video thumbnail

NYM@CHC: Zambrano collects three hits against Mets

CHICAGO -- It was cold at Wrigley Field on Thursday, and Koyie Hill considered wearing a winter hat under his catcher's helmet. Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was ready to deal with the 15-mph north wind and 33-degree wind chill in short sleeves.

"I thought about wearing a stocking cap and I said, 'Well, my guy's got no sleeves on, so I can't wear a stocking cap,'" Hill said.

Zambrano shrugged off the cold with a 3-for-3 day, including an RBI single, Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer and Kosuke Fukudome added a solo shot to lift the Cubs to a 9-3 series-clinching victory over the Mets.

Alfonso Soriano added a two-run double to back Zambrano (5-2), who wasn't available postgame so he could be examined by the team physician. Zambrano had some stiffness in his neck, which was not believed to be serious, and he was not expected to miss a start.

"He's not one to complain about it," Hill said. "He's got a job to do out there and takes a lot of pride in it. He's been as focused as I've seen him."

The win was Zambrano's first at home since Sept. 4, a span of five starts. The right-hander gave up six hits over six innings and struck out five.

He'll say he's paid to pitch, but he loves to hit. This was his seventh career three-hit game and first since Sept. 10. Cubs manager Mike Quade knows that, which is why he used him as a pinch-hitter Tuesday.

"He's a veteran hitter," Quade said. "He's more disciplined. It's funny to me. I don't know if [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo] has been spending time with him or whatever, but God, he loves to hit. He threw the ball well and we needed that, too."

He is also numb to the cold. In Zambrano's five starts at Wrigley, the temperature has averaged 47 degrees, including a low of 34 on April 18. On Thursday, it was 42 degrees at game time.

"With the weather the way it is, Z's game is real simple," Hill said. "He's going to go out there and throw a sinker, and throw some offspeed stuff to keep them off the sinker. [Ronny] Paulino hit a ball about as hard as I've seen a ball hit this year [in the seventh], and [Tony] Campana ran in to get it.

"[Zambrano] kept the ball down, got some ground balls when he needed and big outs when he needed, and he was aggressive."

Speaking of Campana, he was the star of the show. Making his first start since he was called up May 17, the mighty mite had three hits, scored a run and was running everywhere to cover center field.

"It's so much fun to watch him run around, and not just because of his speed, but his enthusiasm," Quade said.

With Marlon Byrd sidelined indefinitely after being hit in the face with a pitch Saturday, Reed Johnson needed a day because of some soreness, which left Campana.

"I don't think we've played with a guy as fast as him, or against a guy as fast as him," Hill said.

The game was delayed 31 minutes at the start because of rain. Two Cubs errors in the Mets' half of the third contributed to a run. With one out, Jose Reyes doubled into the right-field corner and Fukudome short-hopped the throw to Darwin Barney for an error. Barney's throw to third was also off the mark, allowing Reyes to score.

Zambrano singled with one out in the third and moved up on Fukudome's single. Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey broke late to cover first and fell as he came off the mound. He had to leave the game with pain in his right heel.

Pedro Beato (1-1) walked Starlin Castro to start the Cubs' fourth and Pena lined a 2-1 pitch into the right-field seats for his sixth home run and a 2-1 lead. All of Pena's home runs have come in his past 20 games after going homerless in his first 25.

One out later, Soriano reached on an infield hit and Campana singled. Jason Pridie overran the ball for an error, allowing Soriano to reach third and Campana to scamper to second. Hill hit a run-scoring groundout and Zambrano added an RBI single to make it 4-1.

Besides winning the series, there's more good news for Cubs fans: The forecast for Friday's opener against the Pirates calls for sunshine and temperatures in the upper 50s.

"If you do this long enough, you realize you need to accept it real quick, because the more you whine and fight it -- the weather's the way it is," New York's Jason Bay said. "There's not much you can do about it.

"It's miserable, no question. But both teams are playing in it."

"Hopefully, we're past it," Hill said. "I think we've paid our dues." Comments