PHOENIX – Only Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella could stop Carlos Zambrano.
With Zambrano needing a triple for the cycle, Piniella decided to lift his ace after seven sharp innings and 111 pitches. Zambrano settled for a homer, double and single as the Chicago Cubs routed the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-3 on Tuesday night at Chase Field.
Or was it Wrigley Field? With so many Cubs fans on hand whooping it up in the crowd of 30,351, it was hard to tell. All that was missing was the Old Style beer and the ivy.
Asked if he would have liked one more at-bat, Zambrano replied, “Yeah, why not? I think sometimes it’s good to break some records and be in the history” books.
“I run pretty good, you know,” said Zambrano, who has three career triples.
Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot also homered for the Cubs (10-9), who won for only the second time in seven games.
Zambrano is a career .235 hitter and a two-time Silver Slugger award winner as the NL’s best-hitting pitcher. But he opened the season hitless in nine at-bats. “I told him about a week ago, you’re not swinging the bat like you were last year,” Piniella said. “He said it’s early.”
He snapped out of his slump with a single in the third. Then he hit a high drive off the top of the wall in right-center to knock in a run in the fifth. In the seventh, Zambrano hit an 0-2 sinker from Esmerling Vasquez solid. The solo shot landed in the first row of the seats in left for his 17th career homer, most by a Cubs pitcher.
Zambrano entered the game needing one strikeout to become the seventh pitcher in Cubs history to record 1,200 with the franchise. He reached the milestone when he fanned Chris Young in the second inning, joining Ferguson Jenkins (2,038 strikeouts), Charlie Root (1,432), Kerry Wood (1,407), Rick Reuschel (1,367), Greg Maddux (1,305) and Bill Hutchinson (1,224).
Yusmeiro Petit, in the Arizona starting rotation because of Brandon Webb’s strained right shoulder, took the brunt of the beating. He was tagged for seven earned runs in 3 1/2 innings.
Soriano hit a three-run homer, his seventh, in the third. Petit was charged with four more runs in the fourth, including Fontenot’s two-run shot.
“(Petit) just couldn’t stop the bleeding once they got going a little bit,” said Arizona manager Bob Melvin, whose club fell to 8-12 this season.
Wednesday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster 1-0, 4.88) at D’backs (Doug Davis 1-3, 3.67), 12:40 p.m. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1490 AM
By The Arizona Republic, The Associated Press