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Zambrano on the ejector seat
Carlos Zambrano's act has been wearing thin with major-league umpires for the last couple of seasons, despite the Cubs' insistence he's "maturing."
After his latest antics on Tuesday, Zambrano only solidified his reputation as uncontrollable at any speed.
Zambrano was ejected for the second time in five starts in the fifth inning of the Cubs 11-9 loss to Cincinnati, again seeming to lose his cool in the heat of battle.
After serving up a home run to Adam Dunn to give the Reds a 6-3 lead with two outs in the fifth, Zambrano plunked Austin Kearns in the side with his next pitch. Plate umpire Tim Welke dispensed with the official warning and immediately gave Zambrano the thumb.
"I don't think it was intentional," manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially in that situation."
But Baker conceded the "timing looked bad."
Zambrano said he was surprised he was ejected, though he left without any further histrionics.
"I was wild today," he said. "I still have the blister on my hand. I was throwing inside today all night long. I was surprised he kicked me out.
I have nothing against Austin Kearns. I like him, and we talked to each other before the game. The ball got out of my hand."
Zambrano's reputation as a prime-time antagonist may precede him. While being removed from the game in his Opening Day start in Arizona, Zambrano was ejected for complaining to umpire Dale Scott that "he needed glasses." Last year Zambrano was ejected and suspended five games for throwing at St. Louis' Jim Edmonds.
Baker said he hoped Major League Baseball would not do "something drastic," like issuing another a suspension.
"I can't make a decision," Zambrano said. "Whatever they say."
Despite home runs by Derrek Lee, Jeromy Burnitz, Aramis Ramirez and Jason Dubois, the Cubs' winning streak was halted at two games and they fell to .500 again at 10-10.
The Reds set a season high with 11 runs, while tying their season high in hits (15) and amassing eight walks against seven Cubs pitchers. Zambrano got off to a shaky start in the first when the Reds scored on a pair of infield hits and a wild pitch. Lee's solo homer tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Zambrano then fell apart in a four-run second, highlighted by Ken Griffey Jr.'s three-run double.
Burnitz's two-run homer onto Sheffield Avenue made it 5-3 in the fourth, but after Dunn's homer made it 6-3, Zambrano short-circuited again.
The Cubs answered with five in the fifth off Eric Milton on Lee's sacrifice fly and two-run homers by Ramirez and Dubois.
The Reds added a run in the sixth when Dubois dropped a routine fly with a runner on third and they took the lead on Javier Valentin's two-out, two-run single off Michael Wuertz in the seventh. Jacob Cruz, batting .182, promptly then lined a first-pitch, RBI single off Mike Remlinger to give the Reds a 10-8 lead.
"Just about everybody I brought in was to get somebody else out of trouble," Baker said.
The Red led 11-8 in the ninth when rookie Ronny Cedeno drove in a run and the Cubs put runners on second and third against Danny Graves with two outs. But Todd Hollandsworth grounded out to first to end the game.
The Cubs are treading water, hoping not to fall so far behind St. Louis that they're out of the race before it really begins.
"How little is your faith if you lose it because of a little turmoil?" Baker asked. "That means you don't have any faith in the first place."