Zetting the Tone

Game One Hundred Fifty-Six – Cubs 8 Pirates 0
WP – Carlos Zambrano (17-13) LP – Tom Gorzelanny (14-9) Save – None

wflag.jpg Carlos Zambrano set a new career high on Sunday with his 17th victory of the season, his first at Wrigley since July 18th. Zambrano struck out the side to start the game with one of the most dominating innings of his career. Zambrano worked very quickly and found a rhythm that has been missing from his previous outings. Zambrano was very efficient; he threw 93 pitches before leaving at the start of the 7th inning with cramps in his forearm. Zambrano did not allow a run in 6 strong innings, gave up 3 hits, walked 3 and struck out 6. Kerry Wood allowed just one base runner to reach in his 2 innings of no hit relief with 3 strikeouts. Michael Wuertz struck out the side in the 9th to close out the game. Zambrano, Wood and Wuertz threw a combined 3-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts. The shutout was the Cubs 8th of the year.

Ronny Cedeno had a big day subbing for the injured Ryan Theriot. Cedeno was 3-for-4 with 3 RBI’s. Cedeno drove in the Cubs’ first run with a single in the 2nd and added a 2-run home run in the 7th. Matt Murton was 3-for-4 with a run scored and Derrek Lee hit his 20th of the year in the 6th, a 2-run shot into the basket in right. Lee was 2-for-4 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. Geovany Soto continued his impressive work behind the plate, he threw out Nyjer Morgan in 3rd with the Cubs up 1-0 and was 2-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored.

Lou Piniella’s crew completed an improbable 3-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish the 6-game homestand with a 5-1 record. In the process the Cubs beat three extremely talented southpaws they have had little to no success against in the past. The Cubs outscored the Pirates, 30-13 with 10 homeruns.

When asked after the Cubs win on Sunday if he was excited, Lou Piniella responded with, “I’ll be more excited if and when we clinch. We have two more big series to go.” The Cubs beat Tom Gorzelanny for the first time while improving their record against left-handed starters to 19-22. The Cubs have won 10 of the last 12 and they are a season-high 10 games over .500.

The Cubs needed Carlos Zambrano to have a big game on Sunday….and he did. Zambrano was dominating from the first pitch and kept himself under control until the 6th inning. Zambrano appears to work extremely well with Geovany Soto. At one point in the 6th when Zambrano start to “lose it“, the young catcher quickly went to the mound to “talk” to his pitcher. Soto grabbed Zambrano by the jersey and apparently got his attention. Zambrano retired Xavier Nady on the next pitch with a groundout to short. Zambrano stepped up in a big game and even helped himself with a double in the 6th and scored on a bloop single to center by Mark DeRosa.

Zambrano retired the Pirates in order to start the game on strikeouts. He struck out Adam LaRoche to start the 2nd before giving up a single to Xavier Nady. Nady stole 2nd (it was a bad call, Nady was out) and Zambrano walked Jason Bay. Ronny Paulino and Cesar Izturis both hit back to Zambrano to end the inning.

In the 3rd, Nyjer Morgan reached on a single up the middle. Morgan promptly attempted to steal 2nd but was thrown out by Geovany Soto. Freddy Sanchez flied out to right center to end the inning. Zambrano retired 6 of the next 7 batters he faced, the only runner to reach was Tom Gorzelanny with a 2-out walk in the 5th. Zambrano retired the first two batters he faced in the 6th before LaRoche reached on a broken bat, infield single to 3rd. Zambrano retired Nady on a groundout to short to end the inning and his outing.

Zambrano took the mound to start the 7th but was lifted for Kerry Wood. Zambrano left with cramps in his forearm that Piniella mentioned after the game probably happened while Zambrano was running the bases in the bottom of the 6th. Piniella said Zambrano has had trouble with cramping in 2 of his last 4 starts and that he and his staff have to figure out what is causing the problem.

Kerry Wood was very sharp. He struck out 3 of the 7 batters he faced and the only runner he allowed was a leadoff walk to Nate McLouth in the 8th. Michael Wuertz struck out the side in order in the 9th.

When the Cubs started the final month of the season they did not have a single player with at least 20 home runs, after Sunday they have three. Derrek Lee hit his 20th of the year to be the last of the “Big 3” to reach the mark….Aramis Ramirez has 26, Alfonso Soriano leads the club with 31.

The Cubs hit Tom Gorzelanny very hard to start the game with little to show for it. Soriano ripped a sinking line drive to 3rd and Derrek Lee lined out to right. Mark DeRosa did double with 1-out but was stranded when Aramis Ramirez struck out to end the inning.

Matt Murton led off the 2nd with a double to left center. Geovany Soto followed with a bloop single to right. Craig Monroe popped out to right for the first out. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Ronny Cedeno singled to right center to score Murton with the first run. Zambrano attempted to sacrifice the runners to 2nd and 3rd, but bunted the ball to hard. Gorzelanny threw out Soto at 3rd and Soriano struck out to end the inning.

Derrek Lee walked with 1-out in the 3rd. Matt Murton doubled to left center with 2 outs but Lee was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. In the 4th, Ronny Cedeno flipped the lineup with a 2-out infield single up the middle. Zambrano flied out to the warning track in center to end the inning….but Cedeno’s single would end up being a more than “just a single”.

Soriano extended his hitting streak to 9 games with a lead off single to left in the 5th. DeRosa struck out, but Soriano stole 2nd. Lee followed with a double to left center, Soriano scored. The Pirates intentionally walked Ramirez and Murton reached on an infield single. Soto followed with a sacrifice fly to left….Lee scored and the Cubs were up by a score of 3-0.

Carlos Zambrano doubled to the corner in right with 1-out in the 6th. Mark DeRosa blooped a 2-out single into center to score Zambrano. Derrek Lee followed with a home run to right that landed in the basket.

In the 7th, Geovany Soto singled to left with 1-out. Ronny Cedeno then hit his 3rd home run of the season to left….a 2-run shot that put the game away.

The Cubs finished the season with a winning record against the Pirates, 8-7 and completed their home schedule with a 44-37 record.

Monday is the final off day of the regular season for the Cubs. They open their final road trip on Tuesday in Miami against the Marlins. Ted Lilly is scheduled to face Dontrelle Willis.

Quote of the Day

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