Big Z too much for Reds to handle
Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:04 pm
By: By The Associated Press
Derek Lowe flirted with perfection before settling for a stingy start, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers climb into a first-place tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Carlos Zambrano was just as good for the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, who might be alone in first for a while the way they’re going.
Lowe retired the first 18 batters before Gregor Blanco led off the seventh with a clean single to center, and Matt Kemp provided some offense with a homer that helped the Dodgers to a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
Jonathan Broxton replaced Lowe after Jeff Francoeur homered in the eighth, and Takashi Saito pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 17th save in a game that lasted exactly 2 hours.
“You know every pitch can change the outcome of the game,” Lowe said, “so I think mentally you really grind out every single pitch maybe where you wouldn’t if it was a bigger lead.”
Zambrano didn’t come nearly as close to a no-hitter, but he dominated once it was taken out of the equation. Big Z allowed just a second-inning homer to Adam Dunn over eight innings, retiring the final 20 batters he faced in the Cubs’ 5-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
The performance came in Zambrano’s second start since he was activated from the disabled list, where he landed with a right shoulder strain — the main reason he didn’t come out for the ninth.
“He wanted to go out and finish it, but it’s only his second time out being off the DL and we were on a game plan of 100 to 105 pitches,” manager Lou Piniella said.
In other NL games, it was Philadelphia 4, St. Louis 2; the New York Mets 5, San Francisco 0; Colorado 8, Milwaukee 3; Washington 5, Arizona 0; Florida 5, San Diego 2, and Houston 6, Pittsburgh 4.
Lowe extended the Dodgers’ streak of exceptional starts, this time outpitching Tim Hudson (9-7), who did not permit a runner until James Loney’s leadoff double in the fifth.
On Monday night, Hiroki Kuroda took a perfect game into the eighth before Mark Teixeira hit a leadoff double — it turned out to be the Braves’ only baserunner. And on Tuesday night, Chad Billingsley held the Braves hitless through the first four innings.
Lowe (7-8) gave up one run, walked two and struck out four in 7 2/3 innings. Hudson allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.
“It’s hard to have the kind of pitching we’ve had on such a consistent basis,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. “That’s something you can look back and say, ‘Yeah, I remember that.’
“We’ve struggled scoring runs and the only reason we’re sitting where we are now is basically because of our starting pitchers.”
Zambrano (10-3) would fit right in with Torre’s Dodgers. He walked none and struck out five while throwing 103 pitches for the Cubs. His next appearance could be in the All-Star game.
“Tonight he was really, really good,” Dunn said. “The pitch I hit was probably the only mistake he made the entire game. That’s probably the best I’ve seen him in a long time.”
Things got shaky for the Cubs after Zambrano left the game.
Carlos Marmol relieved to start the ninth and gave up a two-out single to Jay Bruce, then walked Jeff Keppinger and Ken Griffey Jr. to load the bases. Kerry Wood relieved and got Brandon Phillips to foul out to first to earn his 23rd save in 28 chances.
Johnny Cueto (7-9) gave up eight hits and five runs, four earned, in 6 2/3 innings. Three of the runs came with two outs in the seventh.
“You can tell the way he did against Zambrano how badly he wanted to win this game,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Boy, it’s tough, especially the way he was competing.”
Phillies 4, Cardinals 2
At Philadelphia, Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz hit solo homers in the eighth inning to help Philadelphia end a four-game losing streak.
Howard drove an 0-2 pitch from Kyle McClellan (1-4) for his 25th homer, rallying the Phillies after they blew a 2-0 lead. Feliz added his shot off Chris Perez.
Clay Condrey (2-1) worked the eighth and Brad Lidge earned his 20th save.
Rockies 8, Brewers 3
At Milwaukee, Garrett Atkins hit two homers for Colorado, helping Glendon Rusch win as a starter for the first time in exactly two years.
Rusch (2-3) had not won as a starter since he was pitching for the Cubs. He missed all of last season while recovering from a blood clot in his lung.
Ben Sheets (10-3) struck out a season-high 11 over six innings, giving up three runs.
Mets 5, Giants 0
At New York, Johan Santana tossed five effective innings before his night was cut short by a rain delay, Ramon Castro hit a three-run homer and the Mets won their fifth straight.
Santana (8-7) was 0-4 despite a 2.48 ERA in his previous six starts. He allowed three hits, walked three and struck out five in his shortest outing since last Sept. 26.
Jonathan Sanchez (8-5) picked up the loss for the Giants.
Nationals 5, D’backs 0
At Washington, Jesus Flores’ three-run, pinch-hit homer in the sixth inning helped the Nationals snap a six-game losing streak.
John Lannan (5-9) allowed two hits and walked three in six shutout innings for his first victory since May 18. It was the Nationals’ first shutout since May 19.
Micah Owings (6-8) hit three batters and walked five over 5 2/3 innings.
Marlins 5, Padres 2
At San Diego, Scott Olsen allowed four hits over eight innings before getting lifted for a pinch hitter, and Mike Jacobs and Hanley Ramirez homered for Florida.
Olsen (5-4) allowed one run and broke his career-worst winless streak of 11 games. Joe Nelson allowed Chase Headley’s RBI single before Kevin Gregg got two outs for his 17th save.
Astros 6, Pirates 4
At Pittsburgh, Geoff Blum hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Houston avoided a three-game sweep despite blowing a four-run lead.
Hunter Pence had an RBI groundout and Kazuo Matsui had an RBI double in the seventh off Sean Burnett (0-1) to help restore the Astros’ lead.
Brian Moehler (5-4) allowed four runs in six innings, and Jose Valverde got his 23rd save.