Led by explosive pitching and key hitting, the Cubs moved their win streak to three and won their National League high, 35th game at home. Carlos Zambrano led the way for the Northsiders, going eight innings strong while allowing only one hit, a second inning solo home run to slugger Adam Dunn.
Outside of the second inning mishap, Zambrano was near perfect in his second start since returning from the disabled list. After allowing the home run to Dunn, Big Z retired his final 20 hitters of the night, striking out 5 and walking nobody along the way.
The Cubs offense was sparked early on when Geovanny Soto led off the Cubs second with a double. He came around to score later in the inning on a booted ball up the middle that was hit off of the bat of Mark DeRosa.
Johnny Cueto also pitched well for the Reds, allowing only 5 hits and 2 runs in his first 6 innings of work which included a sixth inning Aramis Ramirez solo home run. Unfortunately, for Cueto and the Reds, the Cubs bats came alive in the seventh as three runs crossed the plate in the form of Reed Johnson, Kosuke Fukudome, and Derrek Lee.
For all intensive purposes, this ended the game. Zambrano was pulled after his eighth inning single in the batters box as Cubs set up man Carlos Marmol replaced him. Marmol, who has struggled of late, was unable to get out of the ninth as he loaded the bases after retiring the first two Reds hitters of the ninth.
After going back to the top of the order for Cincinnati, Marmol found himself in trouble as the bases were loaded after a Ken Griffey, Jr. walk.
Marmol was pulled for NL All-Star closer Kerry Wood who retired Brandon Phillips on a harmless foul ball to Derrek Lee at first base.
The win, coupled with both Cardinals and Brewers losses puts the Cubs up 4.5 games in the division of rival St. Louis and 5 games ahead of Milwaukee.
No questions, no debate about this one. Carlos Zambrano went 8 innings strong for the Cubs, allowing only an Adam Dunn home run. He also struck out five while walking nobody in his second start since being activated from the disabled list on the Fourth of July.
Where it was Won:
Not only on the hill but also in the seventh inning. Inspired by a memorable rendition of "Take me out to the Ballgame" by Juan Pablo Montoya, the Cubs put up three more runs to stretch their lead to 5-1, chasing Johnny Cueto from the game in the process.
A Look Ahead:
Tomorrow the Cubs go for a sweep of Cincinnati, as two pitchers who have underachieved to an extent in 2008 will take the hill for the clubs. The Reds send Bronson Arroyo to the mound with a 6-7 record and ERA of 5.82. The Cubs counter with lefty Ted Lilly who looks to become the third Cubs pitcher to win ten games before the All-Star break this year.
Although sporting an ERA of nearly 4.5 this season, Lilly has pitched well of late, going 8-1 in his last thirteen starts.
Fearless Prediction for Thursday:
The Cubs have started to regain their form of what made them so great early on this year at Wrigley Field. Expect that to keep up on Thursday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. As long as Ted Lilly can keep the ball somewhat down there is no reason the Cubs don't stretch their win streak to 4.
Cubs 5 Reds 2