Don't Mess with Zambrano

Damen JacksonCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2009

Filed:July 12th, 2009

Chicago Cub Carlos Zambrano (Cubbie Nation/file photo)

He sings. He dances. He tells jokes. He beats catchers with his bare hands. Oh, and he pitches pretty well, too, and knows to hit. The latter two were on display Sunday, as Zambrano carried the Cubs to a 7-3 win over the Cardinals in Game 1 of their day/night doubleheader.

Micah Hoffpauir, subbing for Derrek  Lee, actually started things with a three-run homer in the first off of Cardinals start Kyle Lohse. Lohse had the right idea, but wrong execution when he threw a breaking ball inside to Hoffpauir, normally a pitch sure to get Micah out. Instead, this time he nailed it, sending a blast into the bleachers that you were sure of from the crack of the bat.

Then the Cubs got just what they needed Sunday afternoon, especially given the absence of both Aramis Ramirez and Lee from the lineup, which was a strong pitching performance from the staff ace. Zambrano delivered, going six innings, and giving up three runs.

Trust me, the performance was better than it sounds. His only real mistake was being dumb enough to pitch to Albert Pujols with runners on in the third inning. Pujols would smack a two-run double to left that would bring the Cardinals back within one. Joe Thurston would tie the game later in the inning with an RBI single, before Jason LaRue was retired.

But Zambrano quickly made up for his mistake though, blasting a homer of his own in the fourth, which proved to be the game winner.

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The game stayed close for awhile, but the Cubs then took advantage of the Cardinals mistakes in seventh to grab three more runs, and put the game away.

Nice to see a LaRussa team unable to execute for once. Reliever Todd Wellemeyer couldn't stop walking people, filling the bases with Cubs. Then the Cubs would grab a quick run when on a Sam Fuld groundout, Skip Schumaker would come home high with the throw, with LaRue unable to find the plate on the way down. Pujols -- usually as sure-handed a first baseman as you'll find -- would have his own lapse, allowing a Koyie Hill grounder to shoot threw his legs, allowing two more to score.

This was not the prettiest game that we'll see this season, but given that the Cubs are now assured of a winning homestand and have a chance to take three of four from both the Brewers and Cardinals on it, I couldn't be happier. Well, except for maybe taking two today.

So, here's hoping for the double-header sweep. I'm off to find my earplugs; it's Sunday Night Baseball with Joe Morgan in Game 2.

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