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Carlos Zambrano likes to show off his hitting prowess during batting practice every day, belting home runs from both sides of the plate.
Zambrano showed off another hidden side of his game Saturday at Wrigley Field, shocking the New York Mets and a crowd of 41,368 when he stole a base, the first of his career and his first attempted steal, in the fifth inning of the Cubs' 9-2 victory.
"I'd rather him concentrate on pitching," Derrek Lee said. "It's hot, save your legs. But that's 'Z.'"
"He made everybody look real bad there," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "There are a lot of people on this team who still haven't stolen one base."
In fact, eight position players have yet to steal a base for the Cubs, but who's counting?
What mattered most Saturday was Zambrano's right arm, which withstood the accidental battering from Joey Cora's fungo bat Tuesday and looked as strong as ever in a 103-pitch outing.
"Everything was perfect today," Zambrano said.
Zambrano earned a career-high sixth straight victory, yielding two runs on three hits over six innings to improve to 9-3. In the Cubs' difficult season, his energy has been the one constant factor. He received a standing ovation from the crowd after taking off on his own and jolting the ball out of shortstop Chris Woodward's glove.
"The guy is a ballplayer," manager Dusty Baker said. "Not just a pitcher. He's a runner, he's a hitter, he's a fielder.
This guy comes to play every day."
After Tom Glavine shut them out on two hits over the first five innings, the Cubs batted around in both the sixth and seventh innings to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 9-2 lead.
Ramirez, Neifi Perez, Matt Murton and Henry Blanco each drove in two runs as the Cubs won at home for only the third time in their last 16 games since May 31 and ended Glavine's nine-game winning streak dating back to April 29.
The game turned with the Cubs behind 2-0 in the sixth inning when Mets right fielder Endy Chavez lost Ryan Theriot's fly ball in the sun for a leadoff triple. After Lee walked, Ramirez singled home a run with the 1,000th hit of his career and reliever Chad Bradford gave up a one-out, run-scoring single to Murton to tie the game 2-2.
Perez's two-strike single down the third-base line gave the Cubs the lead, and Blanco added a two-run double to make it 5-2. The Cubs added four more runs off reliever Henry Owens in the seventh, breaking the game wide open.
Zambrano was untouchable for awhile, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth before Jose Valentin led off with a triple into the right-field corner. Carlos Delgado's one-out, RBI single past Lee snapped the scoreless tie, and Chavez grounded a two-out single between third and short to bring home another run.
Zambrano escaped further damage, though he left the bases loaded.
"That was a very intense inning," Baker said. "To come out of there with just two runs, we were very fortunate. But he was throwing the ball great and did everything to keep us in position to win the game."
Zambrano said he was only a "little bit" tired, despite pitching in heat in the mid-90s.
"The way we played today was great, and that makes you play harder the next game," Zambrano said. "We're playing like there's no tomorrow for us."