MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Zambrano was not on a good pace after throwing 31 pitches in the first inning Thursday.
The young right-hander settled down, figured out what he needed to do and lasted eight solid innings to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 4-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
He had two runners on in the first, yet struck out the side to end the inning. The key?
"Throw strikes," Zambrano said. "That's it. Be aggressive and get ahead in the count.
"I saw the gun up there when I struck out the last hitter, (Lyle) Overbay, and I saw '98,'" Zambrano said of the radar gun reading. "I said if I combine 98 with hitting my spots, this game will be tough for them."
Carlos Zambrano / P
Weight: 255 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R
It was. The Brewers mustered four hits off Zambrano, while the Cubs collected 10, including a two-run homer by Sammy Sosa, his 22nd.
"He could've completed that game if he didn't throw all those pitches in the first inning," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Zambrano. "Those were big strikeouts that he got, especially with runners on second and third there. He wasn't in too much trouble after that.
"He was due to win his 10th game and he did it in good fashion. We got some timely hitting and great defense, especially the one that Corey Patterson ran down. That was an outstanding play."
It could be the defensive play of the month. Patterson snared Overbay's fly ball on the run in deep left-center in the sixth, crashed into the wall and quickly bounced off to strand a runner at second. He got a standing ovation as he trotted off the field from the Cubs fans in the sellout crowd of 42,443 at Miller Park.
"I just tried to read the ball off the bat," Patterson said. "I knew he hit it well. I told myself to duck my head and get back there the best way I could. I looked up and I was able to make a play. You've got to be paying attention and stay focused. If I had gotten a half-second jump later, I wouldn't make that catch."
And he didn't think about the wall?
"Obviously, they have padding out there. At Wrigley, I probably couldn't have done that. I'd probably still be laying on the ground."
-- Corey Patterson on hitting the wall after a terrific catch
"No -- that's part of knowing your surroundings," Patterson said. "Obviously, they have padding out there. At Wrigley, I probably couldn't have done that. I'd probably still be laying on the ground."
"Those walls now are softer than they used to be," Baker said.
Zambrano (10-6) snapped a personal three-game losing streak with the win. The right-hander struck out eight and walked two, throwing 120 pitches, 68 for strikes in the game. At one point, he retired 16 of 17 batters he faced.
"He's a guy that, when he gets in trouble, he all of a sudden finds another level," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "He'll throw 91, 92 (mph) and then all of a sudden it's 96, 97. He gave them eight strong innings."
"I was a little bit wild in the first inning," Zambrano said. "It's good when you can make adjustments."
The Cubs scored all of their runs in the sixth. Tom Goodwin doubled to lead off the inning, only the third hit off Milwaukee starter Ben Hendrickson (0-4) at that point. Todd Walker followed with a double into the right-field corner to score Goodwin and put the Cubs ahead, 1-0.
Sammy Sosa / RF
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Sosa then launched a 3-1 pitch into the left-field stands for career homer No. 561 and is now two away from tying Reggie Jackson (563) for eighth on the all-time list.
It was Sosa's 10th home run this month and he has 20 RBIs for July. Apparently, all the critics can relax.
"People always worry about me," Sosa said. "I know how to make adjustments at the plate. When I'm healthy I can produce. Maybe you can put that in the paper and those people (critics) can leave me alone now."
He's not bothered by the comments.
"I appreciate everybody trying to help me but the only guy who can make adjustments is me at the plate," Sosa said. "It's something I've been doing all my life. You're going to go through situations like that and you have to deal with that. I never give up. I always want to go out there and do the best I can. Maybe now they'll let me go."
Hendrickson exited and one out later, Patterson hit a perfect bunt single, stole second and scored on Aramis Ramirez's double for a 4-0 lead.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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