The Dodgers seemed as comfortable in the role of underdog after a surprising 7-3 comeback win over Chicago Saturday as Da' Tara was during his post-race celebration on the clubhouse monitor.
Even if the symbolism is a bit of a stretch, the Cubs did start play Saturday with the best record in baseball, while the Dodgers' current goal is to reach .500. After getting swept in Chicago a week ago, you'd have to call back-to-back Dodgers wins upsets.
"It's nice when you can beat one of the best pitchers in the game," said Russell Martin, although he and the Dodgers haven't done it much this year. Against pitchers who currently have at least five wins, the Dodgers are 3-12. Zambrano is 8-2 with the loss.
But they beat him, and even if they had a lot of help from sloppy Cubs fielding to open the door, Matt Kemp still had to shake off two earlier strikeouts to deliver his crushing three-run homer, shortly after Martin drove in his third run with an RBI single.
The Dodgers' five-run seventh inning included a throwing error by Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez on Andre Ethier's infield single, a drop by shortstop Ryan Theriot as he was tagging base stealer Juan Pierre, and an unsuccessful diving attempt to catch Martin's sinking liner by right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.
"You have to take advantage when somebody lets you in," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, whose club has won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks.
It was all too much for the fiery Zambrano to swallow. Kemp's fifth home run sent the right-hander to the showers, but en route he had a classic dugout meltdown to the delight of the FOX cameras, throwing his glove and cap, then slamming a soft drink cooler.
"He's a very emotional pitcher and you could see by his body language he wasn't happy," said Kemp, who drove a 1-0 pitch over the center-field fence. "He started me with a slider in the dirt and I knew he didn't want to fall behind 2-0. He gave me a high fastball and I was looking for something to drive."
Despite the 10 runs, the game was mostly a pitchers' duel between Zambrano and Derek Lowe, who was lifted for a pinch-hitter during the winning rally while the Dodgers still trailed -- and was just as angry as Zambrano, but much better behaved.
"Martin's [two-run] homer got us tied [in the bottom of the sixth] and I gave the lead right back [on Zambrano's RBI single]," said Lowe. "That's why I was mad at myself. I was frustrated with myself for allowing them to come back. Who'd ever thought [Zambrano would] have an inning like that? Give our offense tons of credit for scoring that many runs against a guy having that good a year."
You don't hear Dodgers pitchers saying that very often this year.
Following Hiroki Kuroda's complete-game shutout Friday night, Lowe (4-5) took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowed three runs in seven innings for his fourth consecutive quality start (1.82 ERA in those games). Torre said Lowe's sinker is going "down" instead of "sideways," which pitching coach Rick Honeycutt credits to a more focused mental approach rather than any mechanical adjustment.
"It's about tempo and mindset and what he's trying to accomplish," said Honeycutt, who has worked with Lowe on slowing down his approach. "The main thing for him is to concentrate on down in the zone, get ahead in the count and pitch to contact. Early on, he was pressing, trying to make too good a pitch. That's asking a lot."
Martin had three hits to snap an 0-for-15 slide, and he gave partial credit to his facial hair adjustment (shaved the beard, left the moustache), while Kemp had two hits after going 2-for-18 with nine strikeouts in an eventful week that included a benches-clearing fight and four-game suspension on appeal.
"You can't take the previous at-bat into the next at-bat," said Kemp, who struck out his first two times up Saturday. "We won today with a big team inning. D-Lowe kept us in the game. The pitchers have been keeping us in games and we need to do our job. We're capable of doing big things."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.