The Carlos Zambrano Show was cut short on Monday due to circumstances beyond his control, though the Cubs' ace was definitely out of control from the start to the finish of his five-inning stint.
One day after his 27th birthday, Zambrano spotted San Diego three runs in the first, walked four batters, hit one more and reverted to his pogo-hopping ways on the mound when calls didn't go his way.
But he made up for his wild streak with three hits of his own, including a game-tying RBI triple in the fourth and a bunt single in the sixth, earning his seventh straight victory in a 7-6 win over the Padres.
The Cubs wound up with their eighth straight win to start the West Coast trip, their longest winning streak since a 12-game run from May 19-June 2, 2001.
Zambrano improved his batting average to team-leading .366 and moved to second behind Aramis Ramirez with an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .903, a number almost unheard of from a pitcher who doesn't answer to the name "Babe."
But Zambrano wasn't carrying the entire load. Jim Edmonds knocked in a pair of runs in his return to his old haunting grounds, and the Cubs knocked out 14 hits against right-hander Cha Seung Baek and the Padres' bullpen.
After throwing 130 pitches in a no-decision against Los Angeles on Thursday, the second-highest pitch count of his career, manager Lou Piniella said he'd shorten Zambrano up in his next stint. But before Monday's game, Piniella hedged a bit.
"This is probably the first game Zambrano has pitched this year where our bullpen isn't really, really rested," Piniella said. "So let's see. The weather is a little cool here. There's no humidity. All those things will help.
"Let's see how he's throwing the ball and that will determine how far we go."
The last time Zambrano threw more than 130 pitches was on May 8, 2005, when he threw 136 against Philadelphia. He was rocked by Washington in his next start and lost four straight starts, taking a long time to recover from his extra workload.
Zambrano began Monday's game like he was experiencing déjà vu, giving up three runs on a walk and three hits, including a two-run triple by Kevin Kouzmanoff.
After the Cubs scored on a wild pitch in the second, Zambrano got two quick outs before walking Jody Gerut. He leaped off the mound like Pete Townshend at a Who concert, prompting Piniella to make his first visit of the night.
Zambrano calmed down, relatively speaking. When he tripled to the gap in right-center in the fourth, tying the game at 3-3 with his first triple since 2005, Zambrano chugged into third, pumped his fist and let out a primal scream.
Kosuke Fukudome's sacrifice fly off Justin Hampson in the fifth gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead, and after Zambrano beat out a bunt to third to load the bases in the sixth, Alfonso Soriano followed with a sacrifice fly and Ryan
Theriot brought home the sixth run with an RBI infield hit.
Though he let Zambrano bat in the previous inning, Piniella brought Jon Lieber in to start the sixth, removing Zambrano after 95 pitches. The man standing in the on-deck circle was Padres catcher Michael Barrett, whom Zambrano punched in the Cubs' dugout almost one year earlier, on June 1, 2007.
Zambrano struck out Barrett twice on Monday, though they did not trade hugs afterward.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times