Cubs stay on their toes behind Big Z
Fielders recognize potential, make sure to preserve no-hitter
MILWAUKEE -- Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee had to be careful Sunday night. Carlos Zambrano was so entertaining, so dominating that Lee had to make sure he was watching the game and not just the right-hander.
"You have to be careful of not becoming a fan in that type of game," Lee said. "You're watching and rooting him on, but you still have to stay aware because you have to play defense. You have to stay on your toes."
They didn't have to do much behind Zambrano, who threw the first no-hitter for the Cubs in 36 years in Chicago's 5-0 win over Houston at Miller Park.
Only two balls were hit to the outfield -- and right fielder Mark DeRosa snared the only true threat to Zambrano's no-no when Geoff Blum lined out to open the Astros' eighth.
"When he hit it, you hate to say this, but you're definitely like, 'I'll bite the ball if I have to,'" DeRosa said. "You know what's at stake. I was fully committed to selling out and whatever it took to catch the ball.
"[Blum] is a pull hitter, and we had him shaded that way," DeRosa said. "When it got into the outfield, I knew I had a bead on it. You definitely get nervous. Then you go into the infield, and you want to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time."
The versatile DeRosa shifted to second base, his more natural position, for the ninth inning. He didn't have to handle a ball.
Lee did in the fifth. He robbed David Newhan of a possible extra-base hit when he leaped to snare a liner to end that inning.
"It was right to me," Lee said, downplaying his timing.
The first baseman did have to jump for it, though. It was one of only a few balls hit hard off Zambrano.
"That's what we were talking about," Lee said. "There wasn't really anything close to a hit. [Zambrano] was just dominant. The one to me wasn't hit hard. DeRo's was hit fairly hard. That was it."
The Astros agreed.
"We never hit the ball hard," Houston's Lance Berkman said.
The Cubs could tell Sunday would be special.
"[Zambrano] was lighting the radar gun up early on," Lee said. "The ball was just jumping out of his hand. You could tell right away he had his good stuff. He made the game easy for us tonight."
It was the first no-no in Miller Park history, and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the first time in baseball history there has been a no-hitter at a field that is not normally a home field for either of the teams involved in the game.
More important for the Cubs, their ace is back, and they have a 7 1/2-game lead in the National League Central with 14 games to go.
"It's an awesome moment for the team," DeRosa said. "We accomplished a lot today. After getting those two days off, to get the 'W' and to extend our lead and to swing the bats like we did early on and get Randy Wolf out of the game early ... the guy was giving us a ton of problems. And for 'Z' to make history, it's awesome to be part of."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.