Russell Martin sparked a five-run seventh with an RBI single and Matt Kemp added a three-run homer to contribute to Zambrano's meltdown and lift the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-3 victory over the Cubs Saturday.
Zambrano snapped in the seventh -- and snapped his win streak at seven. Big Z had given the Cubs a 3-2 lead with an RBI single in the seventh. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Juan Pierre singled, stole second -- more on that later -- and scored on a throwing error by third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
One out later, Martin lofted a single to right past a diving Kosuke Fukudome to drive in the runner and go ahead, 4-3. James Loney then singled to set up Kemp's homer.
"It wasn't a good inning," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We seemed to self-destruct that inning."
Zambrano made a dramatic exit. He kicked a Gatorade cooler twice in the dugout, picked it up and slammed it to the ground, then picked it up and tossed it again. He flung his cap in disgust, and disappeared into the clubhouse. Piniella will have to wait to see the replays.
"I was on the mound, and heard all this commotion," Piniella said. "I thought there was a wave going on [in the stands], and there was no wave. I came back in and said, 'What was all that noise about?' I missed it.
"It's just frustration," Piniella said. "He competes, and he wants to win. As long as he doesn't hurt himself, that's all we care about."
Zambrano actually had three scratches on his hand, but was quick to point out they were on his left hand, not his right. Was he frustrated?
"No, there was no frustration," Zambrano said. "I don't use that word. I made a mistake. That's it. You make a mistake in the big leagues, you pay for it.
"I'm the one who has the ball in my hand," he said. "If I have to blame somebody, I blame myself. It's my fault. My next start is against the Blue Jays and it will be different."
Zambrano wasn't alone in making mistakes. Shortstop Ryan Theriot dropped a throw from catcher Geovany Soto when he tried to tag Pierre, Ramirez made an error and Fukudome missed a ball he normally catches. Bench coach Alan Trammell and Theriot were looking at video after the game to work on technique.
"You either straddle the base or you get in front of the base when you catch it," Theriot said. "I think if I would've gotten in front of the base, I don't know if I could've caught it or gotten a glove on it. It's kind of a toss-up how you do it. I've done it a certain way for a long time, and it's never been an issue."
Trammell said the video showed the throw was further up the line than he originally thought, but said Theriot will try some different approaches.
What about Ramirez's throw?
"That was a tough play," Piniella said. "He almost had to throw it sidearm from almost one knee. I don't know how we ended up with one error that inning. The scorekeeper was very benevolent."
And Fukudome's near-miss?
"He always makes that play," Piniella said. "Today, he dove and didn't come up with it. Sometimes you get into these things where nothing goes right and everything goes right for the opposing team. It happens. It's happened to us. The only thing is, it's happened to us more on the road. At home, we've stayed away from this. On the road, we've had adventures that make you scratch your head a little bit."
It's one thing for Zambrano to lose his concentration. It's another when he starts rearranging the dugout. Piniella was OK with the outburst.
"I'd rather have a guy who gets upset than a guy who does it with a smile like he doesn't care," Piniella said. "Truthfully, no, I don't have a problem with it. The only thing I don't want is for somebody to get hurt. Not only does he hurt himself, but the team.
"If I would've been in the dugout, I probably would've enjoyed it," Piniella said.
"Anybody can go off at any time," Ramirez said. "I've never gone that far, but I've slammed my helmet. It's part of the game. You get frustrated because you want to do your job, and when you don't do it, you go off like that."
Saturday's game gave Zambrano plenty to think about. He was mad at his pitch choice to Martin in the sixth, when the Dodgers catcher hit a two-run homer.
"I'm sick and tired of making bad pitches," he said.
And at the pitch to Kemp.
"I didn't like the way I pitched today," he said. "Sometimes you have to be a little angry. For me, I think it will help me for the next start."
The loss was the Cubs' third in their last 13 games. Zambrano (8-2) gave up seven runs on 13 hits -- including both home runs -- over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out six, and the only walk was intentional.
He had a good game going before the seventh, helping himself in the fifth when he snared Andre Ethier's line drive. The Cubs pitcher held up his glove to show he had the ball, then turned to watch the replay on the Dodger Stadium video screen.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on Reed Johnson's run-scoring groundout. Alfonso Soriano led off the Chicago sixth with his 15th homer, which prompted a roar from the Cubs fans in the crowd of 50,020. Soriano joins Ramirez as the second Chicago player with at least 40 RBIs, and there are two more -- Derrek Lee and Soto -- at 39.
"We're playing pretty good, but we have to pick it up on the road," Ramirez said. "We'll be all right."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.