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Zambrano, Cubs unravel in 5th
You could sense it coming, like an agitated volcano just waiting to blow built-up steam and lava.
The eruption of Lou Piniella came after his ninth game as manager of the Cubs, not on the field or in the locker room but during his postgame media briefing.
Already chafing about his pitching during Friday's 6-5 loss, Piniella lost his patience briefly when asked what's not working after an 0-3 start at Wrigley Field.
"What the hell do you think isn't working?" he roared, his eyes flashing. "You see the damn game."
Skeptics would say, "Welcome to Wrigley, Lou."
But Piniella isn't about to accept what has happened here before.
"I can start to see some of the ways this team has lost ballgames," he said tersely, right before the outburst. "I can see it. We have to correct it."
What had him boiling was either a meltdown or blowup by starter Carlos Zambrano and reliever Will Ohman in the fifth inning. Whichever term you choose, it provoked Piniella's famous temper.
After yielding only one hit in the first four innings, Zambrano allowed this sequence to start the fateful fifth: single, single, walk, single, single, double, hit batter.
The result was four runs home, the bases loaded and nobody out.
In came Ohman, who threw nine pitches, eight of them balls.
The result was two free runs and a 6-5 Reds lead.
It was hard to tell with whom Piniella was most upset, Zambrano or Ohman, while he spoke in a raised voice afterward.
"This guy's your ace," he said. "You have a 5-0 lead with the eighth and ninth hitters coming up. You feel pretty good about that, and all of a sudden it turns into a six-run inning.
"What do I do? I pitch him when it's his turn again. What else can I do?
"And then I bring in the reliever who's throwing 30- or 40-foot curveballs to boot."
The inning completely ruined the day for Cubs' fans, and for Piniella. And the Cubs' offense, which had chased Reds starter Aaron Harang with five runs and nine hits in four innings, suddenly went into shock and got only one more runner to second base.
"A lot of weird things happened in that inning," Zambrano said. "But I just have to forget about them. I have long way to go. I have to think about what I did wrong.
"Sometimes you have to have good luck, and I didn't have it [Friday]. I lost the game, and it's my responsibility to get ahead in the count and do the right thing. Just have to keep head up."
The play that seemed to upset Zambrano in the fifth came after Juan Castro began with a single. Pinch-hitter Chad Moeller then parachuted a ball toward center field that fell between second baseman Ronny Cedeno and center fielder Alfonso Soriano, who had broken back at first.
"Nobody catches it, [they] make the big effort," Zambrano said. "You have to pick up your team. It was my mistake, and I just have to learn from this."
Piniella's take: "When you have a five-run lead, whether the guy misses the ball, makes an error or whatever, you should be able to pitch through it. Nobody's trying to drop balls. Sometimes [they] make great plays, sometimes [they] don't.
You should be able to pitch in something like that."
When asked about Ohman's problem, Piniella, shrugging his shoulders, replied: "I don't know. What do you want me to say? A lot of balls didn't reach home plate."
Ohman understood his manager's ire.
"Absolutely," he said. "What's my job? To get people out. I didn't do it. There's nothing more to say."
What's left to say is Zambrano is 1-2 with a 7.88 ERA. If it's any consolation, last season he was 0-2 with a 5.35 ERA after six starts but finished 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA.
As for the entire Cubs team, it's winless at Wrigley, where it plays 10 of the next 12 games.
"We have to keep working," Piniella said. "We have to find a solution for this. This game here is one that got away from us that really shouldn't have."