Despite another awful outing, starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano stood to pick up his second win of the season Wednesday night in Atlanta after the Cubs made an uncharacteristic comeback, staking him to one-run seventh inning lead. Reliever Scott Eyre, however, had other ideas.
“Carlos pitched like crap and didn’t deserve the win, so I decided to take care of it myself,” said Eyre, who retired the first two Brave hitters in the bottom half of the inning before purposely allowing the next five batters to reach base, giving the Braves an 8-6 lead that held as the final score. “If Big Z wants that new $80 million contract he’s going to have to earn it on his own.”
Zambrano had his regular first inning implosion, giving up four runs on a walk and four hits, including a three-run bomb by Jeff Francoeur. Some guy named Scott Thorman blasted a solo shot off Zambrano in the fifth to extend the Braves lead to 5-2.
The mighty Cubs clawed back into the game, scoring two runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh to take the lead momentarily, before Eyre did his best Will “40-ft Curveball” Ohman impersonation. The Cubs had their chances in the eighth, but in typical fashion, stranded the tying runs in scoring position with less than two outs, leading to their second-straight defeat.
Manager Lou Piniella used his baseball savvy again Wednesday, inserting pitcher Jason Marquis as his secret offensive weapon. Marquis pinch ran for Daryle Ward–who requires a Segway to move the basepaths–in the 14th inning on Tuesday and on Wednesday he pinch hit with the Cubs down two in the ninth, flying out to left field.
Piniella said he’s following his predecessor’s lead on goofball strategy.
“I remember seeing Dusty Baker use guys like Jose Macias and Lenny Harris in every game and in every way possible,” said Piniella. “Marquis is going to be my Macias this year. You’re going to see him pinch hit, pinch run, play third base and the outfield. Hell, I might even let him manage a few games.”
Number of the game: 5
Walks given up Wednesday by supposed staff ace Carlos Zambrano, who led the NL in free passes last year and is making a good case to repeat the feat in ’07.