Game One Hundred Thirty-Six – Cubs 3 Dodgers 11
WP – Esteban Loaiza (2-0) LP – Carlos Zambrano (14-12) Save – None
Carlos Zambrano started out his afternoon by striking out 2 of the first 4 batters he faced. Alfonso Soriano gave him an early lead when he hit his 20th home run of the year to lead off the home half of the 1st. And despite the fact Zambrano allowed the Dodgers to tie the game in the top of the 2nd inning, it appeared Zambrano was back on track after his bad month and the Cubs would go on to win the game. That all changed when Zambrano ran through Mike Quade’s stop sign in the 3rd inning. The Cubs took a 2-1 lead but Zambrano was never the same, he eventually imploded before everyone’s eyes and left to a chorus of boos after only 4 2/3 innings. Zambrano lost his 5th straight start, and set a new career low in the process. He allowed a season-high 8 earned runs on 7 hits with 6 strikeouts and 5 walks.
The Cubs offense came out swinging against Esteban Loaiza. They scored 2 runs in the first 3 innings and it should have been more. Zambrano’s baserunning blunder changed the 3rd inning and the offense could not get back on track after the Dodgers took their comfortable lead in the 5th. Derrek Lee grounded into two inning ending double plays in the first 5 innings and committed one of the Cubs two errors in the 4-run 5th inning. Once the Dodgers tacked on 3 more in the 6th, Lou Piniella emptied his bench in the 7th and gave most of his starters the rest of the afternoon off.
Monday afternoon at Wrigley Field was arguably the Cubs ugliest game of the year. After the dramatic comeback on Sunday, Lou Piniella’s crew could not build any momentum. While the Cubs dropped the first game of the series, they did maintain their lead in the Central Division. When Zambrano left the game he motioned to his ear and head as if to say he was listening and would remember what the 41,070 in attendance was trying to tell him. After the game he said he could not understand why he was being booed and knows he is struggling but he needs the fans support right now and being booed is not right or fair. Zambrano took responsibility for the loss and for his poor play. He sounded very somber but still spoke about himself in the third person.
Carlos Zambrano is a very talented player and could be one of the elite pitchers in the game, if he decides that is what he would like to do. Zambrano is the best on the Cubs staff but does not fit the true definition of an ace. Zambrano possesses all of the talent required to take that title but until he decides his team comes before himself he will not ever receive the highest compliment that can be given to a pitcher. Zambrano takes a lot of pride in his offense and that showed with a tremendous, yet devastating, at bat in the 3rd inning. He fouled off quality pitches from Loaiza and eventually singled to center, it was truly a great at bat but it came at an even bigger price….a win, in September.
Zambrano started off the 4th inning by throwing 7 straight balls. He walked Jeff Kent on 4 pitches and eventually struck out Luis Gonzalez after falling behind 3-0. On a 3-2 pitch from Zambrano, Kent broke with the pitch and was thrown out by Henry Blanco….it was not close, a strike ’em out, throw ’em out. Zambrano quickly fell behind Russell Martin and eventually walked him. James Loney stepped in and Zambrano got ahead in the count 0-2 but walked him for his 3rd walk of the inning. Andy LaRoche doubled down the right field line, Martin scored and the Dodgers had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. But Zambrano, for the 3rd game in a row, could not get the pitcher out. In his second plate appearance of the year, Esteban Loaiza singled to left to drive in 2 runs. Zambrano struck out Rafael Furcal to end the inning.
After a delay because of the lights, Juan Pierre led off the 5th with a walk. Zambrano tried to keep him close but Derrek Lee dropped a pickoff attempt and Pierre ended up at 2nd. Andre Ethier reached on an infield single off of Zambrano’s hand. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Kent grounded out to 3rd, Pierre scored. Zambrano issued his 5th walk in 2 innings to Luis Gonzalez. Russell Martin followed with a single to left to make it 6-2 Dodgers and Zambrano left the game.
Will Ohman gave up a double to James Loney to close the book on Zambrano.
The Dodgers added 3 more in the 6th off of Sean Gallagher. Gallagher has a bright future but appears to be very over matched at this point in his career. Scott Eyre and Michael Wuertz pitched the final 2 innings and struck out 5 of the 6 batters they faced.
Monday was a lost day on the North Side but hopefully it carried a message that will be heard….loud and clear.
Steve Trachsel is scheduled to make his first start at Wrigley since 1999 on Tuesday night under the lights against the Dodgers’ ace, Brad Penny. No pressure….really.