Cubs

Cubs, Zambrano continue series vs. D'Backs

383909.jpg

Cubs, Zambrano continue series vs. D'Backs

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 12:17 p.m.

Associated Press

Ryan Dempster had a first-inning meltdown during the Chicago Cubs' series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Carlos Zambrano's personal-best winning streak came to an end thanks to a similar situation during his most recent outing.

Looking to bounce back, Zambrano takes the mound for the visiting Cubs as they continue a four-game set with the Diamondbacks on Friday night.

Dempster gave up seven runs and lasted a career-low one-third of an inning in Thursday's 11-2 loss at Arizona (11-13) - Chicago's season-worst fourth straight and sixth in seven games.

"That was not how I drew it up," said Dempster, as the ERA of the Cubs' starting rotation increased to a major league-worst 6.39.

Chicago, (10-14), averaging 2.8 runs during its skid, has scored three runs or fewer in seven of 10 games.

Aramis Ramirez had hit safely in 11 of 12 contests prior to going 0 for 3 Thursday, dropping his average to .314. Carlos Pena, signed in the offseason to provide some power in the middle of the lineup, went hitless in four at-bats and is 1 for 21 (.048) over his last seven games.

Pena, who had averaged 36 home runs over the previous four seasons with Tampa Bay, has failed to go deep in his first 21 games.

Meanwhile, Zambrano (2-1, 5.28 ERA), who went 10-0 from Aug. 14-April 18, saw his impressive run end with Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed season worsts of six runs - five in the first frame - and eight hits over five innings.

"Pitching in the first inning wasn't good. My sinker was not good, but other than that I was able to throw five innings," Zambrano said. "I knew sooner or later I was going to lose a game, unfortunately it was (Friday).

"I enjoyed the winning streak a lot, but it's over with. Let's get another win on my next time and I'll be ready for that."

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.65 ERA over five career starts against Arizona, all on the road. While Zambrano has won eight straight starts as the visiting pitcher dating to last season and recorded a 2.56 ERA, he's given up nine runs in 11 2-3 innings over two outings away from Wrigley Field in 2011.

He'll also face a Diamondbacks offense thriving at home.

Arizona has won four of five at Chase Field and leads the NL with 81 runs at home. They reached double digits for the fourth time Thursday thanks largely to Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero.

Drew went 3 for 5 and hit his first-career grand slam en route to a career-best five RBIs. Montero also homered and drove in three.

Drew is batting .333 in his last 12 games against the Cubs while Montero is hitting .391 over a six-game hitting streak in the series.

Diamondbacks scheduled starter Armando Galarraga (3-1, 6.00), whose eight home runs allowed are the second most in the NL behind Dempster's nine, had won his first three starts of the year before surrendering six runs - two earned - and a season-worst four walks in three innings of Sunday's 8-4 loss at the New York Mets.

"Armando didn't throw the ball like he wanted to," manager Kirk Gibson said of the right-hander, who is 2-0 lifetime against the Cubs despite a 5.54 ERA.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

ryne-sandberg-1013.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

Luke Stuckmeyer sits down with Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg for a wide-ranging conversation centered around the infamous "Sandberg Game."

Ryne gives insight into his feelings upon being traded to the Cubs (2:00), and discusses the reason he ended up with the No. 23 (5:00). Plus, how the 1984 season changed everything and raised his personal expectations sky-high (9:00) and the "Daily Double" dynamic between him and Bob Dernier (16:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe: