After taking himself out with a lead after five innings in his previous start, Carlos Zambrano said he was "mentally prepared" to go only five or six innings that afternoon.
On Saturday, Zambrano said he was prepared to go six or seven innings against St. Louis, but he wound up lasting only 41/3 in a 12-3 loss to the Cardinals.
He allowed a season-high nine runs while serving up a career-high four home runs, including two to Troy Glaus, who had been 0-for-31 against the Cubs before his fourth-inning shot.
"His location wasn't good at all," manager Lou Piniella said. "That's the hardest I've seen 'Z' get hit in the two years I've been here. He pitched five innings the start before; this was his sixth day. But it happens to everybody. The Cardinals are a good hitting team."
Zambrano agreed with Piniella's assessment and said he lost track of how many home runs he had given up.
"When you fall behind in the count too much and you have to throw fastballs — this is the big leagues," Zambrano said. "They don't miss balls [when you're] behind in the count."
Former Cubs right-hander Todd Wellemeyer improved to 9-4 with 62/3 strong innings.
With the victory, St. Louis moved back within six games of the Cubs. Milwaukee is four back after defeating Washington 6-0.
Zambrano said he felt fine before the game, but he never looked comfortable on the mound.
"There's nothing you can do about it," he said. "Just move on and start thinking about my next start."
August is the only month in which Zambrano has a sub-.500 record, and he's now 0-5 with a 7.68 ERA in seven starts in August in '07 and '08. He lost for the first time in 13 starts at Wrigley Field, dating back to Sept. 18.
Zambrano's nightmare began when Skip Schumaker doubled on the first pitch of the game, and it lasted until the Cardinals knocked him out during a four-run fifth.
Schumaker and Albert Pujols homered in the third to give St. Louis a 3-1 lead. Zambrano hit an opposite-field homer off Wellemeyer, his third of the year, to pull the Cubs within a run.
But Aramis Ramirez grounded into a double play to end the inning with two men on. Then Zambrano gave up a two-run shot to Glaus in the fourth.
"You don't see that very often," Derrek Lee said. "They just put some good swings on the ball. It was just one of those days when they were going good at the plate and they really drove some balls."
Piniella had Sean Marshall warming up in the fourth but opted to leave Zambrano in. That decision backfired when Zambrano started the fifth with a walk to Pujols, and back-to-back singles to Ryan Ludwick and Felipe Lopez that made it 6-2. Glaus then smoked a 1-1 pitch into the right-field bleachers for a three-run homer to make Zambrano and the Cubs toast.
"They have some people who can get on base for Pujols," Zambrano said. "Troy Glaus has been putting some good numbers up, and I think they have a good lineup. [Rick] Ankiel is a good hitter too.
"They have a good hitting lineup. You have to move forward and tip your hat."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times