Zambrano's start for Cubs vs. Cards washed out

CHICAGO (AP) -- Carlos Zambrano wanted to show why the Cubs gave him a whopping five-year, $91.5 million dollar contract. For three innings Sunday night, he did. Then the game against the St. Louis Cardinals was rained out.

After retiring all nine batters he faced, Zambrano looked sharp, relieved and relaxed after getting his contract situation resolved after a season of waiting. He was certainly on track to be better than he had in his previous three starts.

"Oh way better. Yeah," he said. "I was throwing the ball where I wanted and I was feeling good with all my pitches today and it was going to be a good game today."

But after a 1 hour, 48-minute delay in the bottom of the third, the game was finally postponed. No makeup date was announced.

Zambrano, who's been stuck now on 14 wins since July 29, will have to go for No. 15 in his next start and he wasn't sure when that would be. He won't come back Monday in the series finale but said he'd be ready to pitch Tuesday or Wednesday.

Zambrano's previous three outings before Sunday were forgettable. He had to leave one with heat-related cramping and then was hit hard in the other two. But Sunday he appeared like the pitcher who'd won nine times in his previous 11 outings before the three-game lapse.

"I was feeling good," he said. "Beside that the good news is that Milwaukee lost today, we took a half-game, so we're still in first place."

The Brewers lost to the Reds, 7-6, and now trail Chicago by a game in the NL Central. The Cardinals are four games back in third place and will send Joel Pineiro out to face the Cubs' Ted Lilly in Monday's series finale. The Cubs won the first two games on Friday and Saturday.

"For us to avoid having to face Zambrano the whole game is probably a plus, at the expense of my start," said St. Louis right-hander Kip Wells, who opposed Zambrano on Sunday night.

It had rained most of the day in Chicago but tapered off in late afternoon and then stopped in time for the grounds grew to get the field ready in time for the scheduled first pitch.

Chicago manager Lou Piniella said if the uncertain status of Zambrano's future had affected the big right-hander recently, the new contract should help settle him down.

The biggest deal about the deal wasn't so much the money, Piniella said, but the peace of mind.

"I would think probably the fact he's going to remain a Cub, no trade. I think that probably has more to do with his -- how many Porsches can you buy? You know? -- than the actual dollars," Piniella said.

"He wanted to stay here and the Cubs wanted him here. I think that has more to do with it than the size of the contract. I would feel that way if I were the player. After a certain amount of money, what's the difference how much you make or don't make?"

NOTES: On Monday, Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa could tie Bucky Harris for third place on the all-time games managed list (4,408). ... Matt Murton beat out an infield grounder to short for the game's first and only hit just before the rain began to come down heavily Sunday night. ... Fans sticking around booed loudly when the game was finally called because they had waited nearly two hours and rain had let up again at the time.