Cubs relievers have not allowed a run in their last 17 2/3 innings over nine games.
Hero: Carlos Zambrano (4-1) won his 10th straight road start with eight terrific innings as the Cubs (14-16), sporting classy 1944 replica uniforms, took two of three in the series and four of seven on the road trip. Zambrano, whose first pitch was delivered with an old-fashioned windmill windup, allowed one (earned) run on five hits while striking out four and walking one.
"He was Big Z today, he wasn't Carlos," Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd said. "I saw 92, 94 (MPH) on the board today. He's a power pitcher, and that's what he has to do to win."
Did you catch Big Z dancing in the dugout as a recording of the Glenn Miller Orchestra's "In the Mood" blared over the Dodger Stadium public address system? It's welcome to see him enjoying the game again.
"He did what he did easily, to me, without a lot of pomp and circumstance," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He just went after hitters. When he's got some soft game to go with his moving fastball and can locate, he's really tough. He went right after guys and attacked them."
Zambrano's last road loss came last June 25 at Comiskey Park - his infamous meltdown game.
Hero: Alfonso Soriano hit his fourth home run of the season - a three-run shot during the Cubs' five-run first inning - and, with help from a Starlin Castro relay throw, gunned down Houston's Brett Wallace at the plate when Wallace tried to score from first on a Matt Downs double in the second inning.
Heroes: The first two hitters in the Cubs' lineup - Starlin Castro (3-for-5) and Darwin Barney (2-for-3) - combined for five hits and scored all five of the Cubs' runs in the first four innings against Houston starter Nelson Figueroa (0-2).
Hero: Man, does this guy rake lefties! Jeff Baker went 4-for-5, including a go-ahead, three-run homer off Milwaukee starter Randy Wolf (0-2) in the fourth inning. Baker is 6-for-11 against southpaws this season.
Baker also contributed a two-out RBI single in the sixth and scored in the ninth on a Marlon Byrd double after reaching on a leadoff single.
Hero: Andrew Cashner was terrific in his first major league start before exiting after 5 1/3 innings with tightness in his pitching shoulder. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed just two hits, struck out two, and walked one. He went to a three-ball count on just two batters, and fired 43 of his 72 pitches for strikes.
Hero: Blake DeWitt put a miserable spring training behind him by delivering a tie-breaking, two-run double to cap a five-run Cubs eighth.
The snow has melted, the days are getting noticeably longer, and the Cubs are playing spring training games in Arizona.
The improved play the Cubs demonstrated under interim manager Mike Quade during the season's final weeks (a 24-13 record) was encouraging but it doesn't change the fact that the 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster.
Heroes: Thomas Diamond, Marcos Mateo, and Sean Marshall combined for two scoreless and hitless innings as Cubs relievers closed the season with 28 straight shutout innings. The bullpen posted a 1.19 ERA in its final 25 games.
Heroes: Relievers Marcos Mateo, Sean Marshall, and Justin Berg set down the final nine Houston hitters.
Hero: Kosuke Fukudome (1-for-3), who continues to sizzle in August, hit a two-run, game-tying homer off reliever Arthur Rhodes in the eighth inning. Fukudome, who is hitting .274 on the season, is hitting .367 with a 1.081 OPS in August.
How do you know that you're in a room with somebody who went to Notre Dame?
Hero: Carlos Zambrano (5-6) turned in perhaps his finest performance of the season, allowing one (earned) run on five hits over 7 1/3 innings. Zambrano struck out eight and walked one. Of his 108 pitches, 68 were for strikes.
Hero: Tom Gorzelanny (7-7) allowed one (earned) run on seven hits over seven innings while striking out nine and walking two.
Heroes: Back-to-back two-out RBI doubles by Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez gave the Cubs a brief 2-1 lead.
Hero: Sean Marshall allowed one hit, walked one, and struck out a pair in two shutout innings of relief.