Zambrano, Barrett brawl in dugout during Cubs' loss


• Summary: The most damaging strike ace Carlos Zambrano threw Friday was in the dugout, against his Cubs' batterymate, Michael Barrett. After allowing five Atlanta runs in the top of the fifth, the two allowed a spat to turn into an all-out altercation that left Barrett with a bloody lip, manager Lou Piniella with a mess to clean up, and the Cubs with an embarrassing 8-5 loss to the Braves at Wrigley.


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• Boiling point: Atlanta scored five runs in its half of the fifth for a 7-1 lead. Jeff Francoeur's two-run double made it 4-1 and, with runners on first and second, a Zambrano fastball was mishandled by Barrett whose wild throw to third let Scott Thorman score. Kyle Davies and Kelly Johnson followed with RBI doubles.

• Unsung hero: Francoeur wore out Chicago's staff with a rally-starting two-run double in the fifth and one-run single in the sixth to do his part in a 20-hit day for the Braves.

• Figure this: Chicago has lost nine of its last 11 and dropped to 22-30 for the season.

-- news services

Braves 8, Cubs 5

CHICAGO (AP) -- Now the Chicago Cubs are really getting beat up -- by each other.

Carlos Zambrano and catcher Michael Barrett shoved each other in the dugout, then the pitcher busted his teammate's lip in the clubhouse so badly that Barrett wound up in a hospital.

Not-so-lovable losers

 Gene Wojciechowski
Even before Friday's slugout in the dugout, the Cubs were a lost cause, writes Gene Wojciechowski.

Oh yeah, the Cubs lost again, 8-5 to the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

"I only have so many players that I can play. You know?" manager Lou Piniella said during a postgame media session with reporters that escalated into shouting. "And it's about time some of them start playing like major leaguers! Or, get somebody else in here that can catch the damn ball or run the bases properly! All right? That's all I can say!"

Piniella left the interview room, muttering a profanity along the way. It wasn't clear if he was singling out Barrett, who had a baserunning blunder earlier in the week, or referring to the whole team.

Both players will be disciplined Saturday, according to the manager.

"These things shouldn't happen," Piniella said earlier in the session. "Go fight the other team if you have to. Amongst yourselves? It happens, but it really shouldn't."

Atlanta had just scored five runs in the top of the fifth to increase its lead to 7-1. Jeff Francoeur's two-run double made it 4-1 and, with runners on first and second, Barrett allowed a passed ball and threw wildly to third for an error that let Scott Thorman score. Pitcher Kyle Davies (3-3) and Kelly Johnson followed with RBI doubles.

Zambrano (5-5) was seen pointing at his head and yelling at the catcher in the dugout before the bottom half, while Barrett pointed toward the field. There was shoving and some slaps.

Zambrano cocked his right fist as they were being separated. Piniella said Zambrano was upset about the passed ball, and the manager along with several players walked the pitcher back to the clubhouse. Piniella told Zambrano to take a shower and go home, then returned to the dugout.

Moments later, a clubhouse attendant could be seen telling Piniella something. Derrek Lee jumped up and headed into the tunnel, and Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild followed.

"Michael went up there," Piniella said. "I was watching the game."

Piniella also banished Barrett, who was being examined after the game at a hospital.

"You don't want to see people fight one another on your own team," he said. "You don't want to see it. You really don't. And at the same time, you don't like to see some of the silliness that's going on the field.

Scott Eyre relieved Zambrano, who was pitching on his 26th birthday and allowed a career-high 13 hits in five innings. Koyie Hill, who had just been called up from Triple-A Iowa, replaced Barrett.

"Your whole family's watching, and that's the last thing you want," Chicago's Aramis Ramirez said.

General manager Jim Hendry, who was on a scouting trip, said Barrett received stitches to close the cut.

"It's disappointing," Hendry said. "You certainly don't like to see that. Frustration set in. You've got two guys who care about winning."

Assistant general manager Randy Bush said: "As an organization, we're very disappointed about the incident between Michael and Carlos. They're two highly competitive, caring individuals, who put a lot into the game. Frustrations boiled over. It can happen. ... We're very disappointed. I think it shows the level of frustration among the players, the coaches, the general manager, the front office."

Atlanta felt sorry for the Cubs.

"In baseball, you never want to see that," Francoeur said. "Even on the other team, no matter how bad stuff is. That's an unfortunate incident but they're professionals and I'm sure they'll make up and move on."

Davies allowed one run and six hits in seven innings for the Braves, who had a season-high 20 hits. Davis, Johnson, Edgar Renteria and Willie Harris had three apiece.

Chicago has lost nine of 11 and is 22-30 -- not exactly the start the Cubs were looking for after spending $300 million to bring in Piniella along with free agents Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis.

Chicago committed several baserunning blunders -- one by Barrett -- Tuesday in a 9-4 loss to Florida that Piniella had said "might be our worst game of the year." A day later, the players held a lengthy pregame meeting, and Piniella and team executives had one of their own. Then, the Marlins beat them 9-0.

It was just as bad Friday.

Johnson sent a pop to shallow left on the game's second pitch and it fell for a single as shortstop Ryan Theriot seemed to lose it in the sun. With one out, Ramirez bobbled Renteria's grounder to third and had to settle for getting the runner at first instead of a possible double play. Brian McCann then singled to put the Braves ahead to stay.

Cubs right fielder Matt Murton dropped a fly in the fourth, allowing another run to score.

"We're a bad team right now," Lee said.

Although they won for the third time in four games, the Braves got some more bad news on third baseman Chipper Jones. He'll go on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right hand on Saturday, manager Bobby Cox said. Jones has been experiencing pain in both hands since a baserunning collision on May 11 and had missed his eighth straight game.

Game notes
Ramirez hit a two-run homer off Peter Moylan in the eighth and Jacque Jones homered in the ninth. A fan ran onto the field as Ramirez's shot headed toward the seats. ... The Braves are expected to purchase the contract of INF Yunel Escobar from Triple-A Richmond on Saturday. ... Cubs OF Cliff Floyd was a late scratch because of minor inflammation in the cartilage of his ribcage, so Murton started in right. ... The Cubs placed backup C Henry Blanco on the 15-day DL with a herniated disk in his neck and recalled Hill.