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CHC@ATL: Zambrano ejected in the fifth inning

ATLANTA -- It was the Cubs, not the Braves, who entered Friday's series opener as the homer-happy bunch.

The Cubs -- who headed to Atlanta backed by a five-game road win streak -- had homered in each of their last nine games, the first time they accomplished the feat since 2009.

The tables were turned on Friday.

Starter Carlos Zambrano surrendered a career-high five home runs, including a three-run shot by Chipper Jones in the third, and the Braves powered their way to a 10-4 win at Turner Field.

Moments after the game ended, manager Mike Quade said that Zambrano -- who was ejected in the fifth inning -- had cleaned out his locker and reportedly told those in the clubhouse that he is retiring.

"All I know is, it was a bad night, and that's allowed. He's pitched well," Quade said. "But to have done whatever he did, tell people good-bye, [that's not right]. We lose a game, 10-4, and there's 24 guys in there that aren't happy about it. And he's gone."

The Braves went deep in four consecutive innings off Zambrano, whose frustrations finally boiled over with one out in the fifth. After Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla tallied back-to-back homers, Zambrano missed hitting Jones with two straight pitches inside before being tossed by home-plate umpire Tim Timmons.

"He seemed like he was frustrated," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "He was trying to take it out on Chipper, simple as that. Missed him the first time. Second time, missed him again, and got thrown out. I wish it didn't happen, but it did."

Zambrano has now pitched just 5 2/3 innings in his last two starts at Turner Field, where he's allowed 16 earned runs on 14 hits, seven of which were homers.

"They hit a lot of balls out of the ballpark, and I didn't really think that his stuff was inferior or anything else," Quade said.

Zambrano's struggles started early. Uggla took the right-hander deep on the second pitch he saw in the second inning, pushing his Major League-leading hitting streak to 32 games.

After the Cubs trimmed the deficit to a run on Reed Johnson's two-out single in the third, Zambrano once again found himself a victim of the long ball. Freeman reached on a two-out single before Uggla was plunked on the hip by a 2-2 cutter.

Four pitches later, Jones took Zambrano deep to center, giving Atlanta a four-run lead.

"He was leaving the ball up a little bit," catcher Geovany Soto said. "He got a couple of good pitches in there, but for the most part, they were seeing the ball against him pretty good tonight."

But the Braves were far from done. With one out in the fourth, 27-year-old rookie Jose Constanza sent Zambrano's 2-1 sinker just over the left-field wall for his second career homer. Freeman and Uggla's blasts came in the next frame before Zambrano was ejected.

Zambrano walked off the field without argument. Braves players gathered by the first-base line while the Cubs stayed in the dugout.

"He threw me a split the first pitch down for a strike, and then he threw me two cutters," Jones said. "If they were straight balls, I would say, 'yeah.' But I don't know. You could tell the tension was mounting with him out there, and we had some good swings on him."

Zambrano has now surrendered 19 home runs in 24 starts this season, two more than he gave up in the last two seasons combined. He allowed 10 in 2009 and seven in 2010.

His offense, meanwhile, couldn't offer much against the Braves' pitching staff. The Cubs scored three runs on nine hits off left-hander Mike Minor but finished just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Even after Chicago trimmed the deficit to five runs in the sixth on Alfonso Soriano's two-run double, the Braves stormed right back in the bottom of the frame with a pair of runs of their own thanks to Brooks Conrad's single and Michael Bourn's sacrifice fly.

The Cubs were still able to extend their homer streak to 10 games thanks to Starlin Castro's two-out blast in the ninth off reliever Anthony Varvaro, the first time they've homered in at least 10 games since September 2007.

"We've been playing good," Soto said. "We've been winning some games now, getting into a rhythm. Today wasn't the case, but we'll come back tomorrow and try to win a game and, ultimately, win a series." Comments