Zambrano stands out in Cubs' rout
Ace ties career high with three hits; Lee continues to sizzle
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella was teasing Carlos Zambrano about his hitting, or lack of it. On Wednesday night, Big Z showed the manager he wasn't just a batting-practice hitter.
A banana-fueled, decaffeinated and well-hydrated Zambrano had three hits, including an RBI single, and struck out five over seven innings as the Cubs romped, 12-3, over the Cincinnati Reds.
Red-hot Derrek Lee hit his sixth home run, matching his entire first-half total last season, and Kosuke Fukudome, Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto each drove in two runs to back Zambrano. It was a good sign since Wednesday was Day 1 without Alfonso Soriano, who was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day.
"You just go out there as hitters, and it gets a little contagious," Ryan Theriot said. "The wind helped out, and we were able to get some runs early."
Zambrano (2-1) gave up two runs on eight hits for the win. A switch-hitter, Big Z helped himself, hitting singles from each side of the plate. The three hits matched a career high, and it was his 16th multi-hit game of his career. Only five active pitchers have more multi-hit games than Zambrano.
How much does he like to hit? Zambrano stayed in the game to bat for himself in the seventh, and hit a double.
"I've been getting on Zambrano about his hitting," Piniella said. "I told him he's a [batting-practice] hitter. Today he swung well."
"Lou was telling me [Tuesday], 'When are you going to get a hit?'" Zambrano said. "I was hitting zero-zero-zero before the game. Now I'm hitting .250. That's good."
Zambrano apparently has found a good mix of bananas, water and Gatorade to avoid the cramping he experienced in his first start.
"Any time I don't want to drink Gatorade or water, they're all over me," Zambrano said of the Cubs athletic trainers. "I have to keep going with my diet. Bananas, and more bananas."
The other Cubs may want to figure out what Lee is eating lately and copy him. He led off the Chicago third with his blast, his second in as many games. Maybe it's the beard. He says he isn't doing anything different this year at the plate, and the only change seems to be his facial hair. After missing most of the 2006 season because of a fractured wrist, Lee came back and hit six home runs in the first half of '07. He didn't notch his sixth last season until June 3, and then didn't hit another until July 15.
"D-Lee is smoking hot," DeRosa said.
"He's a monster of a man, and he knows how to hit," Theriot said. "I think it was just a matter of time before you started to see that."
In his last five games, Lee is batting .571 (12-for-21 with three homers and seven RBIs.
"He's zoned in," Piniella said. "The ball's jumping off his bat."
The Cubs had taken a 4-0 lead in the first on two-run doubles by Fukudome and DeRosa. The Reds had two on and one out in the second when Joey Votto lofted a fly ball to left. It must have gotten redirected by the 20-mph wind gusts, because DeRosa tracked the ball, then lost it. The ball bounced on the warning track and into the bleachers for a ground-rule double and a run scored on the hit.
"I didn't play the wind enough," DeRosa said. "I thought it was a routine fly ball when he hit it. It got to its highest point, and I realized I was at least 30 yards away judging that ball.
"You're going to screw up sometimes. I looked at it on film, and the ball took off."
"You play the infield, and then you have to go out there -- I tip my hat to him," Aramis Ramirez said of DeRosa, filling in for Soriano, who is out with a strained right calf.
The Cubs loaded the bases after Lee's homer in the third, and Soto followed with a two-run double to chase Reds starter Josh Fogg (1-2). Reed Johnson hit a sacrifice fly and Zambrano added his RBI single to make it 9-1. They loaded the bases again, and Mike Fontenot scored on a wild pitch by reliever Mike Lincoln.
The strangest moment came in the Reds' eighth. Adam Dunn homered, and the ball cleared the right-field bleachers. A Wrigley Field tradition is to throw the opponent's home run ball back, and someone threw a ball onto the field. Then another, and another, until there were 15 balls on the field. The game had to be delayed until all the balls were removed.
"I didn't know that many people hit home runs today," Fukudome said.
"I thought it was hilarious," Theriot said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.