Cubs' bats come alive in St. Louis
Zambrano limits Cardinals to one run in seven innings
ST. LOUIS -- Saturday's game went the way the Cubs had envisioned most of their games going this year, even if Jacque Jones couldn't keep track of everything going on.
Jones led off a seven-run fifth inning with a double, capped it with a three-run triple, and added an RBI single in the seventh to back Carlos Zambrano and give the Cubs an 8-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jones entered the game with three RBIs in 20 games total. He matched that in two at-bats in the same inning.
"It didn't even dawn on me that I batted twice in one inning, that's how long the inning was," Jones said.
It's been a long first month for Zambrano. The right-hander gave up seven hits -- including a leadoff homer by Albert Pujols in the seventh -- over seven innings. Now 2-2, Zambrano did not walk anyone, and struck out two.
"That tells you the whole story," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He gives up a solo home run, but Pujols can hit a home run off anybody. No walks tells the whole story."
That's right, Zambrano did not walk anyone. He entered the game tied for first in the National League in walks with 19.
"As soon as I came in, I talked to [Angel Guzman] and said, 'It's OK that Pujols hit a home run,'" Zambrano said. "I'm happy because I didn't walk anybody. That's the key of the game. When you're ahead in the count every time, you'll have success in the game."
This was the 14th quality start by a Cubs pitcher in 23 games. Big Z apparently likes it in St. Louis. The right-hander, who was making his first start at new Busch Stadium, compiled a 0.70 ERA in five games at old Busch. Must be the toasted ravioli.
"I think I'm lucky sometimes," Zambrano said. "Guys make good plays behind me. I think the fact that I feel good and I mixed my pitches, and I threw the pitches ahead in the count [made a difference]. It's not just against the Cardinals."
Zambrano is happy just to turn the calendar. He was winless in six April starts in 2006, and now has a career 9-7 record in the first month of the season.
"It's good to see April gone, and May coming," Zambrano said. "It's good to get out of this month with two wins. The main thing is we've won [three] in a row. Hopefully we can keep playing like that. Everybody is feeling good right now and that's how we're supposed to play the game."
Zambrano isn't bragging about his Cy Young potential like he did in Spring Training.
"I won't think about that until I have the trophy in my hand," he said. "I don't think about being Cy Young [winner]. I just said that in Spring Training. Just let it happen. You see [two-time Cy Young winner Johan] Santana right now and his ERA is four-something. At the end of the season, you'll see what Santana is capable of doing."
The other thing Zambrano doesn't have is a new contract. Those talks are on hold, and don't ask him about that, either.
"I don't know anything about that," Zambrano said. "I'm just here to pitch. I don't want to talk about the contract."
Fair enough. Let's talk hitting. The Cubs did all their damage in the fifth, sending 11 batters to the plate. Jones doubled to get things started and scored on Henry Blanco's double to left which Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan tried to track down but missed as he slammed face first into the screened wall in left.
One out later, Alfonso Soriano walked, and Ryan Theriot hit an RBI single to make it 2-0. Derrek Lee hit an RBI double, and Adam Wainwright intentionally walked Aramis Ramirez to load the bases. Wainwright was pulled, and Tyler Johnson got Cliff Floyd to hit into a force at second, but another run scored for a 4-0 lead.
Mark DeRosa dribbled a single that stayed just fair inside the third base line, and the bases were loaded for Jones, who cleared them with his triple.
The seven runs scored were a season high in one inning for the Cubs, and the most since a seven-run first inning last Sept. 17 against Cincinnati.
"We felt offensively we'd score runs and that we would be capable of having big innings, and that's exactly what we did today," Piniella said.
It's a cliche but true: hitting is contagious.
"We're not going to bomb everybody, you know," Jones said. "We're not going to hit homers all the time to win. We have to string a couple hits together, give the guy behind you a chance, give the next guy a chance. We have to relax and start trusting each other like we did all through Spring Training. As soon as we start doing that, we'll be fine."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.