Cubs 2, Brewers 0
3-hit shutout built on sliders
This time, it was a sight for sore eyes.
After being driven out of the game in an eight-run second inning last week in his most recent start against Milwaukee, Zambrano responded with eight shutout innings of three-hit ball in a 2-0 victory over the Brewers.
"They were waiting for the heater like they did in Milwaukee," Zambrano said. "But because my slider was feeling good, I threw a lot of sliders. I changed the game plan."
The Cubs managed to scratch across a pair of runs early against Brewers left-hander Doug Davis, and Zambrano made it look easy in his first victory since June 5. It marked the Cubs' third straight victory, and their second straight shutout after Mark Prior blanked the White Sox Sunday.
Now for dessert, Kerry Wood makes his comeback start on Wednesday against the Brewers.
"It's going to be huge for us," Derrek Lee said. "It'll set our rotation up the way we expected. Hopefully now we can go on a roll."
Jerry Hairston's RBI single off Davis in the second and Lee's homer in the third gave Zambrano a 2-0 lead, and the Brewers never advanced a runner past second base. Ryan Dempster threw a perfect ninth for his 12th straight save.
After cruising through the first seven innings, Zambrano's biggest test came in the eighth when he walked Geoff Jenkins leading off and gave up an opposite-field single to Damian Miller. Pinch-hitter Trent Durrington's sacrifice attempt went awry when he bunted to a charging Lee at first, who got the lead runner at third on a forceout.
Brady Clark followed with a sinking liner to center, but Corey Patterson made a diving catch, righted himself and doubled Jenkins off second to end the inning. An animated Zambrano did a couple of 360-degree spins before he pogo-hopped backwards off the field.
"It was exciting," Zambrano said, "He came out of nowhere to make that play."
Patterson, who had been booed after striking out on three pitches in the fifth, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 39,574, only to be booed again after striking out for a third time leading off the eighth.
Though he admitted it was difficult being booed last year, Patterson has come to accept the booing as a job hazard playing at Wrigley Field.
"It's no secret, I can do a lot better at the plate," Patterson said. "I'm going to work on it. It's like last year going through a tough period, but I fought my way out of it."
But Lee said the booing was counterproductive.
"Corey is trying to do the best he can," Lee said. "I think at home the fans should support him, because he can do things like that."
Manager Dusty Baker said he had no words of wisdom for Zambrano before the game. Zambrano knew exactly what was at stake.
"There's nothing you can say," Baker said. "He knows it. He'll learn from it. This happens to everyone, There isn't a pitcher out there who hasn't had a short outing. Just chalk it up. I'll take one short outing every three years."
Addressing Zambrano's struggles recently, pitching coach Larry Rothschild referred to the game in New York where Zambrano issued six walks to the Yankees.
"Then last game he wasn't going to walk anybody, and then didn't make pitches as good," Rothschild said. "So it's kind of a Catch-22. If he's throwing the ball the way he did the last game, he'll come through fine. Things tend to turn around for a guy like him, and when they do, they usually turn around in a pretty big way."