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On This Date in Sports September 14, 2008: Zambrano No No

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Carlos Zambrano becomes the first Chicago Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter in 26 years, blanking the Houston Astros 5-0. The game was initially scheduled to be played at Minute Maid Park in Houston but moved to Miller Park in Milwaukee due to Hurricane Ike. Zambrano allowed just one walk while striking out ten Astros. It was the first No Hitter in MLB history at a neutral site.

With baseball in the middle of the stretch drive, the Chicago Cubs were on their way to a second straight National League Central Division Championship. The Houston Astros still had a shot at the Wild Card, sitting in third place as they prepared for a three-game series at home against the Cubs. However, Hurricane Ike forced the postponement of the first two games of the series. With the city recovering from the after-effects of the hurricane, a decision to move two games of the series to Milwaukee was made by MLB, with the third game to be played after the season only if needed.

Carlos Zambrano, one of the Cubs' top pitchers, took the mound for the Sunday Night Game against the Astros, who had Randy Wolf on the mound. Zambrano had missed his previous two starts due to tendinitis in his rotator cuff. The crowd of 23,441 at Milwaukee’s Miller Park was overwhelmingly in favor of the Cubs, who got off to a fast start as Alfonso Soriano led the game off with a home run. Zambrano, meanwhile, made quick work of the Astros, retiring the first six batters. The Cubs would add to their lead in the third inning, scoring four runs with two outs as Derek Lee and Geovany Soto had a pair of doubles sandwiched around an Aramis Ramirez single. After retiring the side again in the third inning, Carlos Zambrano allowed his first base runner in the fourth inning, as Michael Bourn reached on a base on balls with one out. Bourn would quickly be erased as Miguel Tejada bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. In the fifth inning, Hunter Pence was hit by a pitch but stranded when David Newhan lined out to second base. From there, Carlos Zambrano hit the afterburners retiring the side in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. With a 5-0 lead and a no-hitter on the line, Zambrano took the mound in the ninth inning looking to make history. He needed just one pitch to retire Humberto Quintero on a soft grounder to short. Pinch hitter Jose Castillo also grounded out to short for the second out. Darrin Erstad would be Houston’s final hope for a hit. On a 3-2 count, Zambrano got Erstad swinging to complete the No Hitter.

Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter was the first by a Chicago Cubs pitcher since Milt Pappas in 1972. With the win, he improved to 14-5 on the season. The Cubs would win the division with a record of 97-64, while the Astros landed in third place at 86-75. In the playoffs, the Cubs would be swept in the Division Series for the second straight season, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers in three straight. The No Hitter would mark a high point in Zambrano’s career. Over the next three seasons, arm trouble and erratic behavior became the norm before he was traded to the Miami Marlins. Carlos Zambrano would finish his career in 2012, posting a career record of 132-91 and an ERA of 3.66.