Z Wins Z Battle of Z Aces

Game Thirty-Three – Cubs 3 Reds 0
WP – Carlos Zambrano (5-1) LP – Aaron Harang (1-5) Save – Kerry Wood (5)

wflag.jpgCarlos Zambrano and Kerry Wood combined on a 4-hit shutout, the Cubs second of the season. Zambrano threw a gem after a rough start, allowed only 3 hits in 8 innings….his longest outing of the year. Zambrano pitched around two more errors by the Cubs defense and was helped out by the overly aggressive Reds offense. Zambrano finished the night throwing only 113 pitches after tossing 74 in the first 4 innings.

Kerry Wood picked up his 5th save after striking out the last two batters he faced on the anniversary of his masterpiece a decade ago.

Aramis Ramirez made an immediate impact in his first at bat in three games. Ramirez drove in Ryan Theriot with a 2-out single in the 1st inning. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez walked to start the 4th inning and Ronny Cedeno came through once again with an impressive 2-out single to right. Cedeno has 18 RBI’s in limited playing time over the first 33 games. All 3 runs the Cubs scored came with 2 outs and for the first time in 17 games they did not load the bases. Alfonso Soriano recorded his first 2-hit game since April 10th with a single and a double.

Lou Piniella’s crew needed the win, Zambrano stepped up on a night he did not have his best stuff and beat Aaron Harang for the first time in his career.

Lou Piniella has been preaching for the past few days that the Cubs needed to win a low scoring game….well, his team granted their skipper his wish on Tuesday night. The Cubs offense came up with the big hits when they needed it and Carlos Zambrano took care of the rest.

Zambrano ran up his pitch count in the early innings with a lot of 3-ball counts. The turning point in the game came in the 2nd inning when Zambrano picked Joey Votto off of 2nd base. Votto had walked to start the inning after a 9-pitch at bat. Edwin Encarnacion popped out on the first pitch. Adam Dunn then worked a walk and the Reds had runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out….ball 4 to Dunn was Zambrano’s 29th pitch.

Zambrano quickly fell behind Jeff Keppinger, 2-0 and after evening the count at 2-2, Ronny Cedeno got in behind Votto and received a perfect strike from Zambrano, blocked the bag nicely and tagged out Votto for the second out of the inning. Keppinger grounded out to 2nd to end the inning.

Zambrano did not give up his second hit until 2 outs in the 5th. Aaron Harang blooped a single into left.

Big Z pitched out of a big jam in the 6th with his team up 3-0. Ken Griffey, Jr. led off the inning with a line drive single to right. Brandon Phillips hit what appeared to be a tailor made double play, but Ronny Cedeno’s throw pulled Ryan Theriot off the bag….both runners were safe. Joey Votto flied out to left center on a 1-1 pitch from Zambrano for the first out. Edwin Encarnacion followed and on a 1-2 pitch, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Zambrano retired the Reds in order for the first time in the 7th and retired the last 6 batters he faced on 14 pitches. Zambrano’s ERA for the season after his 5th win….1.80.

The Cubs offense, as mentioned, did just enough against Aaron Harang. Ryan Theriot singled to right with 1-out in the 1st inning. With Aramis Ramirez at the plate, Theriot stole 2nd on a 2-2 pitch. Ramirez took ball 3 and then lined a single past Harang into center….Theriot scored and that turned out to be all Zambrano would need.

Harang retired the Cubs on just 7 pitches in the 2nd and retired the next 6 batters he faced….until the 4th. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez walked to start the inning. Kosuke Fukudome dropped a perfect bunt toward 3rd, Encarnacion made a fine defensive play to barely throw out Kosuke at 1st….both Lee and Ramirez advanced on the very smart play by Fukudome. Harang struck out Geovany Soto for the second out of the inning.

With 2 outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Ronny Cedeno stepped in. Cedeno took a great pitch on the outside part of the plate into right field that scored both Lee and Ramirez ahead of the throw from Griffey.

Remember every game and every win counts….even on May 6th.

The Cubs finish the road trip on Wednesday morning with a chance to return to Chicago with a split of the 6 games. Jon Lieber will make his first start of the season against Edinson Volquez.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon