Despite pitching for the team with the worst record in the NL, Carlos Zambrano is making a case for what would be an unprecedented Cy Young Award.
The right-hander did it all for Chicago (62-92) when he faced the Reds in an 11-3 win at Wrigley Field on Sunday. Making his first start after missing two with back spasms, Zambrano (15-6, 3.38 ERA) scattered four hits, walked four and struck out six over seven innings.
He also hit his fifth homer, leaving him one shy of the franchise record for homers by pitcher set by Ferguson Jenkins in 1971. Zambrano has a very good chance to match that mark—there have been 235 homers hit this season at the Great American Ball Park, the most in the majors.
“Like I told you before, I never give up,” said Zambrano, who’s recorded 10 of his wins after a Cubs loss. “If I can get to 17, 16 wins, it’s better than 14-6.”
If the Cubs remain in last place and Zambrano wins the Cy Young Award, it would be an NL first. The only Cy Young winner to come from a last-place team was when Roger Clemens went 21-7 for Toronto, which finished with a 76-86 record in the AL East in 1997.
Zambrano also is trying match Brad Penny of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona’s Brandon Webb for the league lead in wins. Penny is scheduled to start for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks on Saturday night.
Chicago will try to rebound from a 4-2 loss to Cincinnati (75-78) on Friday in a game shortened to five innings by rain. Henry Blanco homered for the Cubs, but rookie pitcher Rich Hill gave up homers to Norris Hopper, Edwin Encarnacion and pinch-hitter Brendan Harris.
“I went inside a little too much and got burned,” Hill said. “I don’t think I threw the ball bad. I just made a few mistakes.”
The win kept the Reds’ playoff hopes alive. They’re tied with the Astros for second place in the NL Central, 5 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Cincinnati, Houston and San Francisco all are 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers for the wild card.
To close the gap, Kyle Lohse (2-4, 4.33) will try to help the Reds win consecutive games for only the second time in a month.
The right-hander is 1-4 with 7.09 ERA in his last five starts. Against Houston on Monday, he gave up four runs, six hits and three walks over six innings of a 5-3 loss.
“I was trying to make too good of pitches instead of relaxing,” said Lohse, who will make his first career start against the Cubs.
Cincinnati is 7-9 at home against Chicago this season.