Cubs' curse still alive

Just when it looked as if the Cubs had a good chance to end their 99-year World Series title drought, there was disconcerting news about Barack Obama's second-favorite Chicago team.

Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs' ace, had to leave Tuesday's game after five innings because of arm problems. Zambrano (13-5, 3.58 ERA) allowed three runs in the Cubs' 9-7 loss to Houston.

Zambrano had a 7.43 ERA in August. His start had been pushed back two days because of arm fatigue. He rarely hit 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun against the Astros and was pulled after issuing three walks and throwing 86 pitches. He visited the team orthopedist yesterday.

Despite Chicago's nice lead in the NL Central, all is not well in Wrigleyville. Rich Harden, another Cubs starter, will be pushed back nearly two turns because of arm soreness.

Rockies' road

Even though they are nine games under .500, the Colorado Rockies, amazingly, are just six games behind first-place Arizona in the NL West.

Stop us if a late-season Rockies surge sounds familiar.

"We're right about where we were last year, ready for another crazy run," Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs said after knocking in the winning run with a 12th-inning single as Colorado outlasted the Giants, 6-5, on Tuesday.

The Rockies, who made a remarkable run to reach the World Series in 2007, are in almost the same position as last season, when they were five games out of first place on Sept. 3.

Colorado won 14 of its final 15 regular-season games last year to capture the NL wild card, and advanced to the World Series by winning seven straight.

"We're going to play until they shut the lights off and we come up short," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, whose team scored more runs (five) against Giants ace Tim Lincecum on Tuesday than he had allowed in his previous four starts combined (four).

Wagner eyes return

Mets closer Billy Wagner could be activated when New York opens a series against the visiting Nationals on Tuesday, the New York Daily News reported.

Wagner, on the disabled list with left-elbow inflammation, said he felt fine after throwing 25 pitches in the bullpen Monday. He is expected to face batters in a simulated game Sunday. He will miss this weekend's showdown series against the Phillies at Shea Stadium.

No relief

And you thought the Phillies had bullpen problems . . .

The Marlins overcame a 10-3 deficit only to fall to the Braves, 16-14, on Tuesday.

Florida, which lost an 18-17 decision at Colorado on July 4, became the first team in 78 years to lose two games in which it scored at least 14 runs in the same season, the Elias Sports Bureau reported. The Phillies and Pirates did it in 1930.

The Phillies (52-102) had 54 complete games and a 6.71 ERA that season. Honest.

Noteworthy

An estimated 600 fans watched host Florida face Atlanta yesterday, giving a Carpenter Cup feel to a major-league game. . . . Milwaukee's Ben Sheets, removed from Monday's game after five innings because of slight tightness in his left groin, is expected to start Saturday against San Diego.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.