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.
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).
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.
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.