9/27 Mom knows best for Z

Carlos Zambrano’s mother showed up at just the right time. Pitching in front of his mother for the first time in his big league career, Zambrano threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Cubs to a 1-0 victory over the Padres on Monday night. Zambrano (10-6) fanned five to raise his career strikeout total to 1,436 and now is second on the Cubs’ all-time list, passing Charlie Root (1,432). Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins is first with 2,038 K’s.

“One of the greatest pitchers of all time said he’d rather have a sinker and movement than velocity and that was Greg Maddux,” Zambrano said of the four-time Cy Young winner and former Cubs pitcher. “It’s good to pitch with velocity but for me, like Maddux says, it’s good to have movement and have all your pitches look like each other. My sinker looks like my split-finger. That confuses the hitters.”

He got some help from his defense. With a runner on first and none out in the Padres’ second, first baseman Xavier Nady made a leaping catch to snare Chase Headley’s line drive and then stepped on the bag for a double play.

His mother was finally able to see her son in person. She got a visa this month so she could leave Venezuela and come to the United States.

“I knew she was there and she inspired me,” Zambrano said. “I’ve been pitching here for nine years without my mom and today was special. It was good to see her in the stands and good to get the win.”

Did he hear her at all during the game?

“She’s totally the opposite of my dad,” Zambrano said. “My dad can be in the stands and you’ll know it. My mom is quiet and she’s more calm. If I had a son, I’d be in the stands clapping and doing all kinds of things for him.”

We’ll let you decide who Carlos takes after more, his father or mother.

She is expected to be there for his season finale on Saturday in Houston. Zambrano has looked more like the No. 1 pitcher on the Cubs staff in the last few weeks.

“I don’t want to say he’s re-invented himself,” Padres manager Bud Black said, “but tonight I saw a three-pitch mix with a lot of secondary pitches when he was behind in the count. It’s a credit to him …. Mid-stream, changing his style.”

Zambrano now is 7-0 with a 1.07 ERA (7 earned runs in 59 innings) in his last nine starts dating to Aug. 14. It’s the second-best ERA in the Major Leagues, trailing Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (1.06 ERA).

“He’s pitching now,” MIguel Tejada said. “He does not have the 98 [mph fastball] any more. He’s always been a good pitcher. Now I think he’s throwing the right pitch when he needs it.”

— Carrie Muskat

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