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.

Road Ahead: Cubs look for revenge against Pirates

Road Ahead: Cubs look for revenge against Pirates

CSN's Cubs Pregame and Postgame host David Kaplan and analyst David DeJesus discuss the upcoming matchups in this edition of the Cubs Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Cubs' bats are finally coming around. 

On the back of Anthony Rizzo, who hit three homers this weekend, the North Siders took two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds and have been winners of four out of five overall. 

The offense will attempt to stay in their groove against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who swept the Cubs at Wrigley during the teams' last meeting. 

Luckily for Chicago's pitching staff, Starling Marte won't be anchoring the Pirates' order. The outfielder is serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. 

After Pittsburgh, Joe Maddon's club hits Fenway Park for what should be a wild three-game set against the Red Sox. 

Watch David Kaplan and David DeJesus break down the upcoming matchups in the video above. 

 

John Lackey struggles as Cubs drop series finale to Reds

John Lackey struggles as Cubs drop series finale to Reds

CINCINNATI — With his high leg kick and below-the-radar breaking balls, Bronson Arroyo showed the Cubs a little old-style pitching. Who needs to throw 90 mph to beat the World Series champions?

The 40-year-old righty gave his best performance yet in his long comeback from elbow problems, pitching three-hit ball over six innings on Sunday, and the Cincinnati Reds salvaged a 7-5 victory . Arroyo worked fast, varied the angles of his deliveries, and kept `em guessing with his minimalist pitches.

"I'm happy for him, to see him back up," Chicago catcher Miguel Montero said. "He's a tough pitcher to face. Obviously he's throwing below hitting speed right now."

Arroyo (2-2) needed more than two years to recover from Tommy John surgery. The Reds gave him what amounted to a final chance this spring, and he's back to fooling `em with his unusual repertoire. Jon Jay saw pitches of 67, 74, 83, 75 and 70 mph during one at-bat.

"I don't want to say I had pinpoint control, but I was throwing the breaking ball down and out where it was almost impossible to hit," Arroyo said. "They knew where I was going, but I still had enough late movement to surprise them."

Arroyo allowed Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer - his third of the series - and struck out seven batters for the first time since May 13, 2014.

"This was the first time he looked like the Bronson of his first time through here," manager Bryan Price said, referring to Arroyo's 2006-13 stay in Cincinnati.

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Raisesl Iglesias gave up a pair of runs in the ninth before finishing off the Reds' 3-7 homestand.

Patrick Kivlehan's bases-loaded double highlighted a four-run sixth inning off John Lackey (1-3) and decided a matchup of up-in-years starters. The 38-year-old Lackey and Arroyo have combined for 793 starts in the majors.

Despite the loss, the defending champs took two of three in the series and moved back into first place in the NL Central. No surprise that it happened in Cincinnati - the Cubs have won 17 of their last 22 at Great American Ball Park. They've taken 20 of their last 25 overall against the Reds.

"I have nothing to complain about," manager Joe Maddon said.

Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 12 games - matching his career high - with his two-run homer in the fourth inning. His three-run shot with two outs in the ninth helped the Cubs rally for a 6-5, 11-inning victory in the series opener. He had another three-run homer during a 12-8 win on Saturday.

The Cubs have homered in their last 15 games at Great American. They hit seven in all during the series.