Series: Game 3 of 3

Chi Cubs won 2-1

Game 1: Friday, September 15
Chi Cubs0
Game 2: Saturday, September 16
Chi Cubs4
Game 3: Sunday, September 17
Chi Cubs11

Reds 3

(73-76, 34-38 away)

Cubs 11

(61-89, 33-43 home)

    2:20 PM ET, September 17, 2006

    Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois 

    123456789 R H E
    CIN 000000003 3 8 0
    CHC 71020100 - 11 17 0

    W: C. Zambrano (15-6)

    L: E. Milton (8-8)

    Wink and a Cy? Zambrano homers in masterful return

    CHICAGO (AP) -- Carlos Zambrano is hoping his arm and bat can help the Chicago Cubs achieve a modest goal -- avoiding 100 losses.

    Zambrano hit his fifth home run of the season and pitched seven shutout innings in his return to the rotation, leading the Cubs over the Cincinnati Reds 11-3 Sunday.

    Elias Says
    Carlos Zambrano
    Carlos Zambrano capped a seven-run first inning with his fifth home run of the season in the Cubs' 11-3 win over the Reds. It was Zambrano's second first-inning homer of the year (the other was on July 2 against the White Sox), equaling the total for all other pitchers combined over the last 21 seasons. Since 1986, Tyler Greene (1995 Phillies) and Robert Person (2002 Phillies) are the only other pitchers to homer during the first inning of a game.

    Three of Zambrano's homers this season, including Sunday's, came on the first pitch of an at-bat. Zambrano has more first-pitch homers this season than three members of the 30-home run club: Troy Glaus (two), Paul Konerko (two) and Nick Swisher (one).

    • For more Elias Says, Click here

    Jacque Jones, Ronny Cedeno and Zambrano all homered in the Cubs' seven-run first inning. Ryan Theriot added two home runs as the Cubs sent the Reds to their fourth loss in five games.

    Zambrano (15-6), who missed his last two scheduled starts with stiffness in his lower back, earned his first win since Aug. 24. He gave up four hits, struck out six and walked four.

    "I was feeling good today," Zambrano said. "I've told you before, I never give up and I know I can get to 16 or 17 wins."

    The Cubs have the worst record in the NL at 61-89, and Zambrano had said he wanted to pitch again to help his team avoid the triple-digit mark in losses. He'll likely get two more starts, with the Cubs needing to win twice in their final 12 games to stay away from No. 100.

    The right-hander left a game on Sept. 4 in the second inning complaining of back troubles. The Cubs have actually been trying to get Zambrano to cut down on his swing, thinking that might be further hurting his back.

    Zambrano's five homers are the most by a pitcher since Mike Hampton hit seven for the Colorado Rockies in 2001.

    "I was a little lucky today," he said. "I didn't try to make a hard swing and just tried to contact the ball. I didn't really make a strong swing like before because I didn't want to hurt my back."

    Jones hit a three-run homer, his 26th, and Cedeno hit a two-run drive off Eric Milton (8-8), who left the game after recording just one out. It was the shortest outing of Milton's career.

    Milton gave up six runs on six hits and threw just 22 pitches. He left his last start with shoulder soreness and got a cortisone shot in his left elbow after his last start on Sept. 12.

    Milton said he's probably done for the year.

    "Obviously, I wasn't right," Milton said. "I probably shouldn't have been out there today."

    The Reds began the day on the fringe of the wild-card race. With Milton struggling, they were out of this game right away.

    "You could tell real early that he wasn't anywhere close to his game," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I even talked to him before the game and he said he was ready."

    Aramis Ramirez started the scoring with an RBI single and Zambrano capped it with a solo shot off Milton's replacement, Sun-Woo Kim.

    "You saw everybody chipping in and producing in that first inning, and it was very refreshing to see that," Theriot said. "And those early hits and runs set the tone for the game."

    The Cubs started the game under a cloud after star Derrek Lee said he was taking a leave of absence from the club to care for his 3-year-old daughter Jada, who is suffering from an undisclosed illness that has affected her eyesight. Lee talked to the team privately before the game.

    "It looked like the guys were inspired," manager Dusty Baker said. "Derrek spoke to the team before the game and he told the guys to go out and play ball, play hard and do what you've got to do."

    The first four Reds pitchers gave up at least one home run.

    Matt Murton homered in the second off Kim. Theriot hit his second career homer, a solo shot, in the fourth off Jason Johnson and added a solo shot in the sixth off Jason Standridge.

    Theriot had never hit more than one home run in a season, hitting five total in parts of six minor league seasons. He doesn't think he's ever had a multihomer game.

    "You're not out there trying to get in the air, you're just trying to hit it hard," Theriot said.

    The Reds scored three runs in the ninth off Ryan Dempster. Todd Hollandsworth had an RBI double to end the shutout.

    Game notes

    Zambrano's five home runs this season are one shy of the Cubs' single-season record for pitcher, set by Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins in 1971. ... Milton's previous shortest outing came when he got two outs on Sept. 18, 2005, against Pittsburgh. ... The Cubs hit six home runs in a game for the first time since Aug. 20, 2004, at Houston.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press