Game Twenty-Three – Cubs 8 Cardinals 1
WP – Carlos Zambrano (2-2) LP – Adam Wainwright (1-2) Save – None
The Cubs made it two straight and three in a row with an impressive performance on Saturday afternoon in St. Louis. Jacque Jones had his best game of the year and led the way in the 7-run 5th inning that saw eleven Cubs step to the plate. Jones doubled and tripled in the 5th and on the day was 3-4 with 4 RBI’s and a run scored.
Carlos Zambrano was dominate, threw strikes and had a 4-hit shutout going into the 7th inning that was spoiled by a lead off home run by Albert Pujols. Zambrano threw strikes and was ahead of most of the batters he faced but most importantly he did not walk a single batter on the afternoon for the first time this season. While Zambrano was solid on the mound the Cubs offense flipped the switch again in the 5th inning and in the process scored 7 runs without the benefit of a home run. The offense had plenty of chances early on but was unable to score any runs despite having 6 runners reach base in the first two innings. Alfonso Soriano led off the game with what appeared to be his first home run as a Cub, it was short, Chris Duncan had his usual challenges in left, fell into the bullpen door and Soriano managed just a double….he should have been at 3rd with a triple. Ryan Theriot hit a grounder to Pujols who made a great throw to nail Soriano at 3rd. Derrek Lee followed with a single and after a controversial call at 1st, Floyd grounded out to 2nd to end the inning.
In the 2nd, Mark DeRosa led off the inning with a walk and was erased on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Jones. Henry Blanco singled to center to flip the order and Zambrano struck out swinging to end the inning. Adam Wainwright had trouble with location and threw a lot of pitches early in the game but settled down to retire the Cubs in order in the 3rd and 4th innings. But the 5th inning was a different story.
Jacque Jones led off the inning with a double into the gap in left center and scored on a double to left by Henry Blanco that Chris Duncan could not handle….after a very impressive 9-pitch at bat. Zambrano sacrificed Blanco to 3rd, Soriano walked and Theriot singled to left to score Blanco. Derrek Lee followed with a double to left, Soriano scored, Theriot to 3rd and the Cardinals intentionally walked Ramirez. Cliff Floyd hit a grounder to Pujols who threw to 2nd to force Ramirez, Theriot scored. DeRosa reached on an infield single to reload the bases for Jacque Jones who cleared them with a triple off the centerfield wall….Jones’ first triple of the year. Blanco lined out to center to end the inning.
The Cubs went in order in the 6th but were able to add to their total in the 7th. Lee walked to lead off the inning and with 2 outs DeRosa singled to left to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Jacque Jones came through again, this time with a single to left to score Lee. Blanco was called out on strikes to end the inning.
The Cubs offense managed 8 runs on 11 hits with 4 walks. Soriano extended his hitting streak to 9 games and Derrek Lee continued his hot start….he has reached base in the first 23 games of the season. 8 runs without the benefit of a home run is very impressive.
Lou Piniella has been waiting all month for the real Carlos Zambrano to show up to the park. Piniella saw glimpses in the spring of how Zambrano can pitch but not in games that count. Zambrano kept his emotions intact (for the most part) and threw strikes. Out of the 113 pitches he threw, 72 were for strikes and as mentioned the most important stat….NO WALKS. He retired the Cardinals in order in the first two innings on just 26 pitches, very efficient. Adam Kennedy recorded the first hit of the day for the Cardinals to lead off the 3rd and after advancing to 2nd on a passed ball by Henry Blanco was picked off 2nd by Zambrano. Through the first four innings, Zambrano faced just one over the minimum….a single by Adam Wainwright.
In the bottom of the 5th, Edmonds singled to center to lead off the inning but Scott Spiezio swung at Zambrano’s first offering and flied out to right center. On a 3-2 pitch, Adam Kennedy blooped a single into right over the head of Mark DeRosa. Yadier Molina worked a 3-2 count and with the runners going, lined out to Ramirez at 3rd and he threw to DeRosa for the 5-4 double play. Zambrano retired the Cardinals in order in the 6th before the Pujols homer in the 7th. Yadier Molina grounded out to short with runners on 2nd and 3rd to end the inning.
Zambrano left after the 7th and finished the day allowing just 1 run on 7 hits, no walks and 2 strikeouts.
Will Ohman retired the Cardinals in order in the 8th on 8 pitches, 7 strikes and Rocky Cherry pitched the 9th with the same result as Ohman.
The Cubs have put up three impressive wins in a row and they find themselves in unfamiliar territory with a chance to sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Rich Hill is scheduled to take the mound on Sunday night against Kip Wells in primetime on ESPN. A sweep of the Redbirds would go a long way in building a little confidence on the North Side of Chicago.