Lilly’s Lost Performance

Spring Training Game Twenty-Six – Cubs 2 Angels 3
WP – Ervin Santana (1-2) LP – Kerry Wood (1-1) (BS 1) Save – Matt Wilhite (1)

Ted Lilly picked up on Sunday where Wade Miller left off on Saturday. He threw 6 innings of shutout baseball and limited an Angels’ offense, that consisted of their everyday players, to just 4 hits. Mark DeRosa made two sensational plays at 3rd base and Jacque Jones made a tremendous catch to aid in Lilly’s effort.

The Cubs offense was minus the likes of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez but Cliff Floyd hit a monster home run in the 5th over both bullpens past the right field wall and walked in the 8th to account for the other Cubs run on the day. Kerry Wood threw strikes but gave up all 3 of the Angels’ runs in the 7th….2 off a home run by Kendry Morales.

For the second time this spring Ted Lilly’s outing will take a backseat to one of the ‘Wonder Twins’ as they have affectionately become known. Kerry Wood pitching a day earlier than scheduled and allowing the 3 runs will make headlines but Lilly’s performance was the story on Sunday at Mesa.

When the Cubs signed Ted Lilly this past off-season the move was met with the usual scrutiny that comes with giving a pitcher with Lilly’s history a contract of that magnitude. Couple that with the fact he signed with the Cubs and to say the microscope was dusted off would be an understatement. Only time will tell if the Lilly signing was a good one or a bad one but so far this spring, Lilly has been sharp.

Granted “it is only spring training” but Lilly has kept the ball down and on Sunday he was much more aggressive than his previous outing, something Lou Piniella had made known publicly he wanted to see Lilly do. Lilly faced 22 batters on the day and threw first pitch strikes to 18 of them. He stayed out of hitter’s counts, for the most part, and even though he was hit hard from time to time, his defense made plays when they had to. Mark DeRosa made two diving plays, one to his right, the other to his left, that took away two hits and one would have been a double for Vladimir Guerrero. Of the 4 hits the Angels recorded, only one was for extra bases.

Lilly walked Gary Matthews, Jr. to start the game and fell behind Orlando Cabrera before inducing a ground out to 3rd. Jacque Jones ended the inning with a very good catch on a ball off the bat of Garrett Anderson, on the warning track just before the wall. Lilly allowed just a single to Casey Kotchman in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Lilly struck out Maicer Izturis (Cesar’s half brother) and Matthews Jr. to start the inning. DeRosa’s first highlight play of the game ended the inning.

In the 4th Lilly pitched his way out of trouble after allowing back-to-back singles by Guerrero and Anderson (Anderson’s was an infield single, another solid play by DeRosa but he could not throw Anderson out at first). Lilly induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Shea Hillenbrand and Kotchman grounded out to Izturis to end the inning. In the 5th, the Angels hit the ball hard but only Bengie Molina’s double found green. Molina doubled off the base of the left center field wall. Lilly then struck out Izturis and induced another groundout off the bat of Matthews Jr. to end the inning.

Lilly finished his outing with a 1-2-3 6th inning and was aided by the second highlight reel play of the game by Mark DeRosa that robbed Guerrero of an extra base hit….DeRosa made a diving stop and threw him out from foul territory. Lilly recorded nine groundouts on the day to just five fly outs against a very good Angels offense. Lilly looked confident and as mentioned, was very aggressive.

Kerry Wood pitched the 7th inning and threw a total of 17 pitches, 12 for strikes. Wood appeared very confident on the mound but the Angels hit him hard. Shea Hillenbrand hit a hard line out to center to start the inning. Erick Aybar singled to center and on a hit and run Howie Kendrick singled to left (in the vacated hole at short) and Aybar motored to 3rd. Mike Scioscia put the hit and run on again with Bengie Molina at the plate. Molina then hit a grounder to DeRosa at 3rd that scored Aybar and kept the Angels inning alive for Kendry Morales….Scioscia has a reputation of being a good manager for a reason. DeRosa threw out the slow-footed Molina but was unable to turn the inning ending double play. Morales then hit a high, inside fastball over the right field wall. Wood finished the inning with a strikeout but allowed 3 runs on 3 hits.

Michael Wuertz pitched the 8th and walked one and struck out one. Ryan Dempster pitched the 9th and threw first pitch strikes to 2 of the 3 batters he faced. He struck out Erick Aybar and recorded the other two outs via the ground ball and fly ball varieties. Dempster threw 11 pitches, 8 for strikes.

The Cubs offense could not manage much against Angels’ pitching. Other than the Floyd home run and a bases loaded walk to Floyd in the 8th, the offense could not string together any hits. Daryle Ward grounded into an unlikely 3-6-1 double play with the bases loaded in the 8th to end the inning.

The offense has played very well all spring training and the patience at the plate has been refreshing to see. The Cubs continue to make the pitchers work and get themselves into hitters’ counts. As long as they can continue that philosophy, the offensive nightmare from last season should not return.

Wade Miller and Ted Lilly the past two games have pitched their best ball of the spring. The pair combined for 11 shutout innings, 7 hits, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts in the past two games….not a bad start.

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs hit the road on Monday (the “long” trip) to Tempe to finish their Cactus League schedule with the Angels. Jason Marquis is scheduled to make the start against Joe Saunders. The Cubs have lost the first three games against the Angels, it would be nice to see them put up a win against what many feel is an elite team in the American League….

Quote of the Day

"You are never as good as the adulations or as bad as the criticism, so don't get caught up on either one."
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