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Cubs Offense Explodes, Zambrano Comes Close In Cubs 9-5 Win Over Astros

Feel better this morning?

You can be sure Carlos Zambrano does. He appeared to leave the mound before Mike Quade came to get him in a sloppily played bottom of the sixth of the Cubs' 9-5 win over the Astros Wednesday night. But instead of blowing up, Big Z apologized, says Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago:

Zambrano was so caught up in an inning spinning out of control that Kerry Wood had to point it out to him. Zambrano watched the replay and felt compelled to go over to the Cubs manager’s office and apologize to Quade after a 9-5 win over the Houston Astros.

"I didn’t mean that," Zambrano said. "Believe me, the last thing that I want to do this year is disrespect the manager."

This was the bottom of the same inning where Z launched the home run that would wind up giving the Cubs their margin of victory. It was his fifth career HR in Houston and 22nd lifetime, by far the most among active pitchers (Livan Hernandez is second with 10). At the time, it looked like the Cubs were going to soar to an easy win; the Z blast gave them a 6-0 lead.

But then came that bottom of the sixth, in which Z apparently felt plate umpire Paul Emmel squeezed him on a couple of pitches; Darwin Barney let a catchable popup drop between him and Tyler Colvin in short right field, and Z allowed a two-run homer to Matt Downs, making the score 6-5 and prompting the call to the pen by Quade.

Fortunately, the Cubs' pen was up to the task; Marcos Mateo, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol threw 3.1 hitless innings, allowing just one baserunner (a walk by Marmol) and striking out three. Wood showed off the cutter that he learned from Mariano Rivera, which can be a devastating pitch when the pitcher using it is on his game, and Marmol made us a little nervous with the walk before shutting the door after the Cubs stretched the lead to a non-save-situation 9-5 in the top of the ninth.

Not that this really matters, but it was the first victory televised on WGN this year (after four losses).

Other positives from last night: Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer in a five-run Cubs first inning, his fourth of the season to date. He also made a nice throw, which was relayed to the plate on an even better throw from Starlin Castro, to nail Brett Wallace at home in the second inning. Castro had three more hits and is fifth in BA in the NL at .389. Darwin Barney (.345), Marlon Byrd (.353) and Aramis Ramirez (.326) are all hitting well in the early going; Jeff Baker, spotted well against LHP and starting at 1B last night to give the still-thumb-injured Carlos Pena the night off, is hitting .385, which splits this way: 9-for-18 vs. LHP, 1-for-8 vs. RHP.

Another small crowd of 20,987 watched this game. It looked like maybe half that number were in Minute Maid Park -- I think WGN's cameras showed every single one of them. Attendance may pick up later in the season when schools are out, but some teams appear to be in trouble (example: yesterday's "crowd" in Seattle of 12,407 was the smallest in Safeco Field history).

The Cubs flew to Denver after the game and will spend today's off day there, while the Rockies play a doubleheader in New York, forced by a postponement on Tuesday. Here's hoping that both games go into extra innings and tire out the Rockies bullpen.