An old baseball saying tells us, “Pitching wins championships.” Perhaps we should change that to, “Good pitching wins championships. Lousy pitching sandbags your season.” Just ask the Cubs and Nationals.

Tuesday’s matchup featured the aggravating Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 4.97) and the disappointing John Lannan (5-5, 5.13). Both “aces” took the hill on opening day, and both were beaten soundly. Would it be more of the same at Nationals Park?

The Cubs wasted a Starlin Castro double and came up empty in the top of the 1st. The Nationals put two men on in their half of the inning, but an Adam Dunn doubleplay ball kept the contest scoreless (don’t worry Adam, we’d still love to have you at 1B next year).

Two straight singles by Baker and Soto got the Cubs going in the next frame. Former National Alfonso Soriano turned back the clock and drove a breaking ball over the LF fence. Cubs 3, Nats 0. It’s hard to believe that only four years have passed since Soriano swatted 46 homers for Washington. Time flies when you’re underachieving.

The quick lead seemed to fuel Big Z’s confidence as he attacked the strike zone aggressively (for a change). Though his velocity is still down, the command appears to be coming around. Zambrano’s remaining 2010 starts should be worth watching.

Future star Ryan Zimmerman got the Nats on the board with an RBI single in the 3rd. Yet another player I wish the Cubs had! Zambrano pitched around Adam Dunn to load the bases, but a Bernadina flyout kept the score at 3-1.

Tyler Colvin flexed his muscles once again in the 4th. His two-run shot put the Cubs up 5-1. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 14 homers in 212 at bats vs. RHP for Colvin. If he could only do something about that dreadful on-base percentage.

Meanwhile, Zambrano was locked in. Through 7.1 innings he fanned eight batters and showcased a sharp breaking ball. It was refreshing to see him throw so free and easy. Granted, he wasn’t exactly facing the ’27 Yankees, but I don’t want to pick apart a solid start (hey, that rhymes).

Sean Marshall took over with one on and one out in the 8th. Two straight walks loaded the bases and opened the door for Carlos Marmol. The Cubs closer got out of that jam but started another in the 9th. As usual, the last inning was extremely uncomfortable as Marmol struggled to find the plate. A bases loaded double by Adam Kennedy made it a 5-4 nail biter. With the tying run at second, Marmol pulled it together and got Zimmerman on a flyball to RF. Phew!

Mike Quade’s undefeated season continues. Maybe the Cubs should start wearing lightning bolt patches on their sleeves.

Update: Carlos Zambrano has flown back to Venezuela to be with a nephew who has contracted a deadly infection. He’s expected to rejoin the team in Cincy this weekend and make his start against the Buccos on Monday.

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