PHOENIX (Ticker) --
came within four outs of his first career no-hitter. In the end, he was lucky to come away with a victory.
Zambrano stymied the
for 7 2/3 innings before withstanding a ninth-inning rally and
homered twice as the
posted a 4-1 triumph.
After allowing just one baserunner over seven innings, Zambrano (12-9) retired the first two batters in the eighth.
then bounced a 1-1 pitch that third baseman
scooped up and hurled toward first. An outstretched
made the catch and first base umpire Kevin Kelley called Hillenbrand safe, ending the no-hit bid.
"I had the guy safe," Kelley said. "It was a play where Randall made a great stretch, made a great play. I have to go with what I have on the field."
"I was really sad about that play," Zambrano said. "That took me out of my concentration because I was trying to throw the no-hitter. Four more outs to throw the no-hitter, I was really sad. I saw the play on the field. I thought he was out. (Kelley) is human and anybody can make a mistake."
Replays did show Hillenbrand to be out, but
stroked a single up the middle with one on and two outs in the ninth to prevent any embarrassment for Kelley.
followed with an RBI double to bring the tying run to the plate, but Zambrano induced a groundout by
to secure the victory.
"It's sad because of the way Zambrano was pitching today," Simon said of Hillenbrand's single. "He was impressive. For something like that to happen to his no-hitter, it's not a good feeling. I know it was a close play. I know I had him, but the umpire decided to call him safe and it broke his no-hitter."
"That was awesome. It was as good a pitching performance as I've ever seen," Chicago manager
said. "He was ahead of most hitters. ... (He) kept the ball in the infield and had a very low pitch count for nine innings. You hate to see a no-hitter end like that because they don't come along very often. That would have been a tremendous feather in that young man's cap."
Zambrano did record his second complete game in three starts, allowing a run and three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
"Everything was perfect," Zambrano said. "I tried to pitch my game. I was real good today. Everything was in command. They were swinging early. That helped me a little bit. When you have great stuff and they're swinging like that, that will help you a little bit."
Sosa gave Zambrano all the support he needed in the opening inning, belting a two-run homer. He added a solo shot in the fourth for his 30th homer, marking the ninth consecutive season he has reached the plateau. It was Sosa's fourth multi-homer game of the season and 62nd of his career.
"I was just trying to go out there and be patient, don't swing at pitches out of the strike zone," Sosa said. "I just hit two tough pitches - a fastball outside, then a split - two tough pitches."
(7-7) took the loss despite fanning 14 for his third straight double-digit strikeout game. He surrendered four runs and six hits in eight innings while moving past
for 24th place on the all-time strikeout list with 2,508.
"Well, I mean I threw 104 pitches tonight and two of the 104 were not where I wanted them," Schilling said. "The other 102 I threw, I threw every pitch where I wanted the entire game. I just hung a split to Sammy in the second at-bat and hung a split to Ramirez later in the game. I made three mistakes today, two physical and one to me was mental."
The Cubs got to Schilling in the first to take a 2-0 lead.
opened the game with a bunt single, but former Diamondback
were retired. Lofton stole second and third before Sosa launched a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall for his 29th homer.
The Dominican slugger made it 3-0 in the fourth with a leadoff homer, his 500th as a Cub, and Ramirez started the seventh with his seventh homer in 28 games with Chicago.
"I feel very happy," Sosa said. "But I have to continue doing my job and perform because this is not time to celebrate right now. Just have to continue to be there every day and when my career is finished, I can see everything I have done."
"The pitch in the first inning was probably, in hindsight, the wrong pitch, which is the one that is probably going to eat me up for a couple of days," Schilling said. "The other two are physical mistakes. Frustrating."
Zambrano faced just one batter over the minimum before Hillenbrand's questionable hit, issuing a leadoff walk to Mondesi in the fifth.
"To carry a no-hitter as deep in the game as he did, ..." Arizona manager
said. "We didn't hit much hard tonight. His ball was moving all over the place. He was tough."
But after retiring the first two hitters in the ninth, he began to struggle. Pinch hitter
drew a five-pitch walk and Gonzalez singled to put runners on the corners. Mondesi then stroked Zambrano's first pitch down the left field line to plate Baerga and spoil the shutout.
"The balls just didn't find the holes, so I guess you got to tip your hat (to Zambrano) a little bit," Diamondbacks third baseman
said. "But you know, it is good to see that, not roll over and die in the ninth."