CINCINNATI -- The yin and yang of Carlos Zambrano has been on full display over the last 10 days.
The rogue warrior who smashes Gatorade dispensers and blows off team charters was absent Friday night at Great American Ball Park, replaced by the dominating pitcher who can also beat you with one swing of the bat.
But after earning his 100th career victory in a 2-1 triumph over Cincinnati, Zambrano vowed to retire in five years.
"After this contract, I'm gone," he said. "I'll betcha $100. I'm serious."
In his first start since serving a six-game suspension, he hit a solo home run for a 2-0 lead in the fifth and threw 6 2/3 shutout innings.
Many consider Randy Johnson the last 300-game winner, partly because quality pitchers make so much money they won't hang around to earn such milestones.
Zambrano signed a $91.5 million deal through 2012, with a vesting option for 2013 at $19.25 million. So why would he retire at 33?
"Because I don't want to play," he said. "I want to help this team. I want to do everything possible to win with this team. And after five years, four years, or whatever is left on my contract. ...
"You know how many Mother's Days I haven't spent with my mother? Twelve. You know how many things I've been [missing] in my life? It's good to be here, it's good to play baseball. But in five years. ... I will retire. And I won't have to see you anymore."
Zambrano had a no-hitter two outs into the fifth inning and allowed only two singles on the night. He passed Bill Hutchinson for sixth place on the Cubs' all-time strikeout list with 1,225 and became one of only 21 pitchers to win 100 games wearing a Cubs uniform.
With the Cubs leading 1-0 in the fifth, the switch-hitting Zambrano decided to bat right-handed against Reds right-hander Micah Owings, citing a bum left hand. The switch worked, and Zambrano cranked a 408-foot home run to right-center, the 18th of his career.
A great leaping catch by Micah Hoffpauir, who robbed Jerry Hairston of an extra-base hit, saved two runs later in the inning, and Zambrano was lifted after 108 pitches in the seventh. Angel Guzman stranded a pair of runners to get out of the inning, but another leadoff walk by Carlos Marmol, in the eighth, led to a run when Brandon Phillips hit a one-out RBI triple.
Kevin Gregg entered in the ninth with a one-run lead and retired the first two men but proceeded to scare the daylights out of manager Lou Piniella. Ryan Hanigan singled, and Hairston reached after striking out on a wild pitch.
Déjà vu for Gregg?
Not this time. Chris Dickerson popped out to end the drama.
"We need to make the ninth inning not as exciting," Piniella said. "My mouth is cotton dry. I feel like a water moccasin."
Up next Saturday at Reds, 6:10, WGN-Ch. 9Buy Chicago Cubs Tickets Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun