HOUSTON (Ticker) --
did more than get the job done on the mound.
Zambrano came within two outs of his first career complete game and also hit a two-run homer, lifting the
to a 5-3 victory over the
After allowing three runs and three hits in the first inning, Zambrano (8-8) nearly was flawless the rest of the way. The righthander gave up two more hits, walked one and struck out seven before departing after allowing a one-out single in the ninth.
"If the Cubs don't have Zambrano, we win this game," said Astros catcher
, who had a two-run single in the first inning. "He pitched very well and shut down our offense."
Zambrano also had one of the game's biggest hits, belting his second career homer with two outs in the seventh, tying the game, 3-3.
"My job is to go out there and pitch," Zambrano said. "Anything else that happens is a bonus. I was feeling good today and I was having my best stuff. When you have it, you have to use it."
helped reward Zambrano, hitting a two-run homer with one out in the eighth off
(6-4) to snap the tie.
retired the final two batters for his 18th save in 21 chances.
, who struck out 14 in a dominant two-hitter victory at Chicago earlier this season, limited the Cubs to a pair of singles through the first five innings.
Miller struck out Zambrano to start the sixth before newly acquired
bunted his way on. After
struck out, Lofton stole second,
walked and Alou came through with an RBI single to pull the Cubs within 3-1.
, who was acquired along with Lofton from Pittsburgh on Tuesday, was retired on a fly ball to right field to end the inning.
It looked like Miller would cruise through the seventh after he retired the first two batters. But
singled and Cubs manager
elected to allow Zambrano to hit.
Baker's move paid off as Zambrano sent an 0-2 pitch the opposite way over the right field wall for his second homer of the season to tie the game.
"I just wanted to go up there and make contact," Zambrano said. "He threw me a curve inside and I was waiting for that. In my previous at-bat, I struck out on a curveball and I figured he was going to throw me one again. I just was watching for it and I hit it well."
"It wasn't a very good pitch," Miller said. "He's a decent hitter and he can swing the bat. It was the same pitch that I struck him out with in the previous at-bat. But this one was a little more in. It was the middle of the plate, a curveball and I knew it wasn't good when it left my hand. It was my game to win and this just makes me sick to my stomach. It was just one missed pitch."
Baker said there never was a doubt that he would let Zambrano hit.
"In that situation, he was the guy to go to," Baker said. "And he can hit. He had already seen Miller a couple of times and he was swinging as good as anybody who would have come off the bench who had not seen him."
Dotel came on to start the eighth and issued a leadoff walk to Grudzielanek. After Sosa struck out, Alou sent a 1-1 offering from the hard-throwing Dotel over the left-center field wall for his 15th homer, giving the Cubs a 5-3 lead.
"After I took the first pitch, I knew that I was going to have a good at-bat against Dotel because I wasn't up there trying to do too much," Alou said. "I knew that if he threw me something over the plate, I was going to hit it hard. I didn't think I was going to hit a home run."
Zambrano cruised into the ninth, retiring 11 straight batters. He got
to line out to third to start the inning before
ripped a single into right field.
Zambrano got off to shaky start, surrendering singles to
to open the bottom of the first. He retired the next two batters and should have been out of the inning but an error on third baseman Ramirez allowed Biggio to score.
"There were some errors there and as a pitcher you have to (work around) those," Zambrano said. "As a pitcher you have to stay out there and keep your focus. It was early in the game and I knew with our offense that we still had a chance to come back. Three runs (down) was nothing. I was out there to stay calm and throw my game."
Hidalgo was walked intentionally and Ausmus delivered a two-run single, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead.
Zambrano settled down, allowing only a double to Biggio with one out in the fifth and Berkman's hit in the ninth.