The San Diego Padres ran into a brick wall on Monday as Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs came calling. The playoff contending Padres fall a game back of the Giants for the divisional lead and a half game back behind the Braves in the wildcard race.
Big Z returned to the mound on Monday and pitched seven shut out innings while surrendering only three hits as his mother watched on. Carlos Zambrano escaped the bases loaded jam in the seventh to earn another win. Big Z has allowed two runs or less and pitched five innings or more for the tenth straight start, the most such string by a Cubs’ starter since 1920. It was vintage Zambrano. Big Z is 7-0, with a 1.07 ERA in his last 9 starts. Zambrano hasn’t been throwing as hard as he used to but has been effectively mixing up his pitches and keeping hitters off balance. Whatever he is doing, it’s working. Big Z is back, and better than ever!
The Cubs would need a quality start from Big Z since the only run of the ballgame came in the top of the seventh when Blake Dewitt lined a single scoring Alfonso Soriano who had reached on a double to left. The San Diego Padres had solid pitching and solid defense but the Cubs’ pitching staff was even tougher.
Sean Marshall pitched a scoreless eighth.
Carlos Marmol entered the game in the ninth with a 1-0 lead. That’s when it got really interesting. With two outs, Marmol gave up a single and Chase Headley was awarded first base when a pitched bounced between his feet. The umpire, apparently thought that the pitch had hit Headley. It did not. Mike Quade came out of the dugout to argue but to no avail. There’s no replay in baseball. Then, Marmol walked Tony Gwynn, Jr. to load the bases and Cubs’ fans were biting their nails at this point. At least, I was. Everytime Marmol pitches, there is lots of drama. The game hangs delicately in the balance, sort of twisting in the wind as it were.
Nick Hundly hit a drive to left. It scared me when he hit it, because I thought it was going to be a grand slam but to my relief, it was caught for the final out.
Carlos Marmol made his 300th career relief appearance and notched his 35th save of the season.
The Cubs’ pitchers outdueled one of the best pitching staffs in the majors for the shutout. The Cubs have come to play in the final week. Hope it doesn’t SPOIL San Diego’s fun too much. After all, it’s still payback time. Remember 1984. I haven’t forgotten and the Cubs haven’t either! Go, Cubs, Go! Let’s do it again tonight!