I really didn’t think that things could get any worse, and then Carlos Zambrano got back on the mound last night after spending time on the DL for the 2nd time during the 2009 MLB schedule. Aside from a solo home run that tied the game at 1 in the 3rd inning, Big Z was awful. This was a make-or-break homestand for the Cubs against the lowly Nats, Mets and Astros and the Cubs showed why they don’t have what it takes to qualify for post-season play in 2009.
Zambrano could not have looked more out of sync on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field – makes you wonder if they should have given him another rehab start before bringing him back up to the big league level. Big Z issued a walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the 1st inning, but no runs. The Nats touched up Big Z for the 1st run of the game with 2 singles and a sac fly in the 2nd inning to take a 1-0 lead. The 3rd inning was the only inning in which he had a 1-2-3 effort. The wheels started coming off in the 4th inning. After a solo home run by Josh Willingham, the Nats tacked on another run on consecutive hits by Ronnie Belliard and Elijah Dukes. The Nats may have even scored more runs, but they ran themselves out of the inning on a failed suicide squeeze attempt. Manager Lou Pinella finally saw enough from Big Z in the 5th inning when his pitch count reached 95 pitches. A hit batsmen started the rally, followed by 2 singles and 2 walks. Although Aaron Heilman served up the grand slam that broker the game open to give the Nats a 9-1 lead, 3 of the runs that scored were charged to Zambrano. In 4 1/3 innings, Big Z gave up 8 ER on 7 hits and 3 walks to one of the NL’s worst hitting teams. Big Z’s WHIP rose to 1.38 on the 2009 MLB schedule.
You have to expect more from the “ace” of your pitching staff. The Cubs have invested a lot of money and commitment in Zambrano and he really needs to put together a dominating season like other aces – Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Chris Carpenter – have done. Until then, Big Z is really just an over-paid, over-glorified 2nd or 3rd starter on a club that needs an ace.
The lone positive from Tuesday night – - Milton Bradley went 4 for 4 with a solo home run and 2 runs scored.
I’ve been writing about how good the starting pitching has been, and Big Z just threw that right out the window with one atrocious outing. The frustration with this 2009 Cubs club continues and it will be a gift to all of us when this year finally comes to an end on Sunday, October 4th…