|Cubs manager Lou Piniella pulls starter Carlos Zambrano after only 85 pitches|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 03 October 2007 20:13|
``I said, 'Let me pitch one more,''' Zambrano said. ``And he said, 'That's enough.' He's the manager.''
Piniella stuck to his plan and it was a costly one for the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs manager said he would limit Zambrano to about 100 pitches against Arizona in Game 1 of the NL playoff series. He had an even quicker hook, lifting his ace after 85 pitches with the game tied at 1 in the seventh.
Piniella's decision came in for scrutiny when reliever Carlos Marmol immediately surrendered a tiebreaking homer to Mark Reynolds, and the Diamondbacks went on to beat the Cubs 3-1 on Wednesday night,
Piniella said he was keeping Zambrano on a pitch count because he planned to bring him back on three days' rest for Game 4 on Sunday night.
Piniella bristled when asked if he might be accused of looking ahead in the series.
``I'm not accused of anything, sir,'' he said. ``I've got a good bullpen here, OK? I trust my bullpen.
``I'm bringing back the pitcher on three days' rest on Sunday, and I took a shot with my bullpen,'' Piniella said. ``It didn't work today. They've done it all year. I've got confidence in them. Period. End of the story.''
Piniella rejected the notion that his decision may have cost the Cubs a chance to win the best-of-five series.
``Listen, you guys, this is only the first game,'' he said. ``There's a lot of baseball to be played in this series, OK? It's not gloom and doom, this thing.''
Zambrano allowed one run and four hits in six innings, struck out eight and walked one. He threw 54 strikes.
Afterward, the emotional Zambrano would not criticize Piniella, parrying waves of reporters with the same answer.
``My job here is pitching, and his job is managing,'' Zambrano said. ``He's done a good job getting us here.''
If it hadn't been for Stephen Drew, Zambrano might have picked up his first career playoff victory in his fourth postseason start. Drew hit a solo homer off Zambrano in the fourth, then robbed the right-hander of an RBI single in the fifth.
The home run was Zambrano's only mistake, but it was a big one on a night the Cubs struggled against Arizona ace Brandon Webb.
``That was the only pitch,'' catcher Geovany Soto said of Drew's homer on a four-seam fastball. ``His stuff today was amazing. He was dominating every hitter he faced.''
Zambrano, a .247 hitter with two doubles this season, had the only extra-base hit against Webb, a line-drive double to left leading off the third.
But Webb, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, struck out Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones and Derrek Lee.
Zambrano pitched out of early trouble. Chris Young hit Zambrano's second pitch up the middle for a single, then stole second two pitches later, easily beating Soto's throw.
With the speedy Young dancing off second base, Zambrano recovered nicely, striking out Drew. Then he got Eric Byrnes to ground out to shortstop and struck out Tony Clark on a 3-2 breaking ball.
Zambrano had retired eight of nine before Drew homered to lead off the fourth. Drew hurt Zambrano again in the fifth, leaping to snag his line drive and stranding a runner on second base.
Piniella said he didn't consider having Zambrano try to sacrifice the runner, Ryan Theriot, to third.
``Zambrano hit a nice line shot,'' Piniella said. ``What are you going to do? We hit some balls hard and they caught them.''