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Big hits back Big Z in Cubs' win over Halos

Big hits back Big Z in Cubs' win over Halos

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CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella delivered a message to his players after Saturday's 12-0 loss. On Sunday the Cubs made a statement of their own.

Derrek Lee drove in a season-high four runs and Geovany Soto hit a solo homer to pace an 18-hit attack and power the Cubs to a 12-1 Interleague victory over the Angels and avoid a sweep.

Piniella told the players after Saturday's debacle that they had to play better or else continue to be embarrassed. Did someone say something before Sunday's game?

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"We all did," Marlon Byrd said. "From batting practice on, coming in here and in the dugout. Everyone said, 'Step it up, let's go.' Everyone was ready. This team, we don't lay down. That was embarrassing yesterday. We all know that. That's not the team we are. We came in ready today, and you saw it from everybody walking in here."

It was a different attitude, and one the Cubs hope to maintain.

"We were ready today," Byrd said. "We're going to carry that on now."

Carlos Zambrano (3-5) had his best outing since returning to the rotation. He served up eight hits, including Torii Hunter's RBI double in the fourth, and struck out seven over seven innings. He also had two hits, including an RBI single.

"He had better velocity," Piniella said of Zambrano, who won for the first time at Wrigley Field since July 12, 2009. "He had good movement. He used his breaking ball a lot more than the last three games. He used enough split-fingers.

"The breaking ball came more into play than it had in prior games. He becomes a three-pitch pitcher and can get you out as opposed to [just] throwing fastballs."

"One thing I know is when I have my good sinker, I know it's tough to hit that pitch," Zambrano said. "Thank God everything went good today and we avoided a sweep."

This was the first time Zambrano faced the Angels. They won't forget it.

"He looked like his old self," said Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick. "He was moving it in and out, with good stuff. He made some mistakes, and we missed them. He made pitches when he needed them."

The Cubs committed five errors in the first two games of the series but the Angels were guilty of two on Sunday, and both were costly. Chicago loaded the bases with two outs in the first against Joe Saunders (5-8). Alfonso Soriano drove in one run with an infield single, and another run scored on Kendrick's throwing error.

Ryan Theriot was safe on an infield single leading off the second, moved up on Zambrano's groundout and was safe at third despite an attempted putout on Byrd's grounder. Jeff Baker then hit an RBI double, and Byrd scored on Lee's sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.

Soto launched the first pitch from Saunders leading off the third, a fastball, into the left-field bleachers for his eighth home run of the year. Starlin Castro singled and scored one batter later on Zambrano's single. One out later, Baker was safe on an error by shortstop Brandon Wood, and Lee followed with a two-run double to chase Saunders.

Byrd doubled with one out in the fifth off Sean O'Sullivan and scored one out later on Lee's single. Lee entered the game with three RBIs in eight previous games of the homestand.

"This team is capable of doing that and more," Zambrano said. "Today was an example that this team can hit, and I believe this team can hit."

Having the ace back in the rotation helps. Zambrano now is 2-2 since returning from his brief stint in the bullpen. This was his third quality start, and he's looking ahead.

"I always say that you can have a terrible season, but when the playoffs come, and everything matters, you can be the MVP of the World Series," Zambrano said. "That's when things count."

Both Zambrano and the offense have been inconsistent. Can the Cubs now turn it around?

"If we want to win, we have to be consistent in what we have to do," Zambrano said.

"This is what we're capable of doing," Piniella said. "Let's see if we can get consistent with it. Today was a good start."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["interleague_play" ] }
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