HOUSTON -- Normally excitable, Carlos Zambrano was perfectly calm before taking his no-hit bid into the eighth inning Monday night.
In fact, he even said it'd be all right if the Houston Astros broke it up.
A few batters later, they did.
Moments earlier, Zambrano said he told pitching coach Larry Rothschild: "'Whatever happens in this inning, will happen. If somebody gets a base hit, it's OK. I pitched a good game anyway and I didn't let the other team score any runs."'
Zambrano was trying to become the first Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Milt Pappas on Sept. 2, 1972, against San Diego. There has not been a no-hitter in the majors since Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game for Arizona against Atlanta on May 18, 2004.
Instead, Zambrano beat the Astros with his arm and bat. He homered and drove in four runs, and was in control on the mound.
"This was like a high school game for him," Cubs center fielder Juan Pierre said. "He was the best pitcher and hitter on the field tonight."
Zambrano walked Mike Lamb to start the eighth. An out later, Wilson cleanly singled to right field.
"I made one mistake today and I did pay for it," Zambrano said. "It cost me the no-no."
Wilson was impressed with Zambrano's work.
"You kind of wish that he was a guy that you had on your side for just one night," Wilson said.
But he was relieved to get the hit.
"Nobody wants to get no-hit," he said. "And once it gets past the sixth or seventh inning, everyone is starting to think about it. It is great to get one, but you don't want to be on the side that gets no-hit."
Zambrano (4-3) threw 72 of his 126 pitches for strikes and struck out eight. He was trying to pitch the eighth no-hitter for the Cubs since 1900 -- four of them came between 1969 and 1972.
With two outs in the seventh, Lance Berkman took Zambrano to a full count before he struck out swinging. Pierre also preserved the no-hitter in the sixth when he sprinted to make the catch on a fly ball to right-center by Ausmus.
Zambrano was perfect until he walked Morgan Ensberg to lead off in the fifth. In his sixth season, Zambrano has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his last seven starts.
"He was kind of teasing them with his off-speed stuff and his fastball was moving everywhere," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Zambrano was grateful to have such a superb performance after his last start, when he appeared to lose his composure and left after allowing two runs in the sixth inning of a 3-2 loss to Cincinnati.
"I told you guys last time I knew that I'm much better than how I'm pitching right now," he said. "I want to help this team go through everything."
Astros manager Phil Garner said he thought his team's recent slump contributed to Zambrano's outing. Houston has lost five in a row.
"It's probably a combination of us being flat and him being effective, even though he was a little wild," Garner said. "But he made quality pitches when he needed to."
Zambrano also had a great offensive outing. He hit a three-run drive in the second inning for his fifth career home run and third in Houston. Zambrano, who is batting below .100, hit his last homer in August off Roy Oswalt at Minute Maid Park.
He added a sacrifice fly that scored Ronny Cedeno in the fourth for his fourth RBI of the game and the season.
Zambrano said he went to the batting cage on Monday and worked with his hitting coach for the first time this season. But he couldn't really explain his home run success in Houston.
"I like this ballpark," he said with a laugh.
It marked the second time in two days that a pitcher has had four RBI against the Astros after Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo did it on Saturday. Before that a pitcher hadn't achieved the feat in the majors since September 2003.
Chicago has hit 81 home runs in Houston's ballpark since it opened in 2000, the most of any opponent.
- Cedeno extended his career-high hitting streak to 10 games.
- Chicago is 3-1 in June after going 7-22 in May.
- Monday's loss extended Houston's season-high home losing streak to five games.
- Jones has scored at least one run in each of the Cubs' last six games.