It Was Like the Zambrano of Old

Carlos Zambrano (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

Carlos Zambrano said it best. "I guess I'm back. My arm is back, it's good," he said.

It definitely was all good for Zambrano on Sunday night as he tossed the first no-hitter of his career during the Cubs' 5-0 win over the Houston Astros 5-0 at Milwaukee's Miller Park.

The neutral-site game was made necessary by the effects of Hurricane Ike on Houston.

The most impressive thing about Zambrano was that he hadn't pitched since Sept. 2, when he took himself out of his start against the Astros at Wrigley Field because of shoulder problems. But his side work since then was good.

It was so good that Zambrano hit 98 mph in the first inning three times, as recorded by the scoreboard gun, and 99 once.

"I've seen him throw the ball like that, and that's the Zambrano we know," said catcher Geovany Soto.

"I'm a little confused," Zambrano said about his sudden recovery.

It was a huge game for the Cubs, who will need their ace for the playoff run. Manager Lou Piniella has set his rotation for the rest of the season, and Zambrano is scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the National League Division Series, if the Cubs make the playoffs.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Zambrano threw the Cubs' first no-hitter since Milt Pappas no-hit San Diego on Sept. 2, 1972. It was the ninth no hitter in Cubs history since 1900. For Zambrano, it was his eighth career complete game and third shutout. He was named Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week on Monday.

--RHP Chad Gaudin isn't a sure thing to return in the regular season. Gaudin hasn't pitched since Aug. 29 because of lower back soreness, but pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Gaudin is making progress at the team's Arizona facility. Rothschild said Gaudin played long-toss Sunday and that he'll pitch a side session Monday.

--LF Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a home run. It was his 28th homer overall this season and the fifth time he has led off a game with a homer in 2008. Soriano has 49 lifetime leadoff homers.

--LHP Ted Lilly will start Monday's makeup game against Houston at Milwaukee. Lilly is going on regular rest, having pitched last Wednesday at St. Louis, when he went eight innings in a 4-3 victory.

--LHP Sean Marshall likely is in the bullpen for the rest of the year. With the Cubs not having to play a doubleheader in the wake of Hurricane Ike, Piniella can go with his five top starters. Marshall is valuable in the 'pen because the Cubs have only one other left-handed reliever, Neal Cotts. Marshall also has the ability to go long if a starter gets injured during a game or gets knocked out early.

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