Carlos Zambrano threw six innings of one run ball, Ronny Cedeno and Aramis Ramirez hit home runs, Mark DeRosa was 2-4 with a single and a double, and Michael Barrett was on base four straight times on two singles and two walks, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 6-2 before a capacity crowd of 12,752 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today.
Zambrano was in mid-season form, systematically mowing down the Giants through six innings of work (93 pitches, 13-20-18-14-20-8), allowing four hits, one run (earned), one walk, one HBP, and one WP, to go along with five strikeouts (B. Molina twice, and Feliz, Lowry, and Linden once each), and a 6/7 GB/FB. The only run allowed by Z came as the result of a two-out triple by Kevin Frandsen in the 2nd inning that can be blamed on an ill-advised dive attempt by Jacque Jones on a line drive to RF that should have been a single, followed by a WP. Otherwise, Zambrano was in complete control, and looked like he could have gone another inning or two.
After the Giants took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 2nd, the Cubs came back with a four-spot in the bottom of the frame against the SF starter (LHP Noah Lowry). With one out, Michael Barrett worked a walk, and Jacque Jones lined a single to CF on a hit+run. Barrett barely beat Todd Linden's throw to 3rd, and on the play, Jones alertly took second. Mark DeRosa followed, lining a 2-2 pitch just beyond the reach of Giants SS Omar Vizquel, scoring Barrett (Jones had to hold up to make sure the ball went through to the outfield), and then Ronny Cedeno celebrated his apparent appointment to the Cubs 2007 Opening Day 25-man roster by lofting a three-run dinger over the LF fence that was aided some by the wind blowing out to left. The Cubs actually threatened to score even more runs in the inning, as Alfonso Soriano singled and Matt Murton followed with a double down the LF line with two outs (Mike Quade held Soriano at 3rd, though I'm not sure why), but Derrek Lee flied out to RF to end Lowry's nightmare inning (some 30 pitches after it started).
The Cubs scored once again in the bottom of the 4th on an RBI double ripped over the left-fielder's head by Derrek Lee, following a lead-off walk to Ronny Cedeno and a one-out HBP (Lowry hit Soriano on the foot).
Aramis Ramirez finished the scoring for the Cubs, hitting a moonshot over the left-centerfield fence off Giants reliever Brad Hennessey that (apparently) eventually did land (I think). For Giants fans and fantasy players, be advised every single ball hit off Hennessey was hammered. Even the outs were rockets. He didn't fool anybody (well, OK, he struck out Zambrano).
With Zambrano pitching six innings, it didn't leave much opportunity for the innings-starved Cubs relievers. But Kerry Wood (making his first appearance in almost two weeks, after suffering a strained triceps after he stepped into a hole in the mound at HoHoKam), Bob Howry (throwing his second day in a row, as he also threw an inning yesterday in a minor league ST game at Fitch Park), and Ryan Dempster did each get to throw an inning, and all three looked sharp, especially Wood and Dempster.
Woody threw an efficient nine-pitch 7th (eight strikes!), giving up a one-out double (still another ill-advised dive attempt by Jacque Jones) around an infield pop up and two 3-1 ground outs. Bob Howry got two quick outs in the 8th before allowing a single and an RBI double, but he did throw strikes and only needed 12 pitches to complete his inning (he threw 25 pitches in his one-inning of work in the minor league game at Fitch yesterday). And then Ryan Dempster threw a super-easy 13-pitch 1-2-3 9th (two 1-3 bouncers and K-swinging).
Cubs manager Lou Piniella continues to use movement on the bases, calling three hit+run plays. But the outfield defense still needs work, as Alfonso Soriano made an absolutely atrocious play in the top of the first, trying to make a running short-hop scoop of a low liner to center (he must have had a "shortstop flashback") that bounced past him for a two-base error (but thankfully, Zambrano got Ryan Klesko on a pop fly to LF and struck out Pedro Feliz to avoid any damage), and (as I mentioned) Jacque Jones made two ill-advised dive attempts on liners that turned what should have been two singles into a triple and a double. I believe the Cubs outfielders need to concentrate more on making the routine play, and stop trying to make stupidly impossible plays that end up turning singles into extra base hits.
The Cubs have a rematch with the Giants tomorrow afternoon at Scottsdale, as Wade Miller tries to nail-down the 5th starter job. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if several Cubs relievers work in a minor league game at Fitch Park tomorrow, too.