Even though the 2010 season is an absolute chaos for the Chicago Cubs, they get a lot of attention at the end of the calendar year. 

They are put in a new mission—spoiling their opponents’ hopes to access to the playoffs.

In the span of the ongoing 10 days, they had faced teams in contention, the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals last week.  They opened another series Monday night in the last road trip of the season in San Diego, playing against the NL West second place team, the San Diego Padres who were only half-game behind the Giants.

Alfonso Soriano scored the only run of the game in the seventh inning and it was enough for the Cubs to beat the home team 1-0 in the opener of this four-game set.  The victory obstructed the Padres to regain the potential shared lead with the Giants in the NL West standings.

Both starters of the game, Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs and Tim Stauffer of the Padres formed a tight and outstanding pitching dual.  By completing seven scoreless frames, Zambrano (10-6) came out with a victory, his seventh in the last nine starts.

He scattered only three hits and four walks, striking out five.  The first and seventh innings were the toughest for him. 

In the first, he gave up two hits to leadoff David Eckstein and Ryan Ludwick but stranded them grounding out Matt Stairs.

The only other threatening situation occurred in the seventh.  He gave up a pair of walks to Stairs and Chase Headley sandwiched by the first out.  But again, he got out of the frame alright retiring Tony Gwynn and Oscar Salazar.

The Cubs’ winning run came in the seventh, the final inning of the night for Stauffer (5-5).  Leading off Xavier Nady grounded out to the hurler.  Soriano doubled to left field and the following batter, Blake DeWitt, sent him home with an RBI-single to center field.

Stauffer did pitch well enough but he surrendered.  He let the Cubs get five hits off him in seven innings but struck out five and walked two. 

Six of the Cubs’ seven hits came from two players: Marlon Byrd and DeWitt.  They both went 3-for-4. 

The Padres had their best chance in the last inning but their rally came close, too close for the comfort of the Cubs but failed.

Closer Carlos Marmol fanned Ludwick and pinch-hitter Mike Baxter easily. 

However, he put himself in the hole from then. 

He allowed a single to Yorvit Torrealba who was replaced by pinch-runner Everth Cabrera.  Cabrera stole second base before Headley, the following batter, was hit by a pitch.  Marmol escalated the problem by walking Tony Gwynn to load the bases. 

At the end, Marmol prevailed.  He forced Nick Hundley to hit the game-ending fly ball caught by Soriano to earn his 35th save of the year.

With the loss, the Padres skid to one-game behind the NL West leaders, the San Francisco Giants who were idle on Monday night.

The article is also featured on www.sportshaze.com.

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