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Zambrano blanks Nats over 8
Although manager Dusty Baker's future is being debated non-stop on sports radio and booing has become as prevalent as the ivy, the Cubs finally found a way to change the subject on a chilly night at Wrigley Field.
Playing a team with almost as many problems as their own, the Cubs beat Washington 4-0 on Tuesday, snapping a four-game losing streak.
Carlos Zambrano pitched eight shutout innings to post his second straight victory, the Cubs' offense capitalized on Washington's defensive miscues and the crowd of 39,298 was rowdy but in control until a fan barely missed hitting Jacque Jones with a ball before the start of the ninth.
Afterward, Todd Walker criticized Cubs fans for being too harsh on the team and on Jones in particular.
"Understand the game a little more," Walker said. "Back this team because we have a great chance to do some good things."
The team's skid has everyone on edge, and the talk over Baker's job status could become a distraction, if it isn't already.
"It's not a distraction for me," Baker said. "I hope it's not a distraction for my team. I don't like my team being asked about what kind of job I'm doing and all this kind of stuff. They shouldn't have to answer [questions] about me or my contract.
"And I haven't changed my mind one bit. I told you why I came here. I told you why I felt I belonged here, and I haven't changed that. I'm still trying to stay here because my job is to come here and win. I believe down in my heart, I have faith
I don't care what (happens).
"We're going to do it, and I believe that. I'm not just talking. I believe that. I did a lot of thinking [Monday] and I thought, 'Man, I've been through a lot of stuff in my life.' Why would I doubt [myself] now when all the stuff I've been through to this point in my life, faith got me through that."
Asked if the media focus on him was fair, Baker replied: "What's fair, man? I've had focus on me all my life, I swear. This ain't the first time I've had focus on me. I've been focused on since I was [a child]."
The focus during Tuesday night's game was on Washington's suicidal tendencies. The Cubs led 1-0 in the fifth when Zambrano reached on Royce Clayton's error. Catcher Wiki Gonzalez double-clutched on a throw to first, allowing Juan Pierre to reach on a bunt, and starter Livan Hernandez slipped on Matt Murton's sacrifice to load the bases. Walker's two-run single and Aramis Ramirez's RBI double put the game on ice.
The Cubs helped picked up Jones, who was doubled off second on Ronny Cedeno's sinking liner to end the fourth, preventing Ramirez from tagging up and scoring. It was the third time since May 1 a left fielder has doubled Jones off second.
"I'm probably a little bit excited right now, especially with the way we've been playing, to try to do something positive," Jones said. "And it's backfiring, so maybe I do have to turn it down a notch."
Jones conceded he should have stayed at second base.
"That's what's so frustrating about this whole ordeal," he said. "I make mistakes like everybody else. I try to keep them to a minimum, but it seems like I'm being overaggressive."
In an emotional and heartfelt postgame interview, Jones vowed he wouldn't let one fan ruin his season.
"I'll take whatever is coming to me," Jones said. "But I'm still going to go out and play the game hard, like I always have."