All About Z Pitching

Game Six – Cubs 3 Astros 2
WP – Carlos Zambrano (1-0) LP – Oscar Villarreal (0-2) Save – Kerry Wood (3)

wflag.jpgLou Piniella’s crew won their first one run game of the year on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley. Carlos Zambrano picked up his first win of the young season with a solid 7-inning outing. Zambrano gave up 2 runs on 7 hits with 7 strikeouts and no walks….Big Z has walked only 1 batter in his first 13 2/3 innings of 2008. Zambrano retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. Miguel Tejada tied the game in the 7th with his first home run as a Astro.

Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect 8th and Kerry Wood picked up his 3rd save in as many opportunities. Wood retired the heart of the Astros’ order in the 9th that included striking out Miguel Tejada to end the game.

Derrek Lee broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 7th with his second home run in as many days. Lee’s third of the year was the difference in the game. Alfonso Soriano made a difference in the field and at the plate. He hit his first home run of the season in the 5th and threw out Michael Bourn at home in the 1st inning for his first outfield assist.

The Cubs evened their season record at 3-3 with a solid performance in the finale of the homestand. The Cubs offense had plenty of opportunities to put the game away but were unable to score those all-important tack on runs. They loaded the bases twice on the afternoon with less than 2 outs and came away with only 1 run.

The win on Sunday was all about the pitching staff. Although Carlos Zambrano ended his consecutive scoreless innings streak at 22 1/3 innings, he threw a great game and kept himself under control all afternoon. Zambrano made a few mistakes but did not allow them to effect his game plan. He threw 106 pitches in 7 complete innings, 72 for strikes, and did not walk a single batter. How many times in the past has Zambrano thrown more than 100 pitches and not completed 6 innings?

Zambrano worked fast all afternoon, found a groove and did not beat himself….it was truly a very impressive outing.

Lou Piniella said before the game that Bobby Howry would not be used in the 8th inning for a while when the Cubs have the lead. Piniella said he must find less stressful situations for Howry in order to give him time to shake off his early season struggles. Piniella will be more dependent on Carlos Marmol late in the game and he responded with a very effective 8th inning on Sunday.

Marmol struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced, including a controversial call on a check swing by Michael Bourn. Marmol ran the count to 3-2 on the Astros’ centerfielder and got the call on a check swing for strike three. Henry Blanco thought it was strike three, he threw the ball around the horn, but home plate umpire Brian Runge did not call it a strike. Bourn headed to first, Piniella asked what happened to the appeal and Kerwin Danley (the 3rd base umpired) finally called it a swing.

Kerry Wood’s outing on Sunday was his best of the year. Wood retired Darin Erstad, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada on 13 pitches, 10 strikes, and showed good command and velocity. Wood missed a couple of his spots….but how can anyone complain about the end result?

Alfonso Soriano changed the game in the 1st inning. Carlos Zambrano gave up a leadoff single to Michael Bourn and then a double to Hunter Pence. Zambrano struck out Darin Erstad on a tremendous change-up for the first out. Mr. Cub Killer, Carlos Lee, stepped in with runners on 2nd and 3rd and only 1 out.

Lee hit a fly ball to medium left field. Soriano put himself into a good position to make a catch and throw. Bourn tagged and Soriano threw a perfect strike to Henry Blanco to nail Bourn at the plate….it was not close.

The Cubs first run of the game came in the 2nd inning. Mark DeRosa led off with a single to center. Ryan Theriot reached on a fielder’s choice by Geoff Blum. Blum made a bad decision and tried to throw out DeRosa at 2nd instead of just throwing the ball to 1st to get the sure out….. DeRosa was running on the 3-2 offering by Brandon Backe. Henry Blanco followed with a solid single to right. DeRosa held at 3rd. Carlos Zambrano stepped in and swung at the first pitch from Backe and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play….DeRosa scored.

Kosuke Fukudome was 0-for-3 with a walk on the afternoon. He made a perfect throw from right field in the 3rd inning that kept Brandon Backe from tagging and scoring from 3rd on a fly to right by Hunter Pence.

The Cubs offense did just enough to pick up the win….with two more home runs.

Lou Piniella’s crew will play their first road game of the 2008 season in Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon. Ted Lilly will face Tom Gorzelanny in the Pirates home opener.

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