After comeback win, Zambrano sees big picture

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After comeback win, Zambrano sees big picture

Saturday, April 2, 2011Posted: 3:00 PM Updated: 5:15 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

There is the theory that Carlos Zambrano will have an outsized influence on this season: The Cubs will go as he does in 2011.

That makes the day Zambrano pitches like watching NASCAR, waiting for the crash. Fair or not, thats what everyones curious about -- how he will respond to the next crisis. You can never blend in with a 91.5 million contract.

But Zambrano cant always be the entire story. It took a team effort to complete Saturdays 5-3 comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs dont necessarily need Zambrano to be what he was at the end of last season unbeatable at 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his final 11 starts. They are counting on 200 innings, quality starts from here until September.

Hes in good shape and hes working hard, Alfonso Soriano said. I think hes a totally different guy. I hope that hell be consistentfrom the beginning to the end because hes got the talent and he has the pitches.

Hes more calmed down and he knows what hes doing.

Zambrano pitched well enough before leaving with cramps in his right hand. Garrett Jones had just slammed an 81 mph pitch into the right-field bleachers to open the seventh inning. Zambrano felt something in his hamstring warming up and had nothing at that point.

Athletic trainer Mark ONeal and manager Mike Quade walked out to the mound. That was it for Zambrano, who was pulled after 99 pitches and the Cubs trailing 3-0.

Nothing serious, Quade said. I guess he thought he could get through it and I wish we would have made a decision about it before the home run (but) he was real good.

Its a fine line. I love the fact you want to go back out there, but lets make sure (youre OK). Were also talking about the first start of the year, so theres a lot of baseball left to be played.

Zambrano who gave up three runs on five hits and three walks in six innings wasnt concerned and said hell make his next start.

Just cramping, but Ill be OK, he said. Theres nothing I can do about it.

It probably says something that Zambrano gave the Cubs their first extra-base hit of the season with a double to center in third inning.

The Cubs (1-1) got the leadoff man on in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. But for the 35,782 fans sitting outside on a 46-degree afternoon, there wasnt any payoff until the eighth.

Pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome drew a walk, ran to second on Evan Meeks wild pitch and scored on Starlin Castros double into the right-field ivy. Castro scored when first baseman Lyle Overbay booted a groundball.

The Pirates (1-1) started to resemble the team that lost 105 games last year and finished with a 5.00 staff ERA that ranked last in the majors.

Soriano tied the game with single to right-center field before an unlikely hero emerged.

Blake DeWitt who isnt out of minor-league options struggled so much this spring that some wondered whether he would even make the team. The Cubs pushed him back on the second-base depth chart and made him a utility infielder. He put them ahead with a pinch-hit, two-run double to left.

Its a team, DeWitt said. Were all competing for the same thing. You better be ready. Youre not just playing for yourself. Youre playing for the other 24 guys in this clubhouse.

That five-run burst was enough for Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol. Together they combined for three scoreless innings out of the bullpen, just the way the Cubs drew it up in the offseason.

Marmol struck out the side in the ninth inning but gave the ball to Quade after the first victory in 2011. It will take a group effort.

Everybodys happy, Zambrano said. Everybody collaborated to win. (Were) pretty excited when everybody puts in a little bit of whatever they had to.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Wake-up Call: Cubs targeting Yu?; Yoan produces for Sox; Q plots line combos

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USA TODAY

Wake-up Call: Cubs targeting Yu?; Yoan produces for Sox; Q plots line combos

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from a Friday: 

Will Cubs add another ace? Report says North Siders interested in Yu Darvish

Yoan Moncada 'relieved' to get first White Sox hit out of way

Who goes where? Quenneville is already plotting the options

One year later, White Sox have clear direction, no longer 'mired in mediocrity'

Jose Quintana admits trade rumors have affected him negatively this season

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Fire head to Yankee Stadium for big Eastern Conference clash

White Sox minor league trade could signal more big league moves to come

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these recent implosions from Cubs pitching staff

With NL Central suddenly bunched up, a reminder it won't all be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for Cubs in second half

 

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these recent implosions from Cubs pitching staff

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AP

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these recent implosions from Cubs pitching staff

Joe Maddon has not seen anything like these single-inning implosions lately.

At least not at the major-league level.

For the third time in the last five Wrigley Field contest, the Cubs pitching staff has allowed at least seven runs in an inning.

This time, it was nine runs before the first out was recorded in the eighth inning of Friday's 11-4 Cardinals victory.

The Cubs actually entered the inning clinging to a 3-2 lead and had their best setup guy — Carl Edwards Jr. — slated to pitch against the top of the Cardinals order.

But after taking out his teammate with a foul ball, Matt Carpenter began the wacky inning with a double off Edwards and the rout was on.

"We had a bad inning pitching," Maddon said after the game. "That's the third time in a week here at this ballpark, if you go back prior to the break. It's a seven, a nine and a 10 in an inning. 

"I've not seen that since rookie ball. That's crazy stuff. I'm saying it straight up: We played good baseball today. We just pitched badly for one inning. Some really good pitchers had a tough time.

"...That's kind of a strange day. We played well and lost because we gave up nine runs in an inning, which is really awkward to watch from the dugout."

Thirty-eight minutes after Edwards threw the first pitch of the inning, the Cubs finally retired the Cardinals and were looking up at an 11-3 score. 

Neither Edwards nor Hector Rondon recorded an out and they combined with Justin Grimm to allow six hits, six walks and nine runs.

Here's how it all went down:

That's the second straight Wrigley Field game that has featured at least nine runs in an inning but a Cubs opponent. Ace Jon Lester surrendered 10 runs in the first inning to the Pittsburgh Pirates on the day before the All-Star Break began.

And the day before that series began, Mike Montgomery and the Cubs gave up seven runs to the Milwaukee Brewers in a rain make-up game at the "Friendly Confines."

"You see it every now and again. Not often," said Jake Arrieta, Friday's starting pitcher who was in line for a win before that wild eighth inning. "You stick around this game long enough and you see some crazy things happen. And really, that was the turning point in the game. 

"A couple guys had a pretty rare outing in the 8th there. You won't see that rarely ever or ever again from those two guys. Just a tough one."

Rondon, who had entered the game having allowed just two runs in his last 13 innings, could do nothing but shake his head in trying to explain it after the game.

"That was a weird, weird inning," Rondon said. "First time I've seen something like that — nine runs with no outs. But it is what it is. They got us today and we'll see tomorrow."

Maddon has seen control issues with his bullpen all year, but still has confidence in the unit as a whole. He knows not to overreact to one game.

However, Maddon did point to the first game coming out of the All-Star Break where Montgomery and the Cubs bullpen squandered an 8-0 lead before Addison Russell's heroics to break the tie for good late in that contest.

"The bullpen has been fabulous," Maddon said. "Twice since the break, they just had tough games."

Rondon and the Cubs relievers won't overreact, either.

A year ago at this time, Rondon was the Cubs' closer and they hadn't yet traded for Aroldis Chapman. So no, one outing won't get him down. 

"Right now, I'm pissed and whatever," he said, "but tomorrow, I'll come in with a different mentality and try to win the game."