(AFP) – Sep 14, 2008
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AFP) — Carlos Zambrano threw the first Chicago Cubs no-hitter in more than 36 years, dispatching the red-hot Houston Astros at neutral Miller Park in a 5-0 victory.
Zambrano became the second major leaguer this season to pitch a no-hitter.
Venezuela's Zambrano, 27, joined Boston's Jon Lester as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in 2008, posting the 267th no-hitter in Major League Baseball history.
It was the 13th no-hitter in Cubs history and the first since Milt Pappas achieved the feat against San Diego on September 2, 1972.
Zambrano struck out 10, with his only missteps coming on a walk to Michael Bourn in the fourth and hitting Hunter Pence in the fifth. He finished the game facing just one more than the minimum.
He retired Humberto Quintero and Jose Castillo on groundouts in the ninth before striking out Darin Erstad on a pitch well outside the strike zone to finish off his feat.
The game was moved from Houston when Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas Gulf Coast.
While the Astros were the ostensible hosts, they had to travel 1,000 miles to get to the game, while the Cubs had a relatively short 100-mile journey.
Despite only 24-hour's notice by Major League Baseball, the attendance reached 23,441, and the pro-Chicago crowd were chanting "Let's go 'Z'" by the seventh inning as Zambrano began to close in on history.
Zambrano and the Cubs handed the Astros just their second loss in their last 16 games.
Even more surprising, Zambrano was making his first start since September 2, having missed a start because of inflammation in his rotator cuff.
"I guess I'm back," Zambrano said. "My arm is back. It's good."
"He was throwing the ball well, and got some good work in this week, but you don't expect a masterpiece like this," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who had said he would try to limit Zambrano's outings to 100 pitches.
"I don't know man, my arm is weird, for real," Zambrano said of a fastball that hit 97mph for the first time in months.
"Sometimes I give all I have in my arm. I even go back and try to throw harder and I just see 92-93. And sometimes I just kind of play catch with (catcher Geovany Soto) and see the scoreboard and it's 97-98."
One batter after Bourn reached, Zambrano escaped any further damage when Miguel Tejada grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Zambrano got plenty of support from the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano homered to start the game - his fifth leadoff blast of the season and 49th of his career.
Chicago put together four runs in the third, which proved plenty for Zambrano, who also went 1-for-3 at the plate.
Zambrano opened the ninth with 99 pitches thrown, and Quintero grounded out to short on the first pitch.
Pinch hitter Castillo followed suit with a bouncer to shortstop Ryan Theriot and Erstad struck out swinging.
Upon completeion of his 110-pitch gem, Zambrano was mobbed by teammates on the mound.
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