Zambrano Wins 17th As Cubs Top Pirates

Sunday, September 23rd 2007, 4:09 pm
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Carlos Zambrano got his career-best 17th win by pitching six sharp innings before leaving with cramps, and the surging Chicago Cubs expanded their NL Central lead to 3 1/2 games with an 8-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

The Cubs, who have won 10 of 12, are off Monday before hitting the road for their final six games, at Florida and Cincinnati, as they try to wrap up their first playoff berth since 2003. Second-place Milwaukee, which lost 7-4 at Atlanta, has seven games left _ all at home _ against the Cardinals and Padres.

A huge cheer went up at Wrigley Field when the scoreboard showed that Atlanta had scored four runs in the seventh to take the lead against the Brewers, and the crowd began to do the Tomahawk Chop _ a ritual at Braves games. The fans did it again when Atlanta tacked on two in the eighth, and for a third time when the final score was posted.

Derrek Lee and Ronny Cedeno _ a late addition to the lineup when regular shortstop Ryan Theriot was scratched with back spasms _ homered as the Cubs sent the Pirates to their ninth straight loss.

Zambrano (17-13) allowed three hits with three walks and six strikeouts, fanning the first four batters he faced.

When he went out to warm up for the seventh, trainer Mark O'Neal came to the mound and moments later Zambrano left, shaking manager Lou Piniella's hand near the third-base line.

Gametime temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees. Zambrano also had problems with heat-related cramping in a game against the Mets in August when he had to leave after five innings.

Kerry Wood replaced Zambrano and pitched two innings. Michael Wuertz completed the three-hit shutout.

Zambrano has won three of his last four starts _ he dropped his previous outing on three days' rest against the Reds _ and will make his final start of the regular season Saturday in Cincinnati.

Tom Gorzelanny (14-9), who was 2-1 with a 0.82 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs, failed for a third straight start to get his 15th victory. And with a career- high 195 2-3 innings, he might not get another chance if his last scheduled start is skipped. He gave up 12 hits and six runs in 5 2-3 innings.

Chicago went ahead in the second when Matt Murton doubled, moved to third on a bloop single by Geovany Soto and scored on Cedeno's single.

The Cubs made it 3-0 in the fifth when Alfonso Soriano opened with a single, stole second and scored on Lee's RBI double. Aramis Ramirez was intentionally walked and Murton beat out an infield single to load the bases before Soto delivered a sacrifice fly.

The Pirates cut down another run at the plate in the third. Pittsburgh shortstop Cesar Izturis, who had to leave Friday's game with a sore right elbow, took a relay throw from left fielder Jason Bay and made a perfect peg to Ronny Paulino to get Lee as he tried to score from first on Murton's double off the left-field wall.

Zambrano, a .253 hitter before Sunday, showed his prowess with the bat, flying out to the center-field wall in the fourth and slapping a double into the right-field corner in the sixth before racing around on Mark DeRosa's single for a 4-0 lead.

Lee then hit a two-run homer just over the wall in right-center, his 20th of the season, to finish Gorzelanny.

Cedeno added a two-run shot off Romulo Sanchez in the seventh.