No meltdowns for Big Z on Monday night. Nearly a year after he went on a tirade in the same ball park that led to a suspension and anger management counseling, Zambrano kept his cool after another rough start.
After giving up three first-inning runs, Zambrano settled down and blanked the White Sox for the next seven innings as the Cubs rallied for a 6-3 victory.
"People change," Zambrano said. "I'm human. Everybody makes a mistake, some make big mistakes. ... The most important thing is to relax after you make a mistake."
The first matchup of six this season between the crosstown rivals with losing records drew a crowd of 36,005 at U.S. Cellular Field on a 75-degree night. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was ejected in the sixth inning after arguing that a ball hit near the plate by Alexei Ramirez should have been ruled foul.
Zambrano (6-4) allowed seven hits over eight innings. Carlos Marmol gave up two hits in the ninth before retiring the side for his 15th save in 19 chances.
Starlin Castro's second homer of the season leading off the sixth against Gavin Floyd tied the game at 3-3. And after a single by Blake DeWitt and walk to Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena connected to right center for his 12th homer, a three-run shot that gave the Cubs the lead.
Zambrano went on a dugout tirade after giving up four runs in the first inning of his start against the White Sox last June 25, angry over his team's defense.
But after he gave up an RBI single to Carlos Quentin and then a two-run shot to Konerko, who homered for a fourth straight game, he didn't lose it. Zambrano threw 115 pitches, walked two and struck out five.
"I think the real story here is how Zambrano settled down," Pena said.
"I was feeling so good. I was saying, `This is my game and that's enough.' Let's be aggressive, let's be in control but aggressive. Let's pitch a good game,"' Zambrano said.
"So much has been made about his emotional stuff," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He was relaxed, he felt good and handled himself great and then really went to work. ... All sorts of ways any pitcher can go after that and he went the way you're supposed to go. ... To put up seven scoreless after that was really something."
Zambrano had given up 12 earned runs in 12 1-3 innings in two starts after saying the Cubs were playing like a Triple-A team following a loss in St. Louis earlier this month.
But he was in control after the first. When the White Sox threatened again in the fifth with two on, Quade visited the mound before Zambrano struck out Konerko to end the threat.
"Be a better person, be a better teammate, be a better player with what you do on the field and that is what I wanted to do this year, focus on baseball and let everything else go away," Zambrano said.
The angriest moment came in the bottom of the sixth from Guillen, Zambrano's countryman and friend.
Ramirez hit a ball close to the plate and Cubs catcher Geovany Soto picked it up and tagged him with home plate umpire James Hoye calling Ramirez out. Ramirez protested and then Guillen raced from the dugout, angrily showing Hoye where the ball hit near the plate. After Hoye ejected him, Guillen kicked Soto's mask away from the plate and continued his argument.
It was Guillen's second ejection this season and 27th of his career.
"He was right I was wrong. Because if I say what I want to say I'm going to (owe) another $20 grand," Guillen said referring to a possible fine. "Then I'm just going to leave it that way, he (James Hoye) was right, I got kicked out of the game. I'm tired of paying people's money for no reason.
"You get frustrated. That play I had it right in front of me. That's why I went out and I argued about it. I told myself I'm not going to argue it unless if I'm right. This year, you don't see me on the field that often. When I'm out on the field it is just to protect a player but on this play ... I use glasses just to read and write. I can see a little far."
Guillen said he's lucky that Soto's mask is a bit different from the equipment used in earlier days.
"If I kicked it 20 years ago I might of broke my toe. They make the masks so light and so good. No. I don't feel anything. I just saw it fly out of there," he said.
The Cubs got two back against Floyd (6-7) in the third on Soto's single, a sacrifice, a walk to Kosuke Fukudome and Castro's two-out, two-run single. Floyd gave up five hits and six runs in five-plus innings.
Notes: Guillen, the third base coach of the Marlins when they won the World Series in 2003, said Jack McKeon's return to managing Florida at age 80 showed his compassion for the game. Asked about his name being mentioned as a possible Marlins manager next season, Guillen, who has another year left on his deal with the White Sox, said he wants to stay. But he added it would be up to general manager Ken Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf if they want him back. Konerko set a club record by reaching 20 homers for a 12th season. Frank Thomas also had 11 seasons of at least 20 with Chicago. The victory was just the fifth for the Cubs over the White Sox in their last 16 games.