Cubs 1, Pirates 0
Zambrano pitched 7 1-3 shutout innings to outduel Oliver Perez and beat Pittsburgh for the fifth straight time this season, carrying the Cubs to a tense, 1-0 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday night.
“I saw him closing and closing, then I saw it hit his glove, and I just hoped it stayed in his glove when he hit the ground,” manager Dusty Baker said. “The guys (in the dugout) jumped for joy, including myself, just as if we won the World Series. That was a big play, that was a huge play.”
The Cubs made several excellent defensive plays to support Zambrano, who is the first to beat the Pirates five times in a season since the Mets’ Tom Seaver went 5-1 in 1973. That surprised Zambrano, who was only 5 when the Hall of Fame right-hander pitched his final game in 1986 and doesn’t remember him.
“I have nothing against the Pirates,” Zambrano said. “But I’m always more comfortable pitching against the division (NL Central) teams. I tried to do the same things against them that I do against the other teams.”
The Cubs, who remained a half-game behind San Francisco in the NL wild-card race, are 5-0 against the Pirates over the last 10 days amid a stretch of 11 victories in 14 games. They are 6-2 on a four-city, 12-game road trip that ends this weekend in New York.
Perez (10-10) retired the first 14 batters, only to lose his control and walk three in a span of four in the fifth— including Zambrano, whose first career bases-loaded walk drove in the only run. Zambrano is a .209 hitter who homered Friday against the Reds and has three career homers.
“Everybody knows Zambrano can hit,” Perez said. “I didn’t want to throw him a pitch in the zone where he could hit it, and I walked him.”
Nomar Garciaparra, 1-for-2 with two walks in his first start since injuring a groin Sept. 11, walked to become the Cubs’ first baserunner. Mark Grudzielanek singled into right field for Chicago’s first hit.
“I was trying to do everything I could to win the game,” Perez said. “Every game you learn something, and this game I learned you can have too much emotion, to just relax.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Perez temporarily began trying to overpower hitters in the fifth, shaking off catcher Jason Kendall so he could throw fastballs rather than his slider.
“As good as he is, he’s still young (21) and he still makes mistakes,” McClendon said of Perez, whose average of 11 strikeouts per nine innings leads the majors. “But we’re talking about something he did in a 1-0 game. That’s how good he is.”
The one run was all Zambrano (15-8) needed while giving up six hits, walking three and striking out seven to win his third in a row and fourth in five decisions.
Zambrano was 0-2 against the Pirates before this season, then allowed them only four runs in 35 1-3 innings—a 1.02 ERA. The Pirates did not score more than one run in any of the five starts.
The Cubs, 12-5 against the Pirates, had a chance to add on to the lead when Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez singled to put runners on first and third with one out in the eighth. But Salomon Torres, whose wild pitch scored the go-ahead run in Chicago’s 5-4, 10-inning win Tuesday, struck out Moises Alou and Sosa.
Patterson struck out four times, with Perez getting him three times and Torres once. … Perez struck out eight in seven innings in his first start since losing 13-5 to the Cubs on Sept. 15, when he allowed three homers in the first. … Perez has given up three runs or fewer in 15 of 16 starts at home. He is not scheduled to pitch there again this season.