Carlos Zambrano beat the Phillies with 7.2 innings of one-run ball yesterday and also homered for the first time since joining the Marlins and the 24th time in his career.
That ties him with Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Walter Johnson for the seventh-most homers by a pitcher in baseball history and Zambrano has hit those 24 homers in just 732 plate appearances, whereas Gibson needed 1,489 and Johnson needed 2,520. On a per-plate appearance basis Zambrano has the third-best homer rate among all pitchers to go deep at least 20 times.
He’s now five homers from tying Don Drysdale for sixth place, but moving up any further than that will be tough. Warren Spahn and Earl Wilson are next with 35 apiece, Red Ruffing has 36, Bob Lemon has 37, and Wes Ferrell is the all-time leader with 38.
Zambrano has shown legitimate 20-homer power if given a chance to play every day for a full season, but his overall production would still be pretty modest for a position player. He’s a career .239 hitter with a .249 on-base percentage and .391 slugging percentage, which is good for a .640 OPS that would rank 345th among the 376 active non-pitchers with at least 700 plate appearances.
He basically hits like a backup catcher or a utility infielder, which is pretty damn good considering he’s got a 2.81 ERA and .207 opponents’ batting average in 74 innings as a pitcher this season.
The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.
The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.
Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.
The matchups for Tuesday’s action:
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.
Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.
The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.