Carlos Zambrano finally broke is his opening day winless streak when the Cubs beat the Houston Astros Monday night 4-2. Zambrano went six plus innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six.
Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukodome and Derek Lee went 0-for-4. Alfonso Soriano connected lead-off home run number 50. Aramis Ramirez also hit a solo shot. One of the not-so-big surprises was Mike Fontenot who went 3 for 4 and scoring twice.
New closer Kevin Gregg got the save after giving up a run in the bottom of the nineth.
I seriously hope either WGN or CSN will replay the game because I so want to see this game and record to save for all prosperity. Seriously folks, from the highlights I saw on ESPN, Zambrano looked awesome and looked like his old self.
According to what was said on the radio this morning, Larrry Rothschild spoke with Big Z about his pitching mechanics and apparently, Z had been throwing with his shoulder, instead of using his legs as his power source. What a change in mechanics makes, because Z just confused the Astros at the plate.
I will give the ‘Stros the benefit of the doubt. It was probably a task to get out of Houston in order to travel to Miller Park in time for the game on Sunday. And my heart goes out to them and their friends in the Houston area as the region continues to recover from Hurricane Ike.
In the post-game interview, Cubs manager, Lou Piniella couldn’t have been happier. They were going to lo limit Zambrano to a 100-pitch count. But there was no way Piniella was going to yank his ace.
Zambrano and the Cubs never let up. Alfonso Soriano connected for his 28th home run of the season in the first. The Cubs scored four more runs in the third. After that, it was the Zambrano show with the 22,000 plus crowed chanting “Let’s Go Z!”
About the only thing that frustrated the Cubs ace was his at-bat in the seventh ininning. In most situation, the pitcher would break his bat across his team.
“I was feeling too good to do that,” Zambrano said with a smirk. “I saw Lou’s face. I said, ‘No, not today.'”
As the game progressed, it became more apparent that something special was happening.
“I was watching the scoreboard every inning,” Zambrano said. “In the ninth inning, when I came out the crowd was all crazy and that helped me a little bit. Thank God, it was the eight, nine and the leadoff hitter [in the ninth] and I was able to dominate those three guys.”
The team just hoped Zambrano would give them a solid outting.
“I didn’t expect it,” Chicago’s Derrek Lee said. “I expected him to try to give us five or six innings and get out of there. But, wow. He obviously was feeling good, throwing the ball like that. That’s a huge lift for us.”
Zambrano threw 110 pitches, striking out 10 and walking one.
With the win on Sunday, the Cubs increased their lead over the Brewers to seven-and-a-half games after the Brewers were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cubs magic number is now seven. The Brewers and the Phillies are tied for the wild card with Houston two games in back.
What’s more unique about this no-hitter, is that it was played a neutral location. Hurricane Ike had already played havoc with the games on Friday and Saturday, but it became apparent on Saturday that there was no way the games could be played in Houston on Sunday. Houston Astros General Manager Drayton McLane was adament about being able to play one day after a major hurricane ravaged the Houston area.
This was the first no-hitter played a neutral site.
Miller Park is considered Wrigley North and that may have helped Zambrano along the way. Though, anyone who was there got to see history made.It’s not everyday a no-hitter gets tossed.
The Cubs play the second game today at Miller Park at 2:05 p.m. (Eastern). Jason Marquis (10-8) takes the mound for the Cubs. Brian Moehler (11-6) goes to the mound for the Astros. The game can be seen on CSN. The final game (if necessary) will be played at the end of the season at Minute Maid Park.
Quotes from MLB.COM
The Cubs improved to 43-16 at home with a 11-4 win over the Astros Wednesday. Cubs second baseman Mark Derosa connected for a grandslam in the bottom of the third and Alfonso Soriano followed with a three-run blast.
Jason Marquis scrapped by with the win after giving up four runs in the top of the third. Marquis is now 7-7 with a 4.73 ERA.
The Cubs are now 8-2 for the last ten games. The Cubs have an off day on Thursday before hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for a weekend series. Lilly, Zambrano and Dempster will match up against Braden Looper, former Cub Todd Wellemeyer and the third pitcher will be announced later.
The Cubs are still atop the central division with a five game lead over the Brewers. They hold a 5.5 game lead over the Cardinals. The Cubs continue to hold the best record in the National League.
In other news, the team activated Kerry Wood on Tuesday. To make room for Wood the team designated relief pitcher Scott Eyre for assignment.
Some other stats:
Alfonso Soriano is hitting .395 with five home runs, 11 RBIs and 17 hits over the last ten games.
Mark DeRosa had a five RBI day on Wednesday. He hit his fourth career grand slam in the bottom of the third to put the Cubs ahead for good.
Derek Lee is struggling batting .268 in the last ten games. He went 0-for-4 during Wednesday’s game.
Aramis Ramirez isn’t fairing much better than Lee. Ramirez is batting .306 in the last ten games with 4 RBIs.
Kosuke Fukudome continues to struggle. He’s batting .265 in the last ten games.
Ryan Theriot after having a productive first half, Theriot has begun a backward slide. He’s batting .270 for the last ten games. He is currently batting .200 for the month of August.
Geovanny Soto continues to come out of his July slump. He’s batting .333 for the last ten days. However, he’s batting .235 in the last 30 days. He didn’t start on Tuesday or Wednesday, giving Henry Blanco a chance to get some work in.
Jim Edmonds is earning his place on the team. If there was to be a reflection back on the season of who has contributed to the success of the 2008 Cubs, Edmonds will be at the top of the list.Edmonds is .321 for the last ten games is batting .286 for the last (near his career average) 30 days. Don’t let the numbers fool you… he’s on par to have an average year. And for a guy who didn’t have much of a spring training, that’s a good thing.