Cubs can't back Big Z in Game 1 loss
Zambrano strong, but exits after six; club misses opportunities
PHOENIX -- The Cubs want Carlos Zambrano to start Games 1 and 4 of the National League Division Series, but they may regret taking him out of his first assignment.
Mark Reynolds belted a tiebreaking home run off reliever Carlos Marmol in the seventh to back Brandon Webb and lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-1 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Chicago manager Lou Piniella wants Zambrano to start Sunday on short rest, and opted to pull the right-hander after 85 pitches. The D-backs now have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Cubs fans who have tickets for Sunday's game at Wrigley Field hope there will be a Game 4.
"I've got a good bullpen here and I trust my bullpen," Piniella said. "I'm bringing back a pitcher on three days' rest on Sunday, and I took a shot with my bullpen. It didn't work today. They've done it all year, and I've got confidence in them, period, end of story."
Marmol has pitched the seventh most of the season, so he wasn't being thrust in an unusual role. With the game tied at 1, Reynolds connected off the young right-hander, who had served up just three homers over 69 1/3 innings all season and two runs in all of September. One out later, Marmol walked Chris Snyder, gave up a double to Augie Ojeda, and Conor Jackson hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.
"One day you do good, one day you do bad," Marmol said. "This is the day I did bad."
Rookie catcher Geovany Soto called for a fastball. Marmol's best pitch has been a slider.
"I should've probably called a slider there, but I called a fastball," Soto said.
If the Cubs don't advance past the NLDS, Piniella will take a lot of heat for looking ahead.
"We have a good bullpen," Zambrano said. "Marmol has pitched good for us all year long. Today, he gave it up and tomorrow he'll come back and do a good job.
"Whatever they say or criticize Lou about the decision, he's the manager," Zambrano said. "He's the one who guides us. Whatever decision he makes is good. Let's say he brings Marmol in and he does his job 1-2-3, and we win the game. Nobody talks about that."
Zambrano was making his fourth career postseason start and first since 2003, the last time the Cubs were in the playoffs. He gave up one run on Stephen Drew's homer leading off the fourth, and struck out eight over six innings. Zambrano also doubled to lead off the Chicago third, but Webb (1-0) then struck out the next three batters.
When Zambrano walked Jeff Salazar with one out in the second, he had thrown 26 pitches, 14 for strikes. The Cubs right-hander fell behind Drew, a .238 hitter, 1-0 in the fourth, and he launched the next pitch 430 feet over the fence in right-center field to take a 1-0 lead.
This season, Zambrano has thrown more than 100 pitches in 26 of his starts, and reached a high of 128. He's a horse.
"I was surprised," Ojeda said. "He's usually a guy who goes 120, 125. And especially in the playoffs. It was his game. He was pitching great. Six innings, 85 pitches, that's not bad. He's usually a guy who throws a lot of pitches. I don't know what they were thinking there, but it kind of helped us out because he was pitching a great game."
Zambrano did lobby for more.
"I said, 'Let me pitch one more,'" Zambrano said. "[Piniella] said, 'That's enough.' He's the manager.
"You know me, I want to pitch every game. I can throw 120 pitches. It's better like this -- I can pitch on Sunday, and 85 pitches was enough. We have a good bullpen, so let them do the job also."
But Marmol wasn't the only reason the Cubs lost.
"We didn't have the big hit," Alfonso Soriano said. "Nine men on base, and we only score one run."
The Cubs had a baserunner on each of the first six innings, including the fifth, when Ryan Theriot reached second on a throwing error by Reynolds. But Zambrano lined out to Drew, who perfectly timed his leap, and Webb retired the next two batters. Webb kept the Cubs guessing, striking out nine over seven innings.
For the game, the Cubs were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"Zambrano pitched a great game for us and kept us in the game," outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "We fell short as hitters."
Chicago's only scoring came in the sixth. Derrek Lee singled to lead off and advanced on a wild pitch as Aramis Ramirez struck out. One out later, Mark DeRosa and Soto both walked to load the bases, and Theriot then chopped a single over Reynolds to drive in Lee and tie the game. Drew backed up Reynolds and stopped the ball, which prevented another run from scoring.
"That play right there was the one that was a game-saver," Theriot said. "That was a big-time play to keep that ball in the infield."
There were plenty of Cubs fans in the sellout crowd of 48,864 at Chase Field, but they were drowned out by the incessant "Noise, noise" pleas from the scoreboard and the loud music. Marmol and the Cubs hope to quiet the D-backs on Thursday in Game 2.
"I've been pitching the seventh all year long," Marmol said. "Why not tomorrow?"
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.