CHICAGO (Ticker) --
is having no problem adjusting to the pressure of a pennant race.
Zambrano's dominant five-hitter resulted in his first career shutout and
belted a two-run homer as the
inched closer to the
in the National League Central Division with a 3-0 triumph.
A 22-year-old righthander, Zambrano has made the most of his first full season in one of the NL's top rotations. He also has not let the pressure of pitching in a pennant race affect him.
Zambrano (11-8) won his fifth straight start with the best performance of his young career. He allowed four singles and a double, walking two and matching a career best with 10 strikeouts in the longest outing of his career.
"It makes me feel good to pitch like that and it's nice to see the manager have confidence in me to let me stay in and finish," Zambrano said.
Zambrano also indicated that some extra work has been helping him.
"My stuff is getting better," Zambrano said. "I have been practicing in the bullpen between starts, and I have been throwing more aggressive and I'm more confident."
"It's a big win for us and a big win for him," Cubs manager
said. "He's pitched good his last four outings, and it's huge that he went the distance for the first time."
Zambrano also continued his mastery of the first-place Astros, improving to 3-0 against them this season. He has allowed just three runs over 31 2/3 innings in those outings.
"They have a good team and they are in our division, so it's important to pitch well and for us to beat them," Zambrano said.
Gonzalez gave Zambrano all the offense he needed in the first inning with his 15th homer of the season.
added three hits for the Cubs, who pulled within 2 1/2 games of the Astros.
(8-10) gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out two.
"I just got outpitched," Redding said. "When a guy throws a four-hit shutout against this offense, you just can't do much."
Trying to rebound from Monday's loss in the series opener in which the Astros beat
, the Cubs got to Redding for a pair of runs in the first.
Lofton led off with a hard single into left field and Gonzalez, who who entered the contest mired in a 2-for-45 slump, drove a 3-1 pitch from Redding the opposite way over the right field wall.
"It felt good to help the team, and contribute early with the bat, then sit back and let Zambrano do his thing," Gonzalez said.
"I didn't make too many bad pitches tonight," Redding said. "Even the home run wasn't a bad pitch, but I was behind and it's easy to hit when you're sitting on a count when you're ahead."
Zambrano dominated from the outset. He struck out
to end the first and fanned the side in order in the second.
broke the string of strikeouts when he was retired on a comebacker in the third.
followed with a double and, after Redding grounded out, Biggio walked. But Blum flied weakly to left to end the inning.
Redding worked out of a jam in the bottom of the inning, retiring former Astro
on a fly ball to right field to strand a pair of runners.
Zambrano put the leadoff batter on in the fourth and fifth but the Astros could not capitalize. He cruised through the sixth and seventh before the Astros put runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth.
But Zambrano worked out of trouble in the eighth by getting Bagwell to bounce into a forceout to end the inning.
"Zambrano was probably the key to the game since we didn't score any runs," Astros manager
gave Zambrano his final run to work with in the sixth when he ripped a single into right field to plate Alou.