Zambrano hit his fifth home run of the season and pitched seven shutout innings in his return to the rotation, leading the Cubs over the Cincinnati Reds 11-3 Sunday.
Zambrano (15-6), who missed his last two scheduled starts with stiffness in his lower back, earned his first win since Aug. 24. He gave up four hits, struck out six and walked four.
"I was feeling good today," Zambrano said. "I've told you before, I never give up and I know I can get to 16 or 17 wins."
The Cubs have the worst record in the NL at 61-89, and Zambrano had said he wanted to pitch again to help his team avoid the triple-digit mark in losses. He'll likely get two more starts, with the Cubs needing to win twice in their final 12 games to stay away from No. 100.
The right-hander left a game on Sept. 4 in the second inning complaining of back troubles. The Cubs have actually been trying to get Zambrano to cut down on his swing, thinking that might be further hurting his back.
Zambrano's five homers are the most by a pitcher since Mike Hampton hit seven for the Colorado Rockies in 2001.
"I was a little lucky today," he said. "I didn't try to make a hard swing and just tried to contact the ball. I didn't really make a strong swing like before because I didn't want to hurt my back."
Jones hit a three-run homer, his 26th, and Cedeno hit a two-run drive off Eric Milton (8-8), who left the game after recording just one out. It was the shortest outing of Milton's career.
Milton gave up six runs on six hits and threw just 22 pitches. He left his last start with shoulder soreness and got a cortisone shot in his left elbow after his last start on Sept. 12.
Milton said he's probably done for the year.
"Obviously, I wasn't right," Milton said. "I probably shouldn't have been out there today."
The Reds began the day on the fringe of the wild-card race. With Milton struggling, they were out of this game right away.
"You could tell real early that he wasn't anywhere close to his game," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I even talked to him before the game and he said he was ready."
"You saw everybody chipping in and producing in that first inning, and it was very refreshing to see that," Theriot said. "And those early hits and runs set the tone for the game."
The Cubs started the game under a cloud after star Derrek Lee said he was taking a leave of absence from the club to care for his 3-year-old daughter Jada, who is suffering from an undisclosed illness that has affected her eyesight. Lee talked to the team privately before the game.
"It looked like the guys were inspired," manager Dusty Baker said. "Derrek spoke to the team before the game and he told the guys to go out and play ball, play hard and do what you've got to do."
The first four Reds pitchers gave up at least one home run.
Theriot had never hit more than one home run in a season, hitting five total in parts of six minor league seasons. He doesn't think he's ever had a multihomer game.
"You're not out there trying to get in the air, you're just trying to hit it hard," Theriot said.
- Zambrano's five home runs this season are one shy of the Cubs' single-season record for pitcher, set by Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins in 1971.
- Milton's previous shortest outing came when he got two outs on Sept. 18, 2005, against Pittsburgh.
- The Cubs hit six home runs in a game for the first time since Aug. 20, 2004, at Houston.