Big Z battles on mound, at plate as Cubs win 8th in row

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Carlos Zambrano leaped in frustration after walking a batter. He snatched a throwback from catcher Henry Blanco with his bare hand. He legged out three hits for the third time this season.

Zambrano put on quite a show, all right -- with his emotions and his bat. His pitching? It was good enough to get the big right-hander through five innings and the Chicago Cubs their eighth straight win, 7-6 over the San Diego Padres.

Coming off a 130-pitch effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Zambrano (8-1) allowed three runs in the first inning before settling down.

Manager Lou Piniella had to come out to the mound after Zambrano walked Jody Gerut with two outs in the second inning.

Piniella told Zambrano to relax, concentrate on hitters and stop fighting himself because it was letting the Padres know he was frustrated.

"It's hard enough to be at your best when you're under control," Piniella said.

"I was curious how he was going to bounce back today," the manager said. "He wasn't sharp. Actually, he battled his way through five innings. He fought himself and the other team. But you know what? He got himself a win and we shortened him up and he should be much sharper the next time out."

Zambrano hit a standup RBI triple that tied the game in the fourth, his third career triple. He raised his average to .366.

Zambrano allowed three runs and five hits, walked four and struck out two.

"It was good I came back and did my job, and the offense responded," Zambrano said.

The best team in baseball, the Cubs (37-21) held on to win the opener of a seven-game swing through San Diego and Los Angeles. They were coming off a 7-0 stretch at Wrigley Field, their first unbeaten homestand of at least six games since 1970. It's their first eight-game winning streak since 2001, when they won 12 straight between May 19-June 2.

After playing 17 of 23 at Wrigley, the Cubs began a stretch in which they play 23 of 32 on the road, where they have lost five straight series.

"They are on a nice roll here," Padres manager Bud Black said. "They are swinging the bats well. They are playing with a lot of confidence."

The Cubs entered June with the best record in baseball for the first time since 1908, when they last won a World Series.

San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer off Carlos Marmol with one out in the ninth, his 17th. Gonzalez was 3-for-4 and drove in four runs to take over sole possession of the NL lead with 54 RBIs.

Kerry Wood got the final two outs for his 15th save in 19 chances.

Zambrano was erratic early, falling behind 3-0 in the first inning after putting four of the first five batters on base. Gonzalez hit an RBI single to right with one out, and Kevin Kouzmanoff followed with a two-run triple to right-center, the deepest part of Petco Park.

Zambrano was entertaining in the second inning.

After missing badly outside to walk Tadahito Iguchi with two outs, the big right-hander leaped in the air in frustration and tucked his legs underneath him as he came down.

When he missed with a pitch to Brian Giles, Zambrano snatched the ball out of the air with his bare hand on the throwback from Blanco.

Blanco's next throwback deflected off Zambrano's glove and rolled a few feet to his right. He picked it up, got back on the rubber, turned and threw to shortstop Ryan Theriot to pick off Gerut, who had walked ahead of Iguchi.

Zambrano "made pitches after that first inning," Gonzalez said. "We had a couple of opportunities we could have capitalized on, but he's a very good pitcher."

The Cubs pulled to 3-1 in the second when Aramis Ramirez reached on a leadoff single, advanced on a single by Kosuke Fukudome -- whom the Padres tried to sign in the offseason -- and scored on Cha Seung Baek's wild pitch.

Fukudome walked opening the fourth and scored on Edmonds' double down the right-field line. With two outs, Zambrano tripled to right-center to bring in Edmonds and tie the game.

"I'm fast, huh?" Zambrano joked. "It was good to help my team."

Zambrano singled leading off the third and beat out a bunt single in the sixth to load the bases, but was stranded both times.

The Cubs went ahead 4-3 in the fifth on Fukudome's sacrifice fly. They added on in the sixth with Alfonso Soriano's sac fly and Theriot's RBI single, before Edmonds hit a run-scoring double in the seventh.

Baek (1-1) was starting in place of Shawn Estes, who broke his left thumb on Friday night when he fell on the tunnel stairs between the team's clubhouse and dugout Friday night in San Francisco.

Baek allowed four runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, struck out two and walked one. He lasted only 4 2/3 in his other start this year, April 13 against Anaheim while with Seattle.

Game notes
Jim Edmonds, released by the Padres on May 9 after his batting average had fallen to .178 -- more than 100 points below his lifetime mark -- hit two RBI doubles and scored one run for the Cubs. ... The Cubs are 15-2 against the NL West.