Cubs 4, Braves 10

Box Score / Highlights

Disclaimer – this recap was nearly completed by the time the game ended, so the news of Zambrano’s “retirement” is not included. For coverage of Zambrano calling it quits, see the postgame report from this game here.

What Went Right
Jeff Baker – the specialist against left-handed pitchers was up to his old tricks again. A couple of doubles and a rocket that was just foul into the left field bleachers. He’s a role player at best, but his production against lefties is impressive.

Reed Johnson – continuing to get hits in bunches, Reed had another good night. I’d love to see him get a regular spot in the outfield, but I definitely want him to be our fourth outfielder again next year.

Tim Timmons (home plate umpire) – for doing the job that Zambrano was begging Quade to do, and removing Carlos from the game.

What Went Wrong
Carlos Zambrano – just embarrassing all the way around. Here’s his line: 4.1 IP, 8 ER, 3 Ks, 5 HRs

Mike Quade & Mark Riggins – yes, it was Carlos’ fault that he completely lost it. But it was Quade & Riggins at fault for leaving him out there. Quade’s perplexed look after Zambrano was tossed made it seem like he hadn’t even been following the game.

Zambrano’s Meltdown
It started with the first run the Braves scored – Dan Uggla’s homer in the 2nd that continued his now 32-game hit streak. In Uggla’s next plate appearance he was hit, as Brenly put it, in the wallet. I tend to think this was Zambrano getting back at Uggla – in a perfectly acceptable manner.

Fast forward to the 5th, Zambrano is losing 6-1 and coughs up a home run to Freddie Freeman, the ball was hit so hard that Brenly started questioning whether Zambrano was tipping his pitches. Then Uggla got the ultimate revenge on Zambrano by hitting his second home run of the game. Now the score is 8-1; Zambrano was supposed to be buying time for Ramon Ortiz to warm up, instead he surrendered his career high fifth home run of the game.

The next batter, Chipper Jones was the recipient of ball one that was well inside. In case anyone was wondering about Zambrano’s intentions, he threw ball two FURTHER inside. Neither pitch hit Jones, but home plate umpire Tim Timmons immediately tossed Carlos. Zambrano didn’t even argue, further proving that he knew EXACTLY what he was doing and so did everyone else. Carlos lost this game.

Quade’s “Feel For The Game”
Why was Zambrano even out there in the 5th and why was NO ONE warming up when the inning started? Quade and Riggins can’t see even the most obvious trouble as it approaches. If you watched the game it was obvious 1) Carlos didn’t have it, and 2) he wasn’t going to find it. Someone should’ve been up in the bullpen; when Riggins visited the mound after the Freeman bomb, he should’ve made Timmons break it up to give Ortiz as much time as possible; and most of all, Zambrano shouldn’t have even started the fifth inning on the mound.

Brenly was yammering on about it being the beginning of a road trip and not wanting to use up your entire bullpen right away. So let me get this straight, there’s one guy on our team who handles failure in the worst possible way, and we’re going to tell him to bite the bullet and take his lumps when he obviously knows that he doesn’t have it? How about saving the clubhouse for the rest of the road trip? I’m sure Zambrano will be a peach to deal with now that he’s been, once again, nationally embarrassed.

I’m not excusing what Carlos did, it’s inexcusable…but why are we even putting him in that situation? This isn’t the first inning of a game against the Sox where Zambrano’s outburst surprised everyone; this is four plus innings of a beatdown that apparently his manager wanted him to smile through and say, “thank you sir, I’ll have some more.” While that’s the reply that you’d like from a player, it’s completely unrealistic to expect that Carlos would EVER have that attitude. You could see this brewing for innings, unless you’re part of the Cubs’ coaching staff.

Braves Always Ready To Rumble
The whole Zambrano thing got out of hand; but the Braves weren’t trying to calm it down. Under Bobby Cox they were always ready to throwdown; nothing has changed under Fredi Gonzalez. Jones didn’t even get hit; the pitches weren’t at his head – so why is the entire team rushing out of their dugout? Remember, this is the same franchise that threw at Alfonso Soriano a couple of years back with the first pitch of the game (and claimed it was an accident)! IF the tables had been turned, the Cubs would’ve stayed in the dugout playing canasta – not rush the field like a bunch of rioters itching to throw a punch, without care for the reason why.

Who cares if the Braves feel wronged – that’s like Tony LaRussa griping that one of his players was targeted with a pitch. Even if you agree with their version of the facts, they’re due a little retribution.

The Takeaway
Lost in Zambrano’s poor performance and even poorer display of sportsmanship – the Braves are pretty freakin’ good. If the Phillies weren’t an All-Star team unto themselves, the Braves might have a chance in the NL. But the Braves will likely draw the Giants in the first round of the playoffs, and if they can navigate that staff of aces, they’ll get the Phillies in the NLCS. They’re a good team, but they’re a couple pieces away from the Phillies at this point.

It’s funny how a string of games against the Pirates, Reds, and Nationals started changing expectations for the remainder of the season. It was comforting to see the 2011 Cubs reappear in Atlanta. And by comforting I mean, the kind of comfort you get after consuming too many Chili Cheese Fritos and realizing that they still have that effect on you.

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