Zambrano has won two of his first four starts for the Cubs to improve to 6-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last nine outings dating back to last season.
The right-hander shutdown the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, allowing one run and five hits over 8 2-3 innings of a 3-1 win. He even helped with the bat, driving in a run with his first career triple, and is 5-for-12 at the plate this year with a double, triple and two RBIs.
The 6-foot-5 Venezuelan, who was bothered by a blister on his right index finger, was pulled one out shy of a complete game.
“I wanted to finish but that was the right decision for the manager,” said Zambrano, whose injury has since healed. “It was a game where I was worried about my finger.”
Zambrano’s performance was of some consolation to the Cubs, who lost Nomar Garciaparra to a groin injury in the same game. The shortstop has opted to have surgery on Wednesday in hopes of salvaging his season. He made his decision public after the Cubs’ 10-6 win over the Reds on Monday.
“The decision was made during today’s game after coming back and talking to the doctors,” Garciaparra said. “When you do something like this, it’s not just the tendon, there’s other tissues that often get damaged when you have something this extreme.”
Neifi Perez hit a three-run homer, his second homer in as many games, and had four RBIs to help Chicago, which has won four of their last six games. Perez, who is subbing for Garciapparra, is 10-for-16 (.625) in his last four games.
Adam Dunn drove in four runs for the Reds, who have lost four of their last five games.
Ken Griffey Jr. finished 3-for-5 but extended his career-high homerless streak to start a season to 64 at-bats.
“I’m trying to be patient if possible, go out there and play as I can and see what happens,” Griffey said.