Big Z's blues and boos
Carlos Zambrano has not won a start since July 29, and the big Cubs right-hander lost on two fronts Monday.
First, he was shellacked 11-3 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and got himself booed by most in the Wrigley Field crowd of 41,070 after manager Lou Piniella removed him from the game in the fifth inning.
Afterward, Zambrano risked losing the fans for good when he ripped them for booing. On his way off the field, Zambrano pointed to his head as he looked up at the fans.
"You know, I don't accept that the fans (were) booing at me," he said. "I can't understand that. I think this was the greatest fans of baseball. But they showed me today that they just care about them.
"That's not fair, because when you're struggling, that's when you want to feel the support of the fans. I don't accept it.
"I just pointed at my head, and I will remember that because I don't want to stink in bad outings. I know the great moments of my career will come."
The Cubs had better be hoping that Zambrano's great moments haven't come and gone, especially after they signed him to a five-year, $91.5 million contract extension on Aug. 17.
Zambrano's troubles started well before that. Since Aug. 1, he's 0-5 with an 8.29 ERA. He likely will find out soon enough that ripping the paying customers is never a good idea.
Monday's scolding of the paying public was nowhere near as harsh as former manager Lee Elia's profane tirade in 1983, but Zambrano no doubt will have some winning back to do.
"They pay to see a good show, and they pay to see a good pitcher," he said. "Right now I'm not doing too well. I just call the fans, and I want a little support, that's all. When you have a brother or somebody, and your brother is struggling, you show him love. You don't show him that you want to kick him out. That's why I asked the fans (for) a little support.
"Not only me. I go out there and try to do my best. But for all the people. Not everybody is like Carlos Zambrano that keeps his head up and keeps trying to do a good job.
"But there are some people on this team that when they're struggling, they go down, down. When they boo somebody, the 25 men on this ballclub, that's not fair. That happened before with some of my teammates."
Zambrano's performance Monday was hardly worthy of cheers. He lasted just 4½ innings, giving up 7 hits and 8 runs while walking five.
He also led off the bottom of the third inning of a 1-1 game with a single. Alfonso Soriano doubled to left field, and Zambrano ran through coach Mike Quade's stop sign at third base and was easily thrown out at home.
The Cubs scored 1 run that inning but could have had more.
"I didn't see," Zambrano said. "That was my fault. I should have stopped. At that moment, I was thinking that the ball went away from (left fielder) Luis Gonzalez, but I didn't see the stop sign. If I see the stop sign, believe me, I stop."
Quade saw it this way: "I'm still standing here, so he didn't run over the sign. I was really shocked. He's a competitor. He's going to score on that play; he made up his mind he was going to. That's a fairly easy decision from my end. He dropped his head. Just probably getting to third, he had made up his own mind. You talk to baserunners about, 'Make your own decisions sometimes.' But that's not one of them."
The Dodgers scored 3 runs in the fourth and batted around to score 4 in the fifth as Piniella yanked Zambrano.
"His stuff was plenty good today, I thought," said Piniella, whose team fell to 70-66 and failed to add to its 1½-game lead in the National League Central. "He came out throwing really well. I think he's letting things bother him when things aren't going right out there.
"I contend he's going to get his stuff together and put on a nice streak for us here at the end of the year. That's what I'm hoping for, and I've got confidence he will."
Team leader Derrek Lee acknowledged the Cubs need Zambrano, but he also admitted he's not a fan of booing.
"I have a hard time … I'm not a big fan of the booing at home, more than anything," Lee said. "Maybe if it's lack of effort or something like that. Z's been so good for this organization. He gives everything he has, so I have a hard time with the booing."
Dodgers 11, Cubs 3
At the plate: Alfonso Soriano put the Cubs ahead 1-0 when he led off the first with his 20th home run of the season. It was Soriano's sixth leadoff homer this year and the 38th of his career. Mark DeRosa went 2-for-4.
On the mound: Carlos Zambrano lost his fifth straight start to fall to 14-12. His ERA rose from 4.06 to 4.35 as he gave up runs and 7 hits in 41/3 innings. Zambrano has not won since July 29. Will Ohman allowed a pair of inherited runners to score. Sean Gallagher gave up 5 hits and 3 runs in 2 innings. Scott Eyre pitched a scoreless inning; he has a 1.26 ERA after the all-star break as opposed to a 6.60 ERA before the break.
-- Bruce Miles