Zambrano gets help from friend

BaseballSportsChicago CubsTennisChicago White SoxCarlos ZambranoFelipe Lopez

Michael Barrett knows his days are numbered.

But until the appeal of his 10-game suspension is heard, the Cubs catcher is trying to make the most of his playing time.

His seventh-inning grand slam off reliever Esteban Yan provided the difference Saturday night in a 4-2 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

"It is just one of those things. I never have gone through this," Barrett said of the pending suspension for punching White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski on May 20 at U.S. Cellular Field.

"It is something that each day I just try to focus more and more on field activities and the game and stuff. I just try to put the whole thing behind me and move on."

The Cubs are scheduled to meet the White Sox again at Wrigley Field beginning June 30 and Barrett said he would not mind having the suspension served before then.

"I want to be out there as many games as I can to help my team win," he said.

The grand slam was the third of Barrett's career as he sat on a fastball from Yan.

"I was just looking to stay short and put the ball in play," Barrett said of his eighth homer of the season. "What can I say? Those things happen when you least expect them."

The 393-foot poke hit the facing of the upper deck in left field after the Cubs had loaded the bases on Reds starter Brandon Claussen.

Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano (5-3) and Claussen were locked in a scoreless duel until the seventh.

Zambrano, coming off Monday night's near no-hitter, went 72/3 innings, yielding one run on four hits.

"We really needed [Zambrano] to come out there and perform like he did," Barrett said. "A couple of situations I was real proud of him, the way he pitched. He gave us a chance to win."

Zambrano walked six and struck out four. Ken Griffey Jr. had two hits, including his 11th homer of the season to lead off the eighth.

"I felt strong, even in the eighth inning when I had trouble," said Zambrano, who threw 126 pitches. "I made the mistake of trying to change the speed with Griffey. He was just ready for that pitch."

Bob Howry took over for Zambrano with two outs and a man on first in the eighth. He walked Austin Kearns to bring the tying run to the plate. After uncorking a wild pitch, Howry then struck out David Ross to end the threat.

"That was huge, especially after the wild pitch," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Closer Ryan Dempster earned his 11th save although he yielded an RBI single to Brandon Phillips after Felipe Lopez doubled in the ninth.

Zambrano has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his last eight starts.

"When a guy is going good, you have to be aware of over-coaching," Baker said. "You know, putting things in his head that are not necessary to be there. That's a major part of coaching: when to coach and when to leave the guy alone."

fmitchell@tribune.com

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