AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
After throwing a wild pitch in the seventh inning, Zambrano rushed to cover home plate to prevent Nyjer Morgan from scoring the tying run. The play was close, but it does appear that home plate umpire Mark Carlson was correct in ruling that Morgan's hand touched the plate before Big Z made the tag. That's when the show started, as Zambrano wildly gesticulated and made contact with Carlson, who promptly tossed the pitcher. That only got Zambrano more riled up as he then "ejected" Carlson himself, fired the baseball into the outfield, and then had a confrontation with a Gatorade machine that would have made Christian Bale proud.
How out of control was Zambrano? As teammate Milton Bradley told the Chicago Tribune, "That was pretty impressive. It was on a Bradley level." That's like Howard Stern saying, "That joke was a little bit tasteless."
But for all the YouTube hits Zambrano's performance will likely receive in the next few days, the fact is, Zambrano's control has been an issue all season. Not of his temper, but of his pitches. Look at the numbers: So far in 2009, Zambrano has the highest WHIP of his career (1.45), his worst ERA (4.22), and the largest batting average against (.266) by a large margin. Even more disturbing is that his ground ball rate is only 39 percent. For his career, he's rarely dipped below 47 percent.
True, he's striking out a lot more hitters than in recent years, but that only speaks to the unpredictability of Zambrano's location. It appears that Zambrano has no more clue where the ball is going to end up than the hitter does. After all, didn't Wednesday's incident all begin with a wild pitch?
Something's simply not right with Zambrano, and it can't all be blamed on a bad hamstring. With a suspension looming for Wednesday's outburst, perhaps he can take a step back, take a good hard look in the mirror and try and figure out what happened to the Carlos Zambrano that averaged 16 wins a season since 2006. Because this guy, we don't even recognize him.
• James Loney drove in four of the Dodgers' eight runs on Wednesday, increasing his season total to 36 RBIs, the most on the team. Juan Pierre also drove in two runs, finishing the series against the Rockies 8-for-16 with seven RBIs. Not exactly who we thought would be the big contributors for Los Angeles this season, but as infielder Juan Castro put it in the Los Angeles Times, "Every day a different guy's been contributing. This is a 25-man team. This is not a Manny team."
• All eyes in Baltimore are focused on Friday, the day Matt Wieters is scheduled to make his big league debut, but Nolan Reimold continues to shout, "Woo-hoo! Over here!" Reimold served up a three-run, walk-off homer off of Toronto's Brian Wolfe in the eleventh inning on Wednesday, his fourth round-tripper since his call-up. Where's the love?
• Speaking of home runs, Russell Branyan went yard for the 11th time this season on Wednesday. It was a two-run home run, which was quite unusual for Branyan, who has only 23 RBIs on the season, as seven of his 11 home runs have been solo shots. It's hard to be a big run producer when the two guys ahead of you in the lineup (Adrian Beltre and Ken Griffey Jr.) are both hitting below .220.
• Washington GM Mike Rizzo was quoted in New York Newsday that Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham and Austin Kearns are all on the trading block. "If we can make a good baseball trade and improve ourselves, not only for our present but also for our future -- a player that can impact us -- we have to make those kinds of trades," Rizzo said. One of the teams that has been rumored to be a potential suitor for Johnson is the Mets, however, Daniel Murphy may have something to say about that. Murphy was 3-for-5 with a two-run homer against the Nationals on Wednesday. His home run gave Johan Santana his seventh win of the season, in a bizarre outing, in which the Mets' ace recorded 11 strikeouts and six walks.
• Kyle Lohse has been scratched from his scheduled Friday start due to a burning sensation in his right forearm, the result of being hit by a pitch against the Royals last weekend. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa confirmed on the team's official Web site that Joel Pineiro will start on Friday night against the Giants, with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright expected to follow.
• Jered Weaver had another solid outing for the Angels, keeping the White Sox lineup in check on Wednesday. Weaver allowed only one run on four hits in eight innings, moving his record to 4-2 and lowering his ERA to 2.36. Weaver has now given up just one run in four of his past five starts and is 4-0 for his career against Chicago.
• Josh Anderson went 4-for-5 with a stolen base for the Tigers, helping give Rick Porcello the offensive boost he needed to win his fifth straight start. Porcello is the second pitcher in the past 50 years to win five straight starts with no more than two earned runs allowed while under the age of 21. The first? Fernando Valenzuela.
• Baseball is simple: You pitch, you hit, you win. The Reds took care of the Astros on Wednesday by following this simple formula. Bronson Arroyo threw a complete game to join Johan Santana as the National League's only 7-game winners, allowing only five hits and striking out three. Meanwhile, Jay Bruce hit not one, but two home runs, and added a triple to break out of a 1-for-18 slump.
• Usually when a pitcher has a 20.45 ERA, it's not cause for celebration. However, for Chien-Ming Wang, who entered Wednesday with a 25.00 ERA, it was a big relief. Wang threw two hitless innings in relief on Wednesday, with 18 of his 26 pitches going for strikes. "That's what we want to see from him," manager Joe Girardi told the Newark Star-Ledger. "That was a huge building block for him." Girardi stopped short of saying he was ready to put Wang back into the Yankees' rotation, but Wang will definitely get to continue to wear pinstripes after this outing.
Denard Span, Twins
"I'm going to be honest, my legs are killing me right now," Span said on the team's official Web site. "I was on base five times today and running all over the place. But it's fun that way. I'd rather have it that way than being on the bench making right turns instead of left turns." Span had missed some time earlier this week with dizziness, but seemed just fine on Wednesday matching a career high with four hits and stealing his 11th base of the season in Minnesota's 4-2 win against Boston.
Randy Johnson, Giants
There's life in the old man yet! Johnson moved to within one win of that elusive 300 mark with a solid showing against the Braves on Wednesday. The Big Unit retired the first nine batters he faced, and 15 of the first 16. He struck out Chipper Jones three times and allowed only three hits and no walks in six innings. But most importantly, the Giants won 6-3, and Randy can reach 300 in his next start in Washington next week.
Forgive Andy Sonnanstine if he was suffering from déjà vu on Wednesday after Cleveland's Ben Francisco hit a second-inning home run. It was the fourth consecutive at-bat that Francisco had gone yard against the Rays' pitcher. Francisco only singled his next time at-bat, so the major league record of five consecutive home runs against a pitcher, held by Frank Howard since 1964, lives on.
• The Cubs called up prospect Jake Fox, who had been batting .423 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs, from Triple-A Iowa to replace Aaron Miles, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder. Fox doubled and drove in a run as a pinch-hitter to help give the Cubs a 5-2 victory. Fox is a converted catcher who can be placed at first, third or in the outfield. The Cubs also recalled infielder Andres Blanco and pitcher Jason Waddell, optioning pitcher Neal Cotts and flu-ridden infielder Bobby Scales back to Iowa.
• The Indians sent down pitcher Rich Rundles and recalled Zach Jackson from Triple-A Columbus so he could make the start Wednesday night against Tampa Bay. It wasn't pretty. After waiting out a nearly two-hour rain delay, Jackson allowed five runs in the first inning and eventually was chased after four innings and a WHIP of 3.00.
• No more Nomar for awhile in Oakland. An injury to his troubled right calf has landed Nomar Garciaparra on the disabled list again, his fifth trip to the DL since the start of last season. The Athletics brought up pitcher Jeff Gray from Triple-A Sacramento to fill Nomar's roster spot.
• Happy Birthday, Daniel Cabrera! Your present? You're free to seek work elsewhere. Cabrera was designated for assignment (that's baseball code for "being cut") by the Washington Nationals after the pitcher started the season 0-5, with a 5.85 ERA.
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AJ Mass: It's not the K's that impress, it's the endurance. That was always what held him back, the inability to go 6-7 [innings] with regularity. If he does that with consistency, he's definitely a top-30 candidate.
-- Full chat transcript
Eric Karabell: Yes, the fact that Lou Piniella now has Jake Fox at his services is a clear sign that he's going to play, and Fox certainly can't man second base. He probably can't play left field, either, but first base is generally taken. I don't know why Fox, who was the best hitter in the minors this season with a .423 average and huge power, would have been promoted to sit on the bench. He's not Brandon Wood. Whether that displaces Soriano I can't guess, but I'd think Fox gets some starts at 3B and 1B as well.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
• Wednesday wasn't as wonderful for rehabbing Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. The right-hander struggled mightily for Class A Inland Empire, allowing nine hits and seven runs in five innings of work. Kuroda will need to pick up his game in his next rehab start if he wants to make a case for being ready to rejoin the Dodgers.
• The Chicago White Sox have promoted Gordon Beckham! Alright, let's not get too excited, as the move brings the prospect from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, and not to the Windy City. Still, Beckham hit .299 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in Double-A and had been starting at third base as of late. Perhaps Josh Fields should be getting a little nervous.
• Even though Joe Mauer and the Twins have been smoking hot offensively as of late, the Red Sox still have the AL's best on-base percentage, and with all those runners putting pressure on Anthony Swarzak, Boston should put at least a few runs on the board for Josh Beckett.
• Brandon Inge hasn't historically hit for average against the Orioles (.220), but he does have five career home runs and 22 RBIs against the Birds. He's worth a play with the limited slate.
• For more on Thursday's games, check out Daily Notes.