Zambrano gets first major league shutout

CHICAGO (AP) -- On a pitching staff featuring Kerry Wood and Mark
Prior, Carlos Zambrano could easily be overlooked.

Not anymore. Not after going 5-0 since the All-Star break.

Zambrano pitched a five-hitter for his first major league
shutout Tuesday night as the Chicago Cubs beat the Houston Astros

"It's one team that makes me throw more aggressively than other
teams," Zambrano said after improving to 3-0 with and 0.85 ERA
against the Astros this season.

"I've been practicing in the bullpen and between my starts to
be more consistent and aggressive."

Houston's lead in the NL Central was reduced to one game over
St. Louis, which beat the Pirates 10-6, and 2{ over the Cubs.

Zambrano (11-8) started strongly and finished with 10 strikeouts
to match a career high. After retiring Craig Biggio on a grounder
to start the game, he fanned five straight -- Geoff Blum, Jeff
Bagwell, Jeff Kent, Lance Berkman and Richard Hidalgo.

"He had good action on his ball. He throws 96 mph with a little
cut and you are in for a battle," Biggio said.

"He's a power pitcher with a lot of movement," Cubs manager
Dusty Baker said of the 22-year-old Zambrano. "It moves, it sinks,
it cuts, it darts. His potential is unlimited. ... He was awesome
tonight. It's as good a game as you'll see."

Alex Gonzalez, benched for two days and in a 2-for-46 slump that
had driven his average down to .224, hit a two-run homer in the
first inning off Tim Redding (8-10).

Moved up from seventh in the batting order to second after a
hand injury forced Ramon Martinez to the bench, Gonzalez hit his
15th of the season and first since July 21.

"I didn't make too many bad pitches tonight. I didn't even
think the home run was a bad pitch in the first," Redding said.

"I got outpitched. A guy goes five-hit, complete game against
us, striking out 10. He's been pitching well against us all year

The Astros threatened with two outs in the eighth when Zambrano
hit Biggio and Blum singled, before Bagwell hit into a forceout.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Zambrano, who's not afraid to show his
emotions on the mound, then finished up his first career complete

"He's been dominating," said Gonzalez, who also started a
game-ending double play. "You sit out there and watch him pitch,
almost like a spectator."

The Cubs added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Aramis
Ramirez following a single by Moises Alou, a stolen base and walk
to Hee Seop Choi.

Game notes
Zambrano also struck out 10 Astros on July 20, 2002 ...
Martinez, who'd been filling in at second for Mark Grudzielanek
while he recovers from a broken hand, sat out with a sore hand.
Augie Ojeda started in his place. ... Kent made a sensational play
to end the Cubs' sixth inning and hold them to a single run. Kenny
Lofton hit a hard grounder up the middle with two outs and the
bases loaded and shortstop Adam Everett fielded the ball and made a
one-bounce shovel pass to Kent. He scooped it and was able to reach
back and hit the bag with his leg and force Ojeda. ... Lofton, who
sat out Monday's game with a jammed wrist, had three hits. ... The
last Cubs pitcher to win five straight decisions was Jon Lieber in