Zambrano came close again Tuesday night, combining with Michael Wuertz and Ryan Dempster on a one-hitter as the Chicago Cubs rallied for a 2-1, 10-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was the Cubs' fifth win in a row, their longest streak of the season.
With the game tied at 1 in the Cubs' 10th, pinch-hitter Michael Barrett singled to lead off against Yhency Brazoban (2-1), and advanced on Todd Hollandsworth's sacrifice. Neifi Perez then singled to drive in Barrett.
"I know that guy from the Dominican [Republic]," Perez said of Brazoban. "I know he throws hard. I know I have no chance to pull the ball."
Perez also made several big defensive plays to back Zambrano.
"When I'm 0-for-3, 0-for-4, I put in my mind that if I can't get a hit, nobody can get a hit," Perez said.
He nearly saved Zambrano from giving up the lone hit. Perez, Jason Dubois and Corey Patterson all converged on Cesar Izturis' ball in the third inning that dropped for an RBI double. It was the Dodgers' only hit of the game.
"I just lost that ball," Perez said. "If I didn't lose that ball, I could catch that ball. I got a good jump, too. I turned around and didn't see it. It's a good thing we won the game."
"We really didn't get a good read off the bat," Dubois said. "That's about all I can say. No one had a good chance to get it. It was over Neifi's head, and [Dubois and Patterson] both didn't see it and it just fell in. Things happen that you can't control, and that was one of them."
"It's tough to see out there with the twilight," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Yeah, [Zambrano] could've had a no-hitter if it hadn't been for that one play. Corey didn't see it. The main thing is we won the ballgame. Carlos pitched a heck of a game. It's nice to win a one-run game."
Zambrano fouled a ball off his right foot in the fifth -- "I hit the ball, the ball hit my foot, but it's no big deal," he said -- and was charged with one unearned run on one hit and two walks. He struck out nine over eight innings. It was nearly an instant replay of his May 21 start when Zambrano held the White Sox to one hit over seven innings, fanned eight and also did not get a decision. On April 9, he gave up one hit to Milwaukee over 7 1/3 innings. He's getting close.
"He's going to get it here pretty soon," Baker said of a possible no-hitter for the right-hander.
Chi Cubs at LA Dodgers, May 31, 2005
|Carlos Zambrano fanned nine of the 28 batters he faced to increase his season strikeout total to 68 and career strikeout total to 521, through May 31. A look at his Ks on Tuesday:|
|1||Jeff Kent (swinging)||2||3-2|
|2||Antonio Perez (swinging)||2||0-2|
|3||Hee-Seop Choi (swinging, reached first safely)||3||0-2|
|4||Brad Penny (swinging)||3||0-2|
|5||Jayson Werth (swinging)||3||1-2|
|6||Antonio Perez (swinging)||4||0-2|
|7||Jayson Werth (looking)||6||2-2|
|8||J.D. Drew (looking)||6||2-2|
|9||Jeff Kent (looking)||7||3-2|
|Key numbers for Zambrano:|
Pitches-strikes: 124-79; Groundouts-flyouts: 7-9;
Season strikeouts-walks: 68-27; WHIP: 1.05
The Cubs had chances earlier to get Zambrano the win. In the ninth, Derrek Lee led off against Eric Gagne with an infield single, his third hit of the game. He was forced at second on Jeromy Burnitz's bunt. Aramis Ramirez then singled, sending Burnitz to third. Jose Macias came in to run for Ramirez, and stole second. Gagne then struck out Patterson and Dubois to end the inning.
Jayson Werth drew a walk to open the Dodgers ninth, but Wuertz (4-2) struck out J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent and Ledee to end the threat. Dempster pitched the 10th for his sixth save.
It was the Cubs' third one-hitter at Dodger Stadium. The other two instances were both in 1965. Dick Ellsworth did so on May 15, and Bob Hendley on Sept. 9. Hendley had the misfortune of facing Sandy Koufax, who threw a perfect game that day in a 1-0 Dodger victory.
"[Zambrano] threw a whale of a ballgame and you want to go out there and preserve it," Wuertz said. "It's a matter of putting a zero up on the board. What more can you do? We got a leadoff single, bunted him over and got him in. That's kind of the way things are rolling and That's a good sign."
"Wuertz has been doing a great job," Baker said, "as long as we don't over-pitch him. This is what you've got to do to win these games."
Ramirez singled to lead off the Cubs second against Dodgers starter Brad Penny, and reached third one out later on Dubois' double before scoring on Henry Blanco's groundout.
In the Dodgers third, Hee-Seop Choi reached first on a passed ball on a third strike, and, two outs later, scampered home on Izturis' double.
Patterson singled to lead off the seventh, but was called out when home plate umpire Ed Rapuano ruled Dubois interefered with catcher Mike Rose as Dubois struck out swinging, resulting in a double play. It was a tough night for Dubois.
"I don't understand that one either," Dubois said. "I didn't leave the box. [Rose] came into me, so I don't understand how that was interference."
Zambrano was pulled after throwing 123 pitches. That was enough.
"After 120-something pitches, you have to give the job to the bullpen," Zambrano said. "I did my job for eight innings. Today, everybody did their job."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.