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Carlos Zambrano helps Cubs run win streak to 7

Carlos Zambrano is greeted by Matt Garzafter hitting solo home run third inning. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

Carlos Zambrano is greeted by Matt Garza after hitting a solo home run in the third inning. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:23AM

Tony Campana can have all the inside-the-park home runs he wants.

Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano still likes the mammoth kind that travel deep into the bleachers, like the one he crushed in the third ­inning Saturday off Cincinnati Reds starter Johnny Cueto.

‘‘I’m not Campana,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘I’m a big man. Big men are supposed to hit with authority. I’ll leave inside the park to Campana.’’

Given the last week for the Cubs, it’s best not to change a thing.

With an 11-4 victory over the stumbling Reds, the Cubs not only stretched their winning streak to seven, they did it by chasing the ­National League’s ERA leader. Cueto (7-5) entered the game with a 1.72 ERA and had allowed only three earned runs in his previous four starts, spanning 27 innings.

But he lasted only 32/3 innings Saturday, a season low, giving up five runs, seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts.

Zambrano started it with his home run leading off the third after the Reds had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning.

‘‘It was a good pitch to hit,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘In the National League, you have to be able to bunt, hit, do some damage. That’s one of our jobs in the National League. Pitch and then come to the plate and try to do something for yourself.’’

Zambrano has 23 career homers, tying Walter Johnson for ninth on the all-time list. He has hit more against the Reds than any other team (seven). Zambrano was trying for another in the fourth with two men on and in the fifth with the bases loaded. He struck out both times, but not before shortening up on the bat to try to put the ball in play.

‘‘He understands the importance,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘He was willing to put the ball in play. He took the right approach.’’

His teammates completed the job in both innings, scoring three in the fourth and five in the fifth.

‘‘I cut the lead [to 2-1], and then we tied the game,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘After that, I said it’s a new game, so let’s focus on what we need, which is pitching.’’

He held the Reds to one hit in the middle three innings, Yonder Alonso’s first career home run in the sixth. Zambrano (9-6) allowed three runs in six innings, giving the starting staff 15 quality starts in the last 22 games. The Cubs are 11-4 in those starts.

‘‘Each one of us has our job to do,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘We have to win the game, but we don’t think about [quality starts]. We think about ­doing the job correctly. Just throw strikes and be ahead in the count, and the rest will come.’’

It’s the formula that has led to a 6-0 mark to begin August. That last happened in 1969, a year of Cubs ­infamy. According to STATS, the Cubs have had only two 7-0 starts to August, in 1909 (9-0) and 1927 (8-0).

‘‘I think we’ve been swinging the bat well, but we’re playing good defense and pitching,’’ said Reed Johnson, who had two of the team’s 13 hits.

‘‘We’ve been playing outstanding the last five, six, seven games,’’ said Zambrano, who two months ago had been vocal in his criticism of the team’s play. ‘‘We’ve been doing the right things, playing good defense, the things everyone was expecting of us. That’s what this team is capable of. We have a good team. We need to continue what we’ve been doing the last seven games and have fun.’’

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