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Carlos Zambrano gives up grand slam, walks 7 in Cubs loss

Carlos Zambrano trudges off mound after surrendering grslam Placido Polanco Friday. | H. Rumph Jr.~AP

Carlos Zambrano trudges off the mound after surrendering a grand slam to Placido Polanco on Friday. | H. Rumph Jr.~AP

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Updated: September 24, 2011 12:23AM

PHILADELPHIA — In his first start since calling his team “embarrassing,’’ saying it “stinks’’ and that it plays like a “Triple-A team’’ — and calling out teammate Carlos Marmol along the way — Carlos Zambrano failed to back it up.

For the first time in five starts, he lost his command. Then he lost the game, 7-5 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.

Then he lost his memory.

‘‘What happened [last start]?’’ he said when asked if he’d put pressure on himself after his postgame rant in St. Louis. ‘‘No. Why [would] I have to put pressure on myself? . . . Back up what? I don’t know what you’re talking about. . . .’’

Then he added, ‘‘What I [said] is in the past. And it’s already dead.’’

So was there added pressure to perform after that?

‘‘Probably, yeah, yeah,’’ he said, adding, ‘‘Every time I go out there, I like to be challenged. Against [Roy] Halladay, it’s a challenge and it’s pressure.’’

Whether it was the Phillies’ ace, the Phillies’ loaded lineup or the leftover Phoot in mouth, Zambrano wasn’t up to the challenge of pitching as he has in recent starts.

If his finger-pointing in St. Louis on Sunday was a veiled attempt to find a ticket out of Chicago, he didn’t show up for the train Friday. And if it was about firing up a moribund team, he blew the match out with this one.

He walked a season-high seven and put the leadoff man on base in five of the seven innings he started (three via walks). Still, he managed to labor into the seventh, trailing 3-0, until manager Mike Quade pushed the envelope too far one night after much of the bullpen got gassed.

‘‘I had to try to push him through the seventh inning, given our situation,’’ said Quade, who visited the mound with one out and a runner at second to order an intentional walk to Chase Utley, which pushed Zambrano’s pitch count to 119 at that point. “At least through the Polanco at-bat.’’

One more walk to Ryan Howard later, Placido Polanco drilled a 2-0 pitch well beyond the right field wall for a grand slam that gave the Phils a 7-0 lead and gave manager Charlie Manuel the luxury of sitting his
ace and letting his shaky bullpen take over.

Zambrano (5-3) finished with 128 pitches, his highest total in more than three years and eight short of his 2005 career high.

‘‘I was asking for maybe more than I would have in a normal situation,’’ Quade said.

Zambrano bristled at the idea of the high pitch count affecting him down the road, despite being among the seven-highest totals of his career.

‘‘I work hard. I work hard to throw 120, 130 pitches,’’ he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve thrown [128] pitches. If the team needs me to throw 150 pitches, I will be there for the team.’’

If anything, it spoke to the desperate straits the team finds itself navigating more than two months into a season that hasn’t come close to reaching even the modest expectations from spring training.

The pitching staff and team fielding percentage both ranked last in the majors entering the day, and the loss was their ninth in 11 games and 11th in 14.

‘‘The bullpen was tired, and I wanted to save the bullpen,’’ Zambrano said. “That was the good thing today, besides losing the game and throwing too many walks. The key today was too many walks.’’

It doesn’t get any easier from here, with Cy Young winner Cliff Lee facing the Cubs today and former 20-game winner Roy Oswalt scheduled in the series finale Sunday.

‘‘It’s hard to get a break against this team,’’ Zambrano said, “but next time against Milwaukee, I will do the adjustments.’’

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