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Carlos Zambrano rips Carlos Marmol, calls Cubs ‘embarrassing’

Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano wasn’t too thrilled after another strong outing was wasted. | Jeff Roberson~AP

Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano wasn’t too thrilled after another strong outing was wasted. | Jeff Roberson~AP

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Updated: September 22, 2011 12:31AM

ST. LOUIS — The winning baseball vanished a long time ago for the Cubs. And less than a week into June, the team harmony could be heading out the door right behind it — with Carlos Zambrano firing the first volley after the Cubs were swept out of St. Louis on Sunday.

After watching a second straight powerful start and potential win turn into a blown save and loss, Zambrano went off. He called the Cubs ‘‘embarrassing’’ and a ‘‘Triple-A team’’ and criticized closer Carlos Marmol’s pitch selection on the ­tying hit in the ninth.

Zambrano seemed to channel former manager Lou Piniella with an apparently long-simmering, premeditated rant. It all began with an innocuous media question about Albert Pujols’ second walk-off homer against the Cubs in as many days, this time leading off the 10th against Rodrigo Lopez for a 3-2 Cardinals victory.

‘‘The problem wasn’t Pujols,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘The problem was the previous at-bat [in the ninth]. We should know better than this. We played like a Triple-A team.

‘‘This is embarrassing,’’ he added, raising his usually soft-spoken postgame voice and briefly looking past reporters toward teammates, ‘‘embarrassing for the team, for the owners, embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing. That’s the word here for this team.’’

Then he turned the focus of his one-minute rant to the 2-2 slider Marmol threw to former teammate Ryan Theriot, who drove it into the left-field corner for a two-out, run-scoring double that tied the game in the ninth.

‘‘We should know better than this,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter. We should know that as a team. We should play better here. We stink. That’s all I’ve got to say.’’

Then he said, ‘‘We’re a Triple-A team’’ one more time as he walked away.

Marmol, who was dressing just a few locker stalls away, said he didn’t hear what Zambrano had to say, and after being told said, ‘‘No, I don’t have to talk to him.’’

Whatever Zambrano’s intent —assuming it was as calculated as it seemed — it’s hard to imagine it becoming a rallying point for a team that has stayed remarkably cohesive under the strain of injuries and what has grown into a six-game skid.

Especially when the butt-kick is coming from a guy whose career already has been marked by divisive outbursts, including the dugout rant on the South Side last June that resulted in a suspension and anger-management therapy.

Cubs manager Mike Quade was caught off-guard when asked about Z’s ‘‘Triple-A team’’ reference.

‘‘Oh, we are? Let his teammates deal with that, I guess,’’ Quade said. ‘‘I don’t know exactly what that means. We had a chance to win a ballgame 2-1, and we didn’t get it done. And the people who picked him up were not Triple-A caliber, [setup man Sean] Marshall and Marmol.’’

Catcher Koyie Hill, who called for a fastball on the key pitch to Theriot before Marmol shook him off, seemed to see both pitchers’ sides and downplayed the potential for clubhouse discord.

‘‘Obviously, [Zambrano’s] frustrated,’’ Hill said. ‘‘He did everything he can. And I don’t fault him for wanting the team to play better. I mean, at some point I think you just get tired of saying, ‘All we need is to keep playing hard.’ Eventually, you just say something else.

‘‘I don’t think he means that the guys in here are Triple-A players or dogging it or anything like that. I think he means that you put together a string like we have, and you might start thinking that maybe a Triple-A team could give us a run for our money. But we all know better than that. It’s frustrating.’’

Hill said he agreed with Zambrano on the approach to Theriot, but he also said he’s ‘‘all for’’ his
$20 million closer throwing a pitch he believes in, especially when it’s his best pitch.

Whatever the fallout, the road doesn’t get any easier as the Cubs head to Cincinnati, followed by a four-game series in Philadelphia.

‘‘We’ve got four months to go,’’ said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who stayed out of the Zambrano-Marmol fray. ‘‘Everybody here has something to play for. And just show up and play.’’

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