Pirates 6, Cubs 4
The results still aren’t good for him, though.
Zambrano’s velocity was down early, his mechanics were out of whack and his first-inning problems continued in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 6-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. The Pirates jumped all over Zambrano to take a 3-0 lead in the first.
“It’s my opinion that we’ve got to get him a little closed,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Zambrano’s delivery. “He’s got to stay closed longer. I think hitters are getting a pretty good view of him.”
Still waiting on a new, multiyear contract, Zambrano (3-3, 5.83 ERA) bristled when asked if he was frustrated with his start.
“It’s not frustration,” he said. “I don’t know that word, for real. It’s like when you’re married, you don’t talk to your wife about divorce.”
Pirates manager Jim Tracy juggled his lineup to try and boost the team’s offense. Freddy Sanchez hit leadoff, Jose Bautista hit second for the first time this year and Jack Wilson dropped from second to eighth.
“It’s been no secret,” Bay said. “Our offense has been lacking lately and pretty much all year. Coming off of a guy like Zambrano, getting us some runs early gave us a cushion.”
The Pirates improved to 10-10 on the road. They didn’t get their 10th road win until July 7 last year.
The Cubs are just 8-11 at Wrigley Field and went 4-2 on this homestand.
“You’ve got your ace on the mound and you get a shutout from (Jason) Marquis last night,” Piniella said. “You’re looking to go 5-1. Before you know it you’re down three before the game even starts.”
Zambrano gave up four earned runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked two. He agreed with Piniella that his mechanics are a little out of whack.
Piniella added that Zambrano’s fastball topped out at 88 mph in the first before increasing to 93 later in the game.
But catcher Henry Blanco said he thinks Zambrano’s problems are in his mental approach, not his delivery.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him,” Blanco said. “He’s just trying to be too perfect, instead of throwing the ball. If there’s something mechanical, they’ll get it figured it out before his next start.”
Paul Maholm (2-4) went 7 1-3 innings for the Pirates, allowing four runs and seven hits. He struck out four and walked one. He got the win despite allowing three homers, including a two-run drive by pinch-hitter Michael Barrett with one out in the eighth that cut the Cubs’ deficit to 6-4.
“My rhythm was much better,” Maholm said. “Everything was in the zone, all four pitches were in the zone. A couple of the home runs were me just challenging them and they got the good part of the bat on it.”
Salomon Torres pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 14 chances.
Zambrano needed 35 pitches to get out of the first. He hit Sanchez with a pitch to start the game and gave up a double to Bautista. Bay then dropped in a hit in front of charging right fielder Matt Murton. Bay scored on Xavier Nady’s sacrifice fly.
“We caught a couple of breaks, but our club deserves to catch a couple of breaks,” Tracy said.
Zambrano has had his problems in the first inning this season. He gave up four runs in the first in his last start but the Cubs still beat the Washington Nationals 6-4. He also gave up four in the first against Atlanta on April 18 when the Cubs lost 8-6. He gave up a two-run homer in his first inning of the season in a 5-1 loss to Cincinnati on opening day.
“In the first inning, there is always something wrong,” Zambrano said. “I hit somebody, I walk somebody, there’s a blooper. But that’s part of the game. You have to be able to control yourself and make good pitches to get yourself out of trouble.”
Zambrano allowed two unearned runs in the third. He issued a two-out walk to Ryan Doumit, who scored on a two-base error by Murton after he muffed an easy fly ball at the wall in right. Adam LaRoche added an RBI single.
“I just flat-out dropped it,” Murton said.
Barrett’s drive was his fifth home run. … The Cubs sent down OF Felix Pie to bring up the switch-hitting Pagan. Pie hit .224 in his first trip to the majors, a span of 18 games. … Soriano walked in the first to extend his streak of reaching base to 26 games to start the season. … Lee extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a single in the fourth. He has reached safely in 32 straight games, the longest streak for a Cub in 50 years. … Cubs first-base coach Matt Sinatro returned to the team after missing two games after feeling ill with shortness of breath. … Doumit extended his career-high hitting streak to 10 games.