07/02/06 8:27 PM ET
Cubs score early, often to defeat Sox
North Siders use seven-run first, five homers to down rivals
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The Cubs beat the Chicago White Sox, 15-11, on Sunday to avoid a sweep in the crosstown Interleague series, totaling 20 hits and five home runs in a game for the first time this season.
"It was a great game to watch, a great game to manage," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It's hard to out-hit those guys, and that's what happened today."
Angel Pagan celebrated his 25th birthday by hitting two home runs, his first in the big leagues; Neifi Perez drove in four runs, including three on his second homer; and Michael Barrett had a career-high four hits, including his ninth home run. Carlos Zambrano got into the act, too -- on the day he was selected to his second All-Star Game -- hitting his third homer, a two-run shot, in the seven-run first inning.
Zambrano (7-3) was charged with seven runs on seven hits over six-plus innings, serving up a three-run homer to Juan Uribe in the fifth and a solo shot to pinch-hitter Jim Thome in the seventh. Big Z now is 6-1 in his last 10 starts following a Cubs loss.
"It's important for every guy to pitch well, not only to stop something but go out there as a starting pitcher and do your job," Zambrano said. "That's important right now. We have to finish the first half strong, forget about what happened in the first half and get ready for the second half."
The Cubs finished 4-11 in Interleague Play, including 2-4 against the White Sox, who had plenty of fans in the crowd of 40,919 at Wrigley Field. They started cheering in the first when the White Sox took a 2-0 lead on Jermaine Dye's RBI double and A.J. Pierzynski's RBI single.
The Cubs answered immediately, sending 10 batters to the plate in the first against Mark Buehrle (9-5). Juan Pierre led off with a single and advanced on Ronny Cedeno's bunt single, which first baseman Paul Konerko fielded but held because no one was covering first. Derrek Lee doubled into the gap in left-center, and Pierre tallied. Cedeno also scored because of center fielder Rob Mackowiak's wild throw home, which tied the game.
Lee advanced on the error, and then scored on Aramis Ramirez's sacrifice fly. Barrett followed with his home run to make it 4-2.
One out later -- still in the first -- Matt Murton and Perez hit back-to-back doubles, with Murton scoring. Zambrano then slugged his homer to go ahead, 7-2.
"You want to talk about pitching or hitting?" Zambrano said after the game. "I think I was lucky. I told Scotty Eyre before the game that I was looking for a changeup and I would close my eyes and hit the ball. I was lucky he threw me the pitch I was waiting for and hit the ball."
Zambrano is the first Cubs pitcher to hit three homers in a single season since Fergie Jenkins hit six in 1971. He also gutted it out in the seventh by pitching on a sore left knee, which he says only needs some ice. He'll be ready in five days.
"He's a big man, and he puts a lot of pressure on it when he comes down," Baker said. "He was throwing the ball great. We tried to squeeze one more [inning] out of him."
The Cubs were aggressive. Six of the seven hits that inning came on the first or second pitch from Buehrle.
"You know going in that he throws strikes, so there's no reason to wait around," Lee said of Buehrle. "He's going to come right at you. You don't want to fall behind against him, so I think the best approach against him is to be aggressive."
So, how does it feel to see the team score seven runs in the first?
"That's beautiful for me," Baker said. "It's one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time."
It's the second time this season Buehrle has given up seven runs in the first inning, although in that game -- May 14 vs. Minnesota -- only one of the runs was earned. However, it was the first time he had ever been charged with 11 runs in a game. Those runs wouldn't have been enough to beat the Sox, who kept rallying.
"They're a great team, and they're tough to beat," Lee said. "Today, we scored 15 runs and we were never comfortable. We need to continue to play with the intensity we played with today."
Pagan, activated from the disabled list Friday after missing two months because of a torn hamstring, had a souvenir to savor. His first home run ball was tucked in his locker. He'd never had a multi-homer game, not even in Little League play.
"I wasn't that good," Pagan said, laughing.
On Sunday, he and the Cubs were good enough.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.