Carlos Zambrano homered last night, his second of the year, the fourth one he's hit in his career in Houston, and his 14th lifetime dinger, breaking Fergie Jenkins' club record for career HR by a pitcher.
And that was the sum total of the Cub offense last night as they lost their third in a row, 4-1 to the Astros. Z must have felt as if he had to do everything himself, and he was uncharacteristically wild (for this year, anyway -- the six walks he issued is a season high), probably overthrowing, getting back into bad habits from years gone by. Z acknowledges he may have lost control:
Zambrano dropped to 5-1 in 10 starts against the NL Central this season. He often seemed exasperated and [Lou] Piniella wants his fiery ace to work on controlling his emotions.
"There is no reason to show your frustrations," Piniella said. "All you can do is pick up the other team and hurt yourself. He’s a really good competitive guy, he loves to win. All that does is take away from his greatness."
Zambrano conceded that Piniella might be right.
"I wasn’t controlling myself. That’s the most important thing," he said. "You can be mad at yourself, you can be mad at the batter, but you have to stay in control."
The Cubs had plenty of chances to take the lead or even break the game open early -- they left RISP in the second, third and fifth innings (not that I'm complaining about a Z home run, but it would have been more productive with two men on in the second inning), and all seven LOB for the game were in the first five innings. Meanwhile, of Z's six walks, two of them scored as the Astros went out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the third.
And essentially, although I, and most of you probably too, followed or watched the rest of the game, we might as well have done something else with our Saturday evening.
Speaking of which, if you were watching Baseball Tonight after the Cubs game last night, the 2003 game that they were all discussing -- and I hadn't seen the "highlights" from that eventually rained-out game since then -- that was what I've called the "Typhoon Game", played on Mother's Day, May 11, 2003 (there's no boxscore or recap link because they called it, with the Cubs down 11-9, after four innings, so it wasn't official and wound up being rescheduled to September, helping to create the memorable five-game series vs. St. Louis at that time; the Cubs won four of the five, helping send them to the NL Central title). The wind and rain really were that bad, blowing balls that should have landed foul in the seats into the middle of left field. It was raining sideways and so windy that I couldn't even hold up my umbrella. Here's what I wrote about it at the time, and I stand by that five years later. That game should never have even been started -- conditions were appalling, and the Cardinals' Eli Marrero suffered a serious ankle injury, which may have been the impetus for finally calling the game. Check out Marrero's career stats -- after 2003, except for one year as a decent part-timer in Atlanta, he was never really the same player. I have to say that Eduardo Perez was pretty funny on BBTN, expressing how much he did NOT want Tony LaRussa to send him into that game!
One more TV-related event: after BBTN, I flipped on the Orioles-Tigers game on EI, which had, rather comically, gone into extra innings tied 10-10. Luke Scott hit a walkoff HR, went around the bases to his teammates awaiting him at the plate, flipped off his helmet as players now do when they do that (because otherwise it hurts when the happy team bashes you on the head!) -- and then slid into home plate. I thought that was an appalling display of showing up the other team. Wouldn't be surprised to see Scott get knocked down today by a Detroit pitcher.
This recap is just about done. What more can be said? This, for one: Chad Gaudin threw well in relief, and that's a good thing, because you can never have too many capable relief pitchers. For all the criticism he sometimes gets, and yes, he can be extremely maddening -- this team badly misses Alfonso Soriano. Including the game in which Soriano was injured (since he didn't play past the bottom of the first that day), the Cubs have treaded water at 16-16. He appears on target to return next Thursday at home vs. the Marlins (and I am going to bring our secret weapon, my son Mark, whose personal record is 8-0 this year, back to at least one, hopefully two, games in that series). Thanks to Jessica for pointing out that the Cubs catch a break the next week because they won't have to face Dan Haren or Brandon Webb in Arizona, usually a house of pain for Cub teams (they are only 13-25 in the former BOB, and that doesn't even include the two NLDS losses last year), and won't face Ricky Nolasco, Florida's best pitcher, next weekend.
Enough. Salvage one from this series and move on. It's hard for just about any team to win on the road these days -- just look at Tampa Bay, who looked horrid while losing seven in a row on the road (including being swept by the Indians at Cleveland, not a good team this year), and who have righted their ship at home. The pregame thread will be up at 11:30 am CT.