Zambrano is 6-1 with a 1.51 ERA since the All-Star break, allowing just eight runs in 53 2-3 innings. The right-hander is coming off his best effort of the year as he flirted with a no-hitter in the Cubs’ 4-1 win at Arizona on Friday.
The Diamondbacks’ first hit came in the eighth inning via a slow infield grounder and a controversial call at first base. A replay later showed umpire Bill Miller wrongly called Shea Hillenbrand safe on a close play.
“I was real sad about that play,” Zambrano said. “I saw the play. I felt like he was out, but he’s (Miller) human. Anybody can make a mistake.”
Zambrano lost his shutout bid in the ninth, but finished off his second complete game of the year with four strikeouts and two walks. He also threw just 93 pitches, 62 for strikes.
“That was awesome,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s as good a pitching performance that I’ve ever seen. We made some fine defensive plays on the infield. He kept the ball in the infield. He had a very low pitch count for nine innings.
“You hate to see a no-hitter end like that. It doesn’t come along very often. He got the victory. We got the victory.”
The Cubs are in the middle of a tight NL Central race, just a half-game in front of the Cardinals and a half-game behind the first-place Houston Astros. This is the third of eight games in 11 days between the Cubs and Cardinals.
STANDINGS: Cubs - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, NL Central. Cardinals - 3rd place, 1 GB, NL Central.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Zambrano (12-9, 2.94 ERA). Zambrano is 0-3 with a 5.49 ERA in four career starts against St. Louis.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Matt Morris (8-6, 4.07 ERA). Morris made his first start since coming off the disabled list Saturday, allowing one run and six hits over five innings in the Cardinals’ 5-3 win over Philadelphia. The veteran right-hander, who had been sidelined by a broken finger and sprained ankle, struck out one without a walk but did not receive a decision. Morris is 9-2 with a 3.70 ERA in 18 career appearances against the Cubs.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .305 avg.; Sammy Sosa, 30 HRs; Aramis Ramirez, 85 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 77 runs and 27 SBs. Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .365 avg., 35 HRs, 109 RBIs and 112 runs; Edgar Renteria, 26 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 7-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - The Cubs have hit back-to-back homers seven times this season. … Chicago is 5-24 at Busch Stadium since the start of the 2000 season. … If RHP Matt Clement and RHP Wood earn one more win each, the Cubs will have four 12-game winners for the first time since 1969. Cardinals - RHP Mike Crudale was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday as one of two players to be named in last week’s deal that sent RHP Mike DeJean to St. Louis. … SS Renteria, a late addition to the lineup Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s game with a back strain, went 0-for-3. … LHP Sterling Hitchcock, acquired from the New York Yankees last week, will probably make his first start on the Cardinals’ upcoming eight-game trip to Cincinnati and Chicago.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 36-31 on the road; Cardinals - 39-28 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - 2B Grudzielanek (hand), 15-day DL; CF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; RF J.D. Drew (oblique), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Jimmy Journell (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL.