Z, Zero, Zambrano
Many of us are going to remember where we were during Carlos Zambrano’s
no-hitter tonight. I’ve heard from a few people who had thought about
driving to the rescheduled game but didn’t. Another was stuck on a
train without anything but my updates. It was amazing — but not
entirely surprising — to hear that over 23,000 fans bought tickets for
a game announced 24 hours ago.
But for me, this game was a year in the making.
See, Carlos calls me “Justin” for my resemblance to Detroit Tigers
pitcher Justin Verlander. Carlos has the first locker in the Wrigley
Field home clubhouse, and one of the first times I walked into the Cubs
clubhouse last season, he said to Larry Rothschild, “Did we get
He wasn’t really talking to me, but I told him I knew he was talking
about me and said that I could actually pass for it if I were about a
foot taller. Our inside joke was born.
The day after Verlander threw a no-hitter June 12, 2007, against the
Brewers, I ran into Carlos in the Cubs dugout, and he congratulated me
on the accomplishment. I asked him what he thought of “my” pitching,
and he responded, “Oh, real good. Shoo, shoo, shoo, shoo,” while
signaling pitch movement in all four directions.
Four days later, Big Z almost had his own. I still remember the
emotional rollercoaster I went through sitting behind home plate at the
June 16, 2007, game against the Padres. He had allowed no hits through
7.1 innings, and I already was thinking about what I’d say to him if he
pulled it off.
But Marcus Giles hit a weak grounder up the middle that just squeaked
by Big Z himself, and Carlos ended up allowing the game’s only run on a
leadoff homer in the ninth to lose. I kept my mouth shut.
Tonight, however, Carlos answered several doubts that had arisen over
the last month. Coming off 12 days of rest, he had velocity, movement,
command, composure and endurance. The Cubs now sit 7.5 games ahead of
the Brewers, who have also fallen into a tie with the Phillies for the
wild card. That puts the Cubs’ magic number at seven games, giving them
the opportunity to clinch the division at home.
Carlos’ performance might have gotten the Cubs just one win closer to
the postseason, but I think it matters a lot more than that to him, the
team and Cubs fans.
So, Big Z, I had my moment. Congrats on getting yours.