Zambrano bounces back to beat Reds, 4-3
CINCINNATI — Carlos Zambrano recovered from his horrific opening day start by pitching seven solid innings, and pinch-hitter Jeff Baker hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning Saturday, sending the Chicago Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Zambrano (1-1) managed only four outs during the Cubs’ 16-5 opening-day drubbing in Atlanta. He held the Reds to six hits, including Brandon Phillips’ homer, and struck out nine. Carlos Marmol fanned the last three batters for his second save in as many chances.
Baker hit his solo shot off left-hander Arthur Rhodes (0-1), Chicago’s third homer of the game. Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano also connected off Aaron Harang.
Both starters were coming off tough times in their season openers. Harang usually gets the better of these matchups — Zambrano was 1-5 in seven career starts against the Reds’ ace coming in.
This time, they ended up essentially even, each giving up three runs in seven innings. Baker’s homer — his first hit in five at-bats this season — put Zambrano in line for the win.
The Cubs’ lineup has been overly reliant on homers so far, scoring 12 of its 17 runs that way. Five of Saturday’s starters came in batting .200 or less — Aramis Ramirez (.200), Marlon Byrd (.167), Geovany Soto (.167), Soriano (.143) and Ryan Theriot (.125).
The homer-or-nothing trend continued. Fukudome hit a two-run shot in the fourth, and Soriano led off the fifth with a homer that tied it at 3.
The Reds scored in the second when Chris Dickerson doubled to left — Soriano turned the wrong way initially and couldn’t recover — and Ryan Hanigan singled. Phillips broke an 0 for 11 slump with a two-run homer in the third, raising his right arm in jubilation when the ball cleared the wall in center for his first homer.
Harang lasted only five innings of a season-opening 11-6 loss to the Cardinals on Monday, throwing a lot of pitches. This time, he wasn’t messing around. Harang’s first seven pitches were strikes. He retired the first nine Cubs in order, throwing 29 strikes in 38 pitches.
The two homers made him come up empty again.
NOTES: Zambrano threw 110 pitches. … Reds 3B Scott Rolen got a day off. He’s a .182 career hitter against Zambrano. … RH Mike Leake, the Reds’ top draft pick last June, will make his debut on Sunday. Leake pitched for Arizona State last year. He’ll be the 21st player since the draft began in 1965 to make the jump without appearing in a minor league game. The last was Xavier Nady with San Diego in 2000. … Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to make his pro debut for Triple-A Louisville against Toledo on Sunday. … RF Jay Bruce is in an 0 for 16 slump, one shy of his career high.