10/12/2003 9:12 PM ET
Lack of run support hurts Zambrano
RHP takes the loss in his best start of postseason
MIAMI -- Carlos Zambrano said he would be a different pitcher this time around in the National League Championship Series. And while the young right-hander displayed the emotion he has all year, he still came out on the losing end of the duel with the Florida Marlins.
The hitters didn't help any, as the Cubs were shut out, 4-0, on a two-hitter by Marlins starter Josh Beckett. Three Cubs reached base in the game, but none advanced past first base against the pumped-up Beckett.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said the lack of hitting hurt Zambrano more than anything the hurler did or did not do.
"Any time you get shut out, it means you didn't have a chance to win," Baker said. "We never threatened, so it really doesn't matter what Zambrano did, unless he matched the shutout. That's the only way we'd still be playing. It was Beckett, he threw great today."
This was Zambrano's third postseason start, and he had previously gone 0-0 with a 6.17 ERA over 11 2/3 innings. His last outing was Game 1 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field when he gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits over six innings.
The fiery Venezuelan had been a rock-solid key to the Cubs rotation after the All-Star Break, going 7-3 with two complete games and three no-decisions. He won five consecutive starts from July 20 to Aug. 12 and after the break, compiled a 2.91 ERA over 105 innings.
But in his two NLCS outings, Zambrano (0-1) has given up eight runs on 14 hits over 11 innings for a 5.73 ERA.
Zambrano's only costly mistake was a two-run homer to Mike Lowell in the fifth inning, which broke the scoreless tie and gave the Marlins a lead they would never relinquish. After walking Miguel Cabrera with one out, he induced Derrek Lee to fly out to center, but hung a slider to Lowell.
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com
"That was a bad pitch," Zambrano said. "He hit it real well."
Baker was pleased to see Zambrano work himself out of jams on more than one occasion Sunday. In the third, he loaded the bases with two outs, but got Lee to ground out for the fielder's choice to end the frame.
In the fourth, Beckett stroked a single to Mark Grduzielanek's left with the hit-and-run on, moving Lowell to third. Grudzielanek's diving stop prevented Lowell from scoring with two outs. With the bullpen up after Zambrano walked Juan Pierre to load the bases, Zambrano threw a fastball to Luis Castillo with a 1-2 count to end the inning and escape his second jam.
"He threw the ball well," Baker said. "He got out of trouble a couple of times. It really didn't matter, I don't care who you threw out there today, you still got shut out."
Zambrano pumped his fists and yelled several times after big outs and strikeouts in key situations Sunday. That's part of his deal and while he said early last week he would try to show a more controlled side of himself, he also wanted to stay true to what got him here.
"It's the way I know how to pitch," he said. "I was doing the job in the regular season, and Dusty told me (not to) worry about emotions, just go out there and pitch your game and do anything that you did in the season."
The emotional outbursts worked for him then, as the 22-year-old compiled a 13-11 record and tossed 214 innings, eighth in the National League.
While the ups and downs of the game can be emotionally draining when a pitcher gets that excited about things, Baker said he doesn't buy into the theory that Zambrano's antics take something out of him.
"Nobody said anything about his eneregy drain when it was 100 degrees or something in Chicago in the middle of the summer," Baker said. "Carlos did what he had to do today. Had it not been for the walk and the home run, Carlos might still be pitching."
Zambrano has faith one of his batterymates, Mark Prior or Kerry Wood, can finish the Marlins off with a win at Wrigley Field when the series resumes with Game 6 on Tuesday night. Zambrano would get another chance to show his stuff in the World Series if the Cubs advance.
"We will get them, and hopefully, this thing is over Tuesday," he said.
Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.