Z Win is Z Win – Cubs 4 Astros 2

Game One Hundred – Cubs 4 Astros 2
WP – Carlos Zambrano (7-5) LP – Bud Norris (5-7) Save – Sean Marshall (3)

wflag.jpgFor one of the few times this season, the Chicago Cubs played and won a ballgame without any drama.

Carlos Zambrano picked up his first victory in more than a month (June 20) after wiggling out of two bases loaded jams in the first three innings with minimal damage. The Astros loaded the bases in the second and third, both times with no outs, and scored a grand total of one run. Michael Bourn (3-for-5 with a RBI and two stolen bases) drove in Houston’s second run with a two-out RBI single in the fourth before Big Z and the pen shut the door.

Zambrano gave up two runs on nine hits with a walk, a hit by pitch and three strikeouts in six innings (101 pitches, 63 for strikes) and five Cubs’ relievers tossed three innings of shutout ball in relief of Z. Sean Marshall picked up his third save with a perfect ninth inning.

Mike Quade used Carlos Marmol in the eighth inning setup role Friday. Marmol was sharp and struck out both of the batters he faced (one looking, one swinging) on nine pitches, seven for strikes, to close out the eighth.

The Cubs scored all four runs in the fifth on two home runs, a stolen base and a sacrifice fly.

Aramis Ramirez (2-for-4 with a double, a home run and two RBI) had another big day at the plate and his 18th longball of the season ended up being the difference in the game. Ramirez tied Gabby Hartnett (231) for sixth on the Cubs All-Time home run list with Friday’s dinger.

Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a double and a home run) broke up Norris’ shutout with his first home run since June 19 and fifth since May 5. Soriano’s 15th of the season cut the Astros’ lead in half at 2-1.

Darwin Barney (1-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base) scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Starlin Castro (0-for-3 with a RBI) after he swiped third base with one out in the fourth.

The Cubs also ended their error-streak on Friday. After going nine-straight in which they were charged with an error, Q’s squad was not charged with a miscue on Friday.

Friday marked the Cubs’ 40th victory of the season … still 20 below with a 40-60 record.

The Battle for Fifth Place in the NL Central‘ kicked off Friday afternoon at the old ballyard and Carlos Zambrano struggled with his command early on.

Both Zambrano and Bud Norris faced the minimum in the first inning after Jose Altuve and Starlin Castro hit into double plays.

The Astros got on the board in the second … but it could and should have been a lot worse for Zambrano. Z walked Carlos Lee to start the second then gave up a bloop single to Brett Wallace. Wallace broke his bat and blooped a single into right.

Z fell behind Chris Johnson 2-0 before the Astros’ third baseman ripped a single into center. With the bases loaded and no outs, Z fell behind Clint Barmes 3-0. After getting one over, Barmes hit a grounder to Castro. Castro stepped on second, flipped to first and the 6-3 double play got Z out of a big jam. Lee scored on the play … 1-0 Astros.

Humberto Quintero grounded out to second to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against Bud Norris in the bottom of the second.

Bud Norris led off the third with a single to center. Michael Bourn singled to right … the fifth hit in 10 batters surrendered by Carlos Zambrano. Z then hit Altuve on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Hunter Pence lined a 3-0 pitch into left. Soriano snagged the ball but Norris did not tag and score on the play. With the bases loaded and one out, Carlos Lee popped out to shallow left on the first pitch. Brett Wallace flied out to right center … and Zambrano escaped without allowing a run.

After three, Z’s pitch count stood at 52, 31 for strikes.

Alfonso Soriano led off the third with a double to left. After Barney blooped out to left center. Z hit a 3-2 pitch back to Norris. Soriano was caught in a run down and eventually tagged out (1-6-5) … and the baserunning gaffe cost the Cubs a run. Fukudome followed with a single to right. With runners on first and second with two down, Castro flied out to center to end the inning.

The Astros scored their second run in the fourth after back-to-back one out singles by Clint Barmes (3-1 pitch) and Humberto Quintero (0-2 pitch). Norris bunted both runners up ninety feet and Barmes scored on a single to right off the bat of Michael Bourn.

Bourn stole second and with runners on second and third with two down, Altuve lined out to Darwin Barney to end the inning.

The Cubs could not take advantage of another leadoff double in the fourth and Ramirez was stranded at second after Soto lined out to left to end the inning.

Z retired the Astros in order for the first (and only time) in the fifth.

Alfonso Soriano got just enough of a 1-0 pitch from Bud Norris to put the ball into the basket in left center. Soriano’s first homer in more than a month cut the Astros’ lead to 2-1.

Darwin Barney followed with a bloop single to right and advanced to second on an attempted sac bunt by Carlos Zambrano. Z reached and the Cubs appeared to be in business. Fukudome popped out to short on a 3-1 pitch for the first out. Barney took off for third on a 0-1 pitch to Castro. Castro ended up working the count to 3-2 before hitting a sac fly to left. Barney tagged and scored … game tied at two.

Z held at first and scored on Aramis Ramirez’s 18th homer of the season. Ramirez launched a 1-1 pitch into the bleachers in left center. Carlos Pena struck out to end the fifth.

Zambrano’s day came to an end after the sixth. Chris Johnson reached on a swinging bunt up the third baseline (Ramirez let the ball roll and it stayed fair) to start the sixth. Clint Barmes hit a grounder to first. Pena threw to second and forced Johnson for the first out. Z struck out Quintero and retired Bud Norris to end the inning.

The Cubs went down in order in the sixth.

Mike Quade started emptying his pen in the seventh. After James Russell started the seventh and gave up an infield single to Michael Bourn, Jeff Samardzija struck out Altuve looking and retired Pence on a pop out to third. With Bourn at second, Lee struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Bourn’s single was Houston’s last baserunner on Friday afternoon.

The Cubs pen struck out six of the 10 batters they faced over three innings.

It is always good to see the Cubs win a ballgame …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Randy Wells will face Wandy Rodriguez in game two on Saturday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe