris on Sunday afternoon in the series finale and the Cubs last game of the year in the Steel City. Trachsel versus Morris…. What year is it again?

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax