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Ownership of Wrigley Field changed hands Monday night when Sammy Sosa wasn't paying attention.
After taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and receiving several standing ovations during an 8-3 victory over Milwaukee, Carlos Zambrano declared himself the new landlord at 1060 W. Addison St.
"I love this crowd," Zambrano said. "This is my house. This is my home. I feel good here."
And why wouldn't he?
While Mark Prior hasn't won at Wrigley since Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, Zambrano is 8-1 at home this year with a 2.09 earned-run average, the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in his own park.
Zambrano lost his no-hit bid with one out in the seventh when Geoff Jenkins dumped an opposite-field double a few feet inside the left-field foul line. The 23-year-old Venezuelan stood statuesque on the mound with an ear-to-ear grin as the sellout crowd of 38,925 gave him a long and loud ovation.
It was the fourth time in the last two years Zambrano had flirted with a no-hitter in the late innings. He threw 7 2/3 no-hit innings at Arizona on Aug. 22, 2003.
"This was my first chance to throw a no-hitter," Zambrano said. "I thought this time 'I got it.' The other three times, I didn't have that confidence."
Brady Clark followed with an RBI single up the middle, and the Brewers added two more runs on Ben Grieve's pinch-hit double, knocking Zambrano out of the game after 115 pitches. Zambrano (12-7) wound up allowing three runs on four hits in 62/3 innings, striking out nine.
Great running catches by center fielder Corey Patterson in the second and left fielder Moises Alou in the sixth kept the no-no intact, generating a buzz in the stands and on the rooftops. The last Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Milt Pappas' near-perfect game on Sept. 2, 1972.
The Cubs moved into a tie for the National League wild-card lead with San Francisco, which was idle Monday.
The Cubs staked Zambrano to an early lead against Brewers starter Ben Sheets (9-10), giving him some room to operate. Doubles by Derrek Lee and Alou brought home the first run, and another RBI double by Aramis Ramirez made it 2-0.
Zambrano breezed through the first four innings, striking out six and allowing only two balls to reach the outfield. His closest call came when Craig Counsell hit a sinking liner to right-center with two out and a man on first in the third. Patterson made a diving catch to end the inning.
Zambrano has been relatively calm on the mound since his ejection on July 19 for hitting St. Louis' Jim Edmonds, channeling his emotions while not showing up any opposing players or umpires. But he flashed an obvious look of disgust in the fifth inning when plate umpire Mike Everitt called a ball on a 2-2 pitch to Clark that Zambrano thought was strike three, and he eventually walked Clark.
After Clark stole second, Zambrano retired Counsell on a popup and fanned Sheets to strand the runner. He led off the fifth with a bunt single, and later scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Sheets to make it 3-0. The Cubs added three more in the inning, pulling away.
Scott Podsednik started the sixth with a drive toward the wall in left, but Alou sprinted back and extended his glove as far as he could to grab the ball on the warning track. It was at that point that the crowd began thinking a no-hitter was in the works.
"I thought today was going to be the day," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially after they made those two great plays out there."
After Alou's catch, Zambrano struck out Bill Hall and fanned Lyle Overbay on a nasty 74-m.p.h. curve, doing a Sosa-like bunny hop en route to the dugout.
It was only fitting, since Zambrano now owns Sosa's house.