Cubs got it covered for Zambrano

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Cubs got it covered for Zambrano

Friday, April 8, 2011Posted: 10:25 PM Updated: 11:49 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE The Cubs do not want to disrupt the peace theyve made with Carlos Zambrano. Even though they are missing two rotation pieces, and paying him almost 18 million this season, they do not want to raise the stakes.

The minute you try to do too much in this game, manager Mike Quade said, youre done.

So everyone will have to make up the difference now that Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are on the disabled list. But a healthy, focused Zambrano will mean so much to the Cubs. They cant be worrying about his fifth day.

Zambrano didnt have to be perfect on Friday night at Miller Park, or throw a no-hitter like he did here in 2008. He did enough as the Cubs put together a 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Were worried about those two guys, Zambrano said. We need Cashner and Wellsy back. (But) we have to keep going and keep doing our job.

Zambrano stayed in the picture after Prince Fielder launched a homer into the left-field bullpen and the Cubs fell behind 2-0 in the second. The Brewers worked Zambrano over for four runs on seven hits and three walks.

Every so often when you dont have your best stuff and youre not mowing through a lineup, Quade said, you just hang around and wait for your club to come back. You find a way to give us six innings, and he did that. Thats huge.

That allowed the Cubs (4-3) to finish the game the way the front office drew it up in the offseason.

Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol combined for three scoreless innings to close out the Brewers (3-5). Marmol again made it interesting by letting the tying run come to the plate. But the closer ended it by striking out Carlos Gomez with an 80 mph slider.

Obviously, I want to go seven or eight innings, Zambrano said with a smile, but the bullpen (has) to eat, too.

Quades philosophy is to mix-and-match and it will be like that in the bullpen, with the rotation and at leadoff.

With Brewers lefty Randy Wolf starting, Jeff Baker found himself at the top of Fridays lineup. The second baseman tied a career-high with four hits, including a three-run homer and an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Youd definitely like to give those guys a blow, Baker said. Whether its the guys we penciled in at the beginning of the year (that) are down, whether its Casey Coleman or James Russell, (you) want to give them a cushion to kind of take the pressure off them.

It was good for us to set a tone and hopefully we can get this ball rolling.

The Cubs promised that well find out what theyre made of during this nine-game road trip.

This crowd of 34,310 wasnt exactly hostile and filled with plenty of Cubs fans. They didnt see Zambrano leave his start early because of cramps in his right hand, like Wrigley Field did last week. He said he drank more fluids, lots of Gatorade, and didnt experience any cramping issues this time.

Zambrano still hasnt lost a game since June 25, 2010, the day he blew up at Derrek Lee in front of everyone in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout. He says that hes done talking, that he wants his actions to speak for him. Hes on a nine-game winning streak now.

Zambrano wants to blend in and be just another pitcher. For the Cubs, will that be enough? When a reporter asked how long it will take him to regain the dominant form he showed late last season, he playfully brushed the question aside.

Im keeping the streak, he said. What else do you want me to do? Its about winning.

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

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”