The long wait is over.
The Cubs fans have been wondering when Opening Day starter Carlos Zambrano could restore his Big Z-type performance. They got the answer today. In front of the national television audience and a crowd of 46,313 in Busch Stadium, Zambrano finally got his first win as a starter in his third return to the Cubs rotation.
He limited the Cardinals to two runs in 5.2 innings. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez hit solo home runs in the contest to help the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2.
It was nearly two months ago when Zambrano (4-6) won a game as the Cubs starting pitcher. His last victory was on June 20 in Wrigley Field against the Los Angeles Angels in interleague play.
Zambrano finished the day throwing 96 pitches and allowing two runs, six hits, and a walk in 5.2 innings.
He gave up the first run in the first inning. After Felipe Lopez grounded out, Jon Jay singled and moved to third on a double by Albert Pujols. He then scored on Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly to right-fielder Kosuke Fukudome.
His only trouble was in the fifth inning. With two out, he walked Lopez and gave up back-to-back singles to Jon Jay and Pujols to load the bases. But he forced Holliday to hit a groundball to third to end the Cardinals’ threat.
The Cardinals scored their second and last run of the ball game in the sixth. Zambrano retired Colby Rasmus by strikeout and Yadier Molina grounded out to shortstop. Big Z gave up a single to Skip Schumaker and threw a wild pitcher which moved the runner to second. Pinch-hitter Randy Winn singled to score Schumaker.
Manager Lou Piniella pulled out Zambrano after that run and handed the ball to his bullpen.
Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter (13-4), in search of his 14th win of the season has to wait another five days. He gave up two solo home runs in the second and third inning to bow to the Cubs today.
Down 1-0, Aramis Ramirez, who missed the last three Cubs games, led off in the second inning with his 17th home run of the year.
The Cubs added another run to take a 2-1 lead in the same inning. With one out, Marlon Byrd doubled to right field. After Blake DeWitt’s groundout, Koyie Hill hit a double to the opposite field to tally Byrd from third.
Derrek Lee’s home run was the game-winning run. In the third inning, he blasted a full-count pitch for his 14th of the season, which went into the Cardinals bullpen in right field to give the Cubs a two-run cushion. He had two home runs in as many days in this series.
The Cubs only had two more hits off Cardinals pitchers, but relievers Marcos Mateo, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Marmol combined to shut out the Cardinals for the rest of the day, allowing only two hits in 3.1 innings of relief work. Marmol earned his 20th save of the year.
Chicago can take this three-game series if they win the rubber game tomorrow afternoon. Ryan Dempster (10-8, 3.66) will pitch for the Cubs and Kyle Lohse (1-4, 5.89) for the Cardinals.
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