Z Bottom Third

Game Forty-Eight – Cubs 12 Pirates 3
WP – Carlos Zambrano (7-1) LP – Zach Duke (2-3) Save – None

wflag.jpgFor the second time this week the Cubs opened a road series with an impressive win and improved to 9-1 on the year against the Pirates. The Cubs offense put together their biggest output on the road this year by scoring a season high 12 runs on 19 hits with 4 doubles and a 3-run homer by Reed Johnson. The Cubs put the leadoff hitter on in every inning but the 9th. The bottom of the lineup drove in 9 of the Cubs’ 12 runs. Mark DeRosa was 2-for-3 with a walk, 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. Reed Johnson, in his first game since Sunday, added a 3-for-5 performance with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. Johnson’s 3-run shot in the 5th put the game away.

Carlos Zambrano was not only spectacular on the mound….he was unbelievable at the plate. Zambrano promised a good outing earlier in the week and he more than delivered. Zambrano ended the Cubs’ 2-game losing streak with a solid 7-inning start. Zambrano allowed 2 runs on 6 hits with 6 strikeouts and a walk in 7 innings. All of the Pirates runs came in the 5th inning on 3 hits.

But as Ron Santo said following the game, Zambrano was probably more excited about his hitting than his pitching. Zambrano became the first Cubs’ pitcher since Lew Burdette in July of 1964 to collect 4 hits in a single game. Zambrano was 4-for-5 with a run scored and 2 RBI’s. For the third time this season Zambrano collected singles from both sides of the plate….and recorded RBI’s from either side of the dish as well. Big Z ran his average up to .343 on the season.

Lou Piniella’s crew improved to 10-11 on the road with the win and are once again 10 games above the .500 mark. The Cubs appeared reenergized after Thursday’s day off. They returned to their patient ways at the plate and took advantage of several opportunities the Pirates gave them in the early innings. The only negative from Friday night’s win was Alfonso Soriano’s legs. Soriano appeared to ‘tweak‘ something rounding first base on his leadoff double. Soriano remained in the game and played a big part while the game was in question. Micah Hoffpauir replaced him in left in the 6th….it’s very clear that Soriano is not 100%.

Alfonso Soriano jump-started the offense in the 1st inning with a double to right off of Zach Duke. Ryan Theriot followed with a fly out to right, Soriano did not tag on the play. Mark O’Neal checked on Soriano, because he should have advanced on the play. Lou Piniella questioned Soriano about his health, but as mentioned, he remained in the game. Derrek Lee followed with a sinking liner to right. The ball went in and out of the glove of a diving Xavier Nady and Soriano scored from 2nd.

Soriano broke from 2nd on the hit and if Nady had caught the ball, it would have been an easy double play.

Aramis Ramirez followed with a single to center. With 2 outs and runners on 1st and 3rd, Ronny Cedeno reached on an error by Doug Mientkiewicz. Derrek Lee scored from 3rd to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Reed Johnson started the 2nd with a double and scored on a single to center by Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs could not capitalize on an error by Chris Gomez….but still led 3-0 after 2 innings.

Aramis Ramirez led of the 3rd with a single to left center. Geovany Soto (the only starter that did not record a hit) ran the count to 3-2 before grounding out to 3rd. Ramirez advanced to 2nd on the play. Ronny Cedeno advanced Ramirez to 3rd on a ground out to 2nd and Mark DeRosa drove him in with a double to left….4-0 Cubs and the magical number was reached.

The Cubs added another run in the 4th after a leadoff single by Carlos Zambrano. Alfonso Soriano singled to left and Ryan Theriot tried to sacrifice the runners into scoring position. Theriot bunted the ball toward the 1st base line and made Adam LaRoche field the ball. LaRoche looked a 3rd a little too long, Theriot reached to load the bases.

Derrek Lee hit what appeared to be a tailor made double play. Chris Gomez tossed to Freddy Sanchez but the throw to 1st was to the right field side of the bag, Lee was safe and Zambrano scored the Cubs 5th run of the night. With runners on 1st and 3rd and 1 out, Aramis Ramirez hit a fly to medium right, Soriano did not tag from 3rd and the Cubs managed only 1 run after loading the bases with no outs.

Zach Duke left after the 4th….the Cubs scored 5 runs, 4 earned, on 10 hits.

Sean Burnett replaced Duke to start the 5th. Ronny Cedeno greeted him with a double to right. Mark DeRosa walked and both runs scored on Reed Johnson’s second home run of the season (Johnson hit 2 long balls all of last year). Johnson’s dinger was hit to left center….the deepest part of the park. Carlos Zambrano followed with a single….his third hit of the night.

Sean Burnett issued a leadoff walk to Aramis Ramirez in the 6th after the Pirates cut the Cubs’ lead to 8-2 in the bottom of the 5th. Geovany Soto walked and Cedeno grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Mark DeRosa hit a sacrifice fly to right….Ramirez scored and the Cubs were up 9-2.

The Cubs did not add to the lead in the 7th for the first time….Micah Hoffpauir reached on a leadoff single (3-for-7 on the year). Aramis Ramirez started the 8th with his third hit of the game. Ronny Cedeno reached on a 1-out single. Mark DeRosa followed with a double to right, Ramirez scored. Reed Johnson drove in his 4th run with a 6-3 fielder’s choice. With Cedeno on 3rd and 2 outs, Carlos Zambrano singled to center and drove in the Cubs’ 12th run of the game.

Maybe the Cubs took out a little frustration on Pirates’ pitching on Friday night, maybe everything just clicked offensively and hopefully they left a few hits and runs in their bats for the remainder of the weekend.

Carlos Zambrano proved there was nothing wrong with his shoulder. Zambrano pitched liked a man on a mission and dominated the Pirates offense. He faced only two over the minimum through the first three innings….a single and a walk. Jason Bay led off the 4th with a controversial triple. Bay hit a deep drove to the right of straight away center. A fan appeared to reach over the wall. It was ruled fan interference and Bay was given 3rd on the play.

Zambrano struck out Adam LaRoche and Xavier Nady….then retired Doug Mientkiewicz to end the inning, Bay was stranded at 3rd.

Nate McLouth drove in both of the Pirates’ runs in the 5th with a 2-out, 2-run triple. Chris Gomez singled with 1-out and advanced to 2nd on a 2-out single by Freddy Sanchez….the only mistake Zambrano made all night.

Jose Ascanio gave up his first run of the year in the 8th on a sacrifice fly to center by Adam LaRoche. Kerry Wood made his first appearance since Sunday and retired 3 of the 4 batters he faced….the 27th out was a swinging strikeout by Jose Bautista.

Carlos Zambrano proved a point on Friday….and the Cubs got back in the win column. An excellent combination.

Jason Marquis will face Phil Dumatriat in the second game of the series on Saturday night.