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Cubs rally, but fall to Astros in extras

Chicago CubsHouston AstrosSportsCarlos ZambranoMike FontenotLou PiniellaGeoff Blum

The Cubs' problems have gone from bad to worse as Carlos Zambrano's arm has gone from "tired" to iffy.

Zambrano left Tuesday night's 9-7, 11-inning loss to Houston after five innings and 86 pitches and "told pitching coach [Larry Rothschild] he wasn't feeling good," according to manager Lou Piniella.

Wasn't feeling good, as in …

"It has to be in his arm," Piniella said. "I'll let you know [more] tomorrow."

Zambrano will visit Cubs orthopedist Stephen Gryzlo on Wednesday, but it's obvious he will be shut down for several days, which would put his effectiveness for the playoffs in doubt.

"If he can pitch, he'll pitch," Piniella said. "If not, we'll put [ Sean] Marshall in the rotation and go from there."

Zambrano hit 96 m.p.h. on the radar gun in the first inning but issued back-to-back walks as the Astros tied the game 3-3 in the fifth inning with two runs.

Zambrano's health has been questioned since he was pushed back from his Sunday start to give him an extra two days of rest. He has insisted his arm is just tired and isn't hurting, and that this has nothing to do with an earlier trip to the DL with a shoulder strain.

Piniella insisted before the game "there's nothing wrong with him," even though he was 1-1 with a 7.43 ERA in five August starts.

The news on Zambrano put a further pall over the Cubs' fourth straight loss at Wrigley Field, even though they ended their power shortage with four solo home runs and 11 other hits.

"We're in a stretch where things aren't going our way," Piniella said. "We just have to battle through it. Did anybody think this was going to be easy? You haven't heard that from me all year."

More than two hours after Zambrano left, the game was decided when Geoff Blum shot a power ball into the right-field bleachers, although many of the 39,846 fans had gone home.

Blum's homer—similar to the one he hit in extra innings in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox against the Astros—made a loser of Kerry Wood (4-3), who was in his second inning of work. It also came with Hunter Pence on second base thanks to an infield single and Aramis Ramirez's third error in three innings.

The wildest innings occurred after Zambrano left, with the Astros scoring four runs in the sixth off Bobby Howry and the Cubs answering with three. Two of those runs were courtesy of Ryan Theriot's double to right, and the other came on Mike Fontenot's single.

The seventh featured Angel Guzman's first major-league appearance since June 1, 2007, after elbow surgery. He pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and walk.

Alfonso Soriano, who had the last extra-base hit before the Cubs' all-singles three-game stretch with a seventh-inning homer on Friday, ended it with his fourth leadoff homer of the season. In between were 27 singles.

Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto hit homers in the fourth inning to give Zambrano a 3-1 lead. Jim Edmonds tied the game 7-7 in the seventh inning with his first homer since Aug. 13 before the Cubs' bats went into a slumber again. They had only two hits and left six runners on base in the last four innings.

dvandyck@tribune.com

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