"You can observe a lot just by watching"
Numbers don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole truth. Entering Wednesday's Cubs-Astros game Zambrano had the numbers on Roy in starts in which the two have faced each other in their careers--not to mention, in starts versus team opponent. Wednesday night, Oswalt leveled the playing field.
"If you don't know where you're going..."
...you'll end up somewhere else. Roy came to the ballpark knowing exactly who he was pitching against: a pitcher who has allowed 0 earned runs in his last 22 1/3 against the Astros. Apparently, nobody told Zambrano who the Astros were sending to the mound: a pitcher who is 3-0 in his last 3 starts, with a 0.95 ERA.
In Roy's first start versus Zambrano this year, The Wizard knew he had to post a zero, and hang around at least as long as The Bull, so they call him. No doubt, Zambrano was in attendance at Wrigley in Roy's last start against the Cubs, in which Roy allowed a season high 8 runs. To Zambrano's misfortune, he pitched his own game like he was pitching against a pitcher who consistently gives up 8 runs per game. Sure enough, the Astros ran him up for 7 runs in 5.2 innings, including 2 home runs. Looks like Phil's voodoo worked...well, he's referring to it now as his "secret"...he's mentioning "wicca", but leaving it at that (all tongue-in-cheek, btw).
Yet, the run-scoring didn't seem to be so much the apex of Zambrano's frustration Wednesday. His gigantic, nothing-but-air hacks at the plate would suggest so. For some reason, Zambrano felt an overwhelming desire to take Roy deep Wednesday. Roy, being the very astute pitcher that he is, seemed to be fully aware of the slugging pitcher's looming urge and pitched to his opposing pitcher like any above-average hitter.
"Pitching always beats batting...and vice-versa."
Despite all the run-scoring the Astros finally pulled off on Zambrano, that wasn't quite the most exciting part of the game for me. Maybe it's just because I am an Oswalt/Astros fan / Zambrano-hater, but I found Zambrano's and Roy's at-bats rather amusing. Here's how it all went down:
After whiffing Big Z in his first AB, Roy smirked a little (as he did after every Zambrano K), and Zambrano nodded back as if to say, "It's on, muchacho."
Roy 1, Zambrano 0.
So, an inning later, what does Zambrano have in store for Roy? A few balls, a couple strikes, and an eventual infield pop-out.
Roy 1, Zambrano 1.
Another Roy-Zambrano face-off. Bases loaded, Zambrano takes a couple mega-swings, catches nothing but air a couple times, gets called out looking. Zambrano, wearing his emotions on his knee, cracks his bat in half in frustration.
Roy 2, Zambrano 1.
So, surely by now Zambrano has a few tricks up his sleeve, ready to pull them out on Roy. A few balls and couple strikes later Roy smacks a 2-out single into left.
Roy 3, Zambrano 1.
Roy and "Z" would face off once more, Zambrano getting one more chance to show Roy who is really the better hitter. Now, if Zambrano had taken Roy's laid-back, he-might-not-always-throw-me-strikes approach at the plate, maybe "Z" could have knocked one off of Roy. Nonetheless, Roy wasn't in the mood to give up hits and Zambrano was in the mood to get one...and it's the "hat trick", folks. In the end, Roy emerged victorious in the home-plate battle, whiffing Zambrano 3 times, which irked Big Z enough to give up 7 runs in less than 6 innings. Perhaps if Carlos wasn't so concerned with his hitting, he could've concentrated a little more on his pitching...not that I'm complaining or anything.
Roy 4, Zambrano 1...in the home-plate battle.
1-0 Roy...in the 2007 pitching duel, of course.
With Roy's victory versus Zambrano, he evens the record at 2-2 in starts in which the pitchers have faced each other in their careers.
Ninety Percent Mental, the Other Half, Physical
So, to sum up, Roy goes to 12-6, in his 110th career win, while lowering his ERA to 3.42. Roy is now 4-0 in his last four starts, with a 0.72 ERA.
"The future ain't what it used to be"
Zambrano's hot streak (4 consecutive wins) comes to a screeching halt, as the Cubs' ace does NOT become the first 15-game winner in the majors. Instead, he picks up his 8th loss, for a season record of 14-8. Seven runs in 5.2 innings will also do a number to one's ERA; Wednesday's game bringing Zambrano's ERA up to 3.69 for the season.