Q: What's hot and blue and has 250 toes?
A: The Chicago Cubs.
The North Siders got their fourth straight comeback win last night behind another strong performance from Carlos Zambrano, who improved to 6-1. His three earned runs raised his ERA to 2.03, but something tells me he doesn't care.
The Cubs are 15-6 at Wrigley Field, off to a 4-0 start and batting .323 on the current homestand. They're either grinding out a win with scrappy late-inning hitting or piling it on with a double-digit scoring barrage. Last night it was the latter as they overwhelmed the hapless San Diego Padres softball-style.
I arrived home as Zambrano was batting to lead off the fifth inning with the Cubs down a run. As I pulled into my garage, listening to the game on the radio, Zambrano hit a ball off the outfield wall and ended up on second.
Wanting to see whether leadoff man Alfonso Soriano would drive him in, I knew I had to hustle upstairs because Soriano hacks at everything. He's never met a first pitch he doesn't like.
So I hurry up the stairs and straight to my TV... just in time to see Soriano rounding second in his home run trot. Less than a minute had gone by, but that was all it took. It's great to see Soriano returning to form after missing much of the season with an injury.
With the floodgates thus open, the Cubs batted around and scored six runs in that inning. It was their major league-leading 12th time they have scored at least five runs in an inning. That is, until ten minutes later, when they batted around again and scored five more the next inning.
Pity the Padres, whose wheels have already come off in this young season. They've barely won a game in the last three weeks, recently releasing All-Star Jim Edmonds as they try to figure out what's wrong with their team. For now, it's "Greg Maddux and pray for four days of rain."
As dominant as Zambrano is on the mound, his batsmanship is also noteworthy. He takes pride in his hitting and does it well, going 2 for 4 last night to raise his average to .296. He's a big man who can hit for power and do the little things like hit behind the runner.
Zambrano can also switch-hit, getting a hit last night from each side of the plate. And when he gets on, he runs the bases like an enthusiastic Little Leaguer.
He also has a cute sense of humor. After the game, he was asked whether the chilly weather bothered him. "No," the Venezualan deadpanned, "because I'm from Alaska." Everyone chuckled.
A lot of people are smiling in Wrigley Field these days.