Cubs

Zambranos winning streak is over and done

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Zambranos winning streak is over and done

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 4:40 p.m. Updated: 6:35 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade walked into the interview room on Saturday afternoon with announcement to make: Kerry Woods vacation is over. The reliever who hadnt pitched since April 16 would start ahead of Carlos Zambrano on Sunday.

The manager was joking, and maybe a little annoyed at people wondering why Wood was sitting in the bullpen that long.

The Cubs do not need a radical solution like moving Wood to the rotation (an idea that also happens to be completely unrealistic). They need Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner to get healthy. They need their big-money pitchers to play up to their contracts. Theyll keep waiting.

The Los Angeles Dodgers buried Zambrano in the first inning of Sundays 7-3 loss in front of 32,943 fans at Wrigley Field. It snapped Zambranos personal 10-game winning streak, the longest for a Cubs pitcher since Rick Sutcliffe won 16 in a row across the 1984-85 seasons.

Its over with, Zambrano said. Lets get a new winning streak. I knew sooner or later I was going to lose a game. Lets move on. Lets focus on my next (one).

The Cubs rank last in the majors with five quality starts this season. They led the National League with 96 last year. As much as anything, that explains why theyre now 10-11 and havent won more than two games in a row.

Just too much to overcome, Quade said. Normally when you get on a roll and you start playing well consistently, it has a lot to do with your starting pitching. And once we get that straightened out, Ill feel pretty good about this thing. Were just very inconsistent in that area right now.

Ex-Cub Aaron Miles who went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored tripled to lead off the game. The first five Dodgers reached base and all five scored. It was pretty much game over at that point.

The Dodgers (12-11) just hammered the ball all weekend, and the Cubs were lucky that they didnt get swept. Los Angeles scored 27 runs during this three-game series.

Were right there, third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. I think weve been lucky because we havent pitched the way we liked to. Were giving up a lot of runs, but Im pretty sure we got some good arms here and the pitchers are going to come around.

The last time Zambrano lost a game June 25, 2010 he was kicked out of U.S. Cellular Field. He steered a question about what hes learned during the streak, how hes grown as a pitcher, back toward the team.

Defensive breakdowns led to that meltdown, but there was Zambrano going over to Darwin Barney and telling the second baseman to forget about the error he just made.

Zambrano promised to get the next guy out in the second, and sure enough he induced an inning-ending double play. Zambrano (2-1, 5.28) allowed six runs on eight hits across five innings. But that response may have been just as revealing.

Z loves to play hard, Barney said. He loves guys that play hard. He knows were playing hard behind him.

At this point, it all depends on whether youre an optimist or a pessimist. The Cubs are still hanging around first place, but theyve missed a real opportunity to create some space within the division.

Until the starters get rolling, Wood will be pitching in low-leverage situations, the Cubs down four runs in the eighth inning, the seagulls flying in and the fans heading toward the exits.

I say (it) every year leaving spring training, especially here in Chicago, Wood said. Get to that first week of May .500 or better, youre in a good spot. Its tough (in) this weather, (but) I think the guys have done a good job. Weve been in a lot of games. (Were) right there. I feel good about what we have here.

Box Score

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

Mark Schanowski, Mark Carman and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the D'Backs thanks to a surprisingly solid start from Tyler Chatwood. Should the Cubs trust him more than they trust Yu Darvish? Meanwhile, the bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

12:00- The guys preview the huge series against the Dodgers at Wrigley.

16:00- The White Sox lose 2 of 3 in Detroit but Kap is still excited about the future.

20:00- The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs are becoming a fight. So who will win the East? And can anybody even threaten the Warriors?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

After starting the season 2-7 on the road, two weeks without Jon Lester looked like a possible death sentence for the Cubs. Instead, it now looks like a turning point.

Somebody needed to step up. Anybody. Bullpen or rotation, but preferably both. Well, that is exactly what happened and the Cubs are quickly back to the .500 mark at 10-10.

Jose Quintana was the first to accept the challenge, dominating the surprising Pirates with the eleven strikeouts and then seven shutout innings against the lowly Marlins in his next outing. He pitched "like a Porcshe" while attacking batters in both games with precision handling and it was contagious. Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood followed his lead while the bullpen turned around their production, too.

Our stats guru, Chris Kamka, offered up these facts to show the startling improvements.

In the first nine games, the Cubs' team ERA, starter ERA and reliever ERA all ranked 29th or worse in MLB. It's a team game, but it was obvious which part of the team was struggling. Over the last 11 games, everything has changed. Since that opening road trip from Hell, the Cubs have led the majors in all three categories. The relievers have posted a 1.85 ERA and the starters are at a blistering 1.66 ERA with six quality starts since Lester went on the injured list. 

Yes, it's a small sample size in a 162 game season. However, if we're going to overreact to a disastrous start, it's only fair to also hyperbolize this spectacular stretch. We asked for somebody to step-up. The Cubs' pitching staff did just that.    

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