CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano is making a strong push for the Cy Young Award he once promised he'd win. A torrid July run cemented him among the game's top pitchers and earned him the National League Pitcher of the Month. "He's in a zone," said teammate Derrek Lee, after Zambrano held the Reds scoreless for his Major League-leading 14th win. "When you score two runs in the first with Z on the mound, you feel pretty good about yourself. He's pitching great. Just keep him healthy and he'll carry us the rest of the way."
Zambrano's July numbers included a 1.38 ERA, tops in the Majors, and five wins, which tied him for the National League's best. He held three teams scoreless in six July starts and his 34 strikeouts during the month were second behind Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum. Zambrano didn't allow more than five hits in any of the six starts, and surrendered just one homer. He is two wins shy of matching a career-high 16 wins. Since June 6, he is 9-2 with a 1.41 ERA and 77 strikeouts. "I think this is the best stretch I've ever had in my career," Zambrano said. "I feel good right now. Ever since I lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last game of the first half, I feel comfortable on the mound, I feel confident. Hopefully I can keep doing a good job for my team." Teammate Ted Lilly is doing his part, having made a push for Zambrano's award by matching his 5-1 record in July and posting a 2.52 ERA. Their combined efforts had the Cubs tied with Milwaukee atop the NL Central as of Thursday. Other pitchers receiving votes this month were Lincecum (4-0, 1.62 ERA, 39 SO); Lilly (5-1, 2.52 ERA, 24 SO); Colorado's Aaron Cook (4-1, 2.68 ERA, 21 SO); Washington's Chad Cordero (9 SV, 1.29 ERA, 8 SO); and Billy Wagner (8 SV, 0.00 ERA) of the New York Mets. Zambrano will receive a Sharp AQUOS full HD LCD-TV and a trophy as part of his award. He may add more hardware once the season is finished. "Any time I can do something for myself -- pitching, running, fielding, kicking the ball, whatever -- it's good for me," He said. "I have to be able to use what God gave me and use the ability."
Stephen Fastenau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.