MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Zambrano has put his midseason troubles behind him and is back to being a dominant pitcher.
Zambrano pitched three-hit ball into the ninth inning Friday night, winning his fifth consecutive decision since returning to the starting rotation after being suspended in June following a dugout spat and leading the Chicago Cubs to a 4-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
"Everything was working today and I am very happy with the way I pitched," Zambrano said. "
Zambrano gave up just three singles in 8 2/3 innings, had three hits of his own and drove in a run. He tied a season high with nine strikeouts and walked three, giving him 32 strikeouts and 10 walks in his last four starts.
Zambrano even reacted calmly when he was removed from the game in the ninth inning after an error by shortstop Starlin Castro robbed him of a complete game. He had retired 13 straight batters until Ryan Braun lined a single to left field with two outs in the ninth.
Prince Fielder followed with a groundball that Castro botched for an error. Closer Carlos Marmol was brought in and got Casey McGehee to fly out to right field on his first pitch to end the game. It was Marmol's's 29th save in 34 chances.
"Sometimes I get frustrated when someone commits an error," Zambrano said. "But at the end of the day, you realize we're all human and we all make mistakes. He [Castro] tried his best but just couldn't make the play. We won the game and that's what is important."
Cubs interim manager Mike Quade said Zambrano's performance was "vintage."
"Of all the good starts he has made recently, that was the best," Quade said. "He had the whole package tonight. He was really good."
Quade said Zambrano is a different pitcher since he returned, both from a pitching and mental standpoint.
"I know he pitches with passion and emotions and that's OK, but he's been as calm and as good as I've seen him," he said. "I've enjoyed watching hiim for a lot of years, but this stretch has been something special."
Brewers manager Ken Macha said his team's best chance to get to Zambrano came in the second inning when he walked the first two hitters. But Zambrano grabbed a liner from Chris Dickerson and then got an inning-ending double play.
"Zambrano has been throwing the ball well and he did that again tonight," Macha said.
Dave Bush (7-12) pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up three runs and five hits for the Brewers.
Bush said he tried to match Zambrano, but four walks did him in.
"It was one those days for us," he said. "[The walks] were a lot of guys for me to put on base. That hurt me the most."
The Cubs grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning. After Darwin Barney and Zambrano singled, Kosuke Fukudome hit a grounder to Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, whose throw to second was wide, allowing Barney to score. Castro hit a sacrifice fly to score Zambrano.
Zambrano helped himself in the fifth inning. After Blake DeWitt walked and Barney singled, Zambrano lined a single to center to score DeWitt and increase the Cubs lead to 3-0.
Barney scored on a throwing error in the eighth inning after Zambrano beat out a grounder for his third hit to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said the team was investigating who put a fake press release critical of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry in the press box before the game. ... Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed his fourth straight game with a sore right quad. He is day to day. ... Prior to the game, the Brewers recalled right-hander Mark Rogers from Double-A Huntsville. The 2004 draft pick made his major league debut pitching a scoreless ninth inning.