Before Sunday’s game, the Cubs honored two of the best pitchers in franchise history by retiring No. 31, which was worn by both Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Jenkins won 167 games in 10 seasons with the Cubs, while Maddux recorded 133 victories during his 10-year career on Chicago’s North Side. The San Diego Padres are the only other club to retire the number 31 (Dave Winfield).
With a long way to go to get there, another possible future Hall of Fame Cubs pitcher took the mound. Carlos Zambrano started for Chicago, seeking his 99th career victory.
Z allowed a first inning run for the first time this year, as John Baker singled up the middle with one down and Hanley Ramirez followed with a deep double to strait away center. Jorge Cantu then shattered his bat and grounded out softly to Derrek Lee, scoring Baker from third.
Chicago tied things up in the second on back-to-back two-out doubles from Geovany Soto and Aaron Miles. They then took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Mike Fontenot’s two run solo bomb.
Florida promptly threatened again, with Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ross leading off the fifth with back-to-back singles before advancing on a fielder’s choice. Ricky Nolasco then helped himself with a RBI groundout to tie things at two.
Zambrano led off the bottom half of the fifth by beating out a bunt single, but tweaked a hamstring in the process. Not what you want to see with the rash of injuries this team has suffered so far in a very young season. But, it’s a long season, and more than likely every team will battle injury problems at some point. I guess it is better to get them out of the way early, so that you can be healthy when it counts, in October.
Rich Harden came on to run for Zambrano, and Soriano flied out before Ryan Theriot reached on the second bunt single of the inning. Right fielder Ross Gload then dropped a somewhat routine fly ball off the bat of Kosuke Fukudome to load them up with one out for Derrek Lee.
Last year you probably couldn’t have found one Cubs fan who would have expected anything other than a double play from Lee in this situation, and with the way he had started 2009, most probably expected the same. Expectations were not met as Derrek sent a thunderous drive to dead center and gone for the Cubs second grand slam of the series.
Angel Guzman came on in relief of Zambrano and got into some early trouble, giving up a lead off double, walking Hanley Ramirez, and committing an error to load the bases with none out and Dan Uggla stepping to the plate.
Uggla drove one to deep, deep center, but Fukudome made an over-the-shoulder catch and Guzman got out the inning allowing just the sac fly and with the Cubs leading 6-3. Guzman worked a 1-2-3 seventh.
The two legends, Maddux and Jenkins then sang the seventh inning stretch as their newly raised 31 flags flew on the foul poles.
Carlos Marmol came on and gave up a lead-off homer to John Baker, shrinking the lead to 6-4. Marmol then walked Ramirez to bring the tying run to the plate. Cantu struck out, Uggla popped out and Hermida struck out.
Kevin Gregg worked the ninth for his third save of the year and secured Zambrano’s 99th career victory (against 62 defeats). But not before giving up a two-out single to Wes Helms, bringing the tying run to the plate. Kosuke, who had just moved to right when Joey Gathright came on to play center for defensive purposes, then made a diving catch to close out the Marlins. Gregg is averaging 21 pitches per inning, not a good stat for your supposed closer.
The Cubbies will take a three game winning streak into a two-game series with San Francisco to wrap up this homestand before jetting off to Houston.