No Room for Error

Game Thirty-Five – Cubs 4 Phillies 1
WP – Ted Lilly (3-2) LP – Jon Lieber (1-2) Save – Ryan Dempster (8)

wflag.jpg The Cubs began Sunday in the midst of a 3-game losing streak, staring at the possibility of losing the first three games of a seven game road trip and facing a pitcher at the top of his game. The Cubs’ offense had been struggling to score runs and the bullpen was coming off its worst collective outing of the season. After Saturday’s loss the big question was how would Lou Piniella’s team respond and on Sunday Ted Lilly answered the question single-handily with his longest outing of the year. Lilly shutout the high-powered Phillies offense until the 8th inning while not allowing his first hit of the game until the 5th inning.

Derrek Lee was not in Piniella’s original lineup, was a late addition and ended up leaving the game with neck spasms in the 2nd inning. Daryle Ward stepped in for Lee and his double sparked a 2-run 4th inning that gave Ted Lilly just enough room to work with. The offense was very patient at the plate in the 9th and tacked on 2 very important runs to give Ryan Dempster a little breathing room in the 9th.

Cesar Izturis had another big game (3-4 with a RBI and a run scored, for the series he was 7-10 with 2 runs scored and a RBI) and Matt Murton picked up a rare start this season against right-handed pitching. A day after Murton’s pinch-hit home run he responded with a 3-5 day that included driving in Daryle Ward for the first score of the afternoon. Before the game Lou Piniella announced Michael Wuertz and Rocky Cherry would be used as the bridge to Ryan Dempster but little did he know, Ted Lilly would not need any help.

Other than Lilly struggling with the location of his curve ball in the 1st inning he was in command all day. Lilly appeared to get into a rhythm while keeping the Phillies guessing at the plate. Lilly surrendered his only walk of the afternoon in the 1st inning. After retiring Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth on fly outs to Matt Murton, Lilly walked Aaron Rowand but Chase Utley swung at Lilly’s first offering and popped out to Ryan Theriot to end the inning.

After the walk to Rowand, Lilly sat down the next 12 he faced before Abraham Nunez singled to right past Ryan Theriot for the Phillies’ first hit of the game. Lilly retired Carlos Ruiz on a fly out to right to end the inning. Lilly retired the next 9 he faced before giving up his second hit of the day to Wes Helms to lead off the 8th. Lilly began having trouble with his location and it was very evident he was tiring. Abraham Nunez followed with a single to right that put runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. Carlos Ruiz followed and hit a hard line drive to 3rd that was caught by Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez tried to turn it into a double play and threw across the diamond to 1st. The ball sailed past Ward, Helms scored and Nunez advanced to 2nd. Shane Victorino pinch-hit for Jon Lieber and flied out to center. Rollins followed with a fly out to left to end the inning and the possible rally. Rollins finished the series 0-12.

Ryan Dempster replaced Lilly in the 9th after the offense had added two very important insurance runs in the top of the inning. With the Cubs up 4-1, Dempster threw Jayson Werth a first pitch strike before retiring him on a check swing grounder to Mark DeRosa at 1st base. Aaron Rowand grounded out to short but Chase Utley drove a 1-1 pitch down the left field line. Utley rounded 1st, headed for 2nd but Alfonso Soriano’s throw beat him to the bag and Theriot tagged him out to end the game. How fitting this series would end on an outfield assist.

Ted Lilly stepped up when his team needed him the most with his best outing of the season….now who is the ace of the staff again?

Jon Lieber was on the losing end of an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Lieber threw pitch for pitch with Ted Lilly until the 4th inning. Daryle Ward doubled to lead off the inning and Aramis Ramirez reached on an error by Abraham Nunez at 3rd. Matt Murton followed and dumped a single over Jimmy Rollins’ head to score Ward. Jacque Jones popped out to Utley at 2nd and Michael Barrett struck out swinging on a ball way out of the strike zone. Cesar Izturis came through with a big 2-out single to left that scored Ramirez. (Ramirez has received a lot of criticism in the past for not hustling and running out “routine plays”. His hustle ended up being the difference on the scoreboard.) Ted Lilly attempted to bunt his way on but fouled off the bunt attempt to end the inning.

The Cubs had a chance to add to the lead in the 6th but after four straight singles and another runner thrown out at the plate they were unable to. Matt Murton singled to center with 1-out, Jones followed with a single to left and Barrett also singled to left. Mike Quade waived Murton to the plate but Pat Burrell made a perfect throw to Carlos Ruiz (who was blocking the plate) to cut down Murton at home….the third time in two games the Phillies had thrown out a runner trying to score from 2nd. Izturis followed with the 4th single of the inning to load the bases but Lilly grounded out to 3rd to end the inning.

Antonio Alfonseca took the mound in the 9th and Izturis greeted him with a single over Rollins’ head at short. Cliff Floyd pinch-hit for Ted Lilly. With Floyd at the plate, Izturis advanced to 2nd on a passed ball, Floyd worked the count to 3-2 and broke his bat on a single to left. Angel Pagan pinch ran for Floyd, stole 2nd with Alfonso Soriano at the plate. Soriano struck out (Soriano’s 20-game hitting streak came to an end on Sunday) and Theriot received a 4-pitch walk. Charlie Manuel replaced Alfonseca with Fabio Castro. Piniella pinch-hit Mark DeRosa for Daryle Ward and he drew a walk on 4 pitches to score Izturis from 3rd. Manuel replaced Castro with Clay Condrey. Ramirez followed and hit a grounder to Rollins who tried to shuffle the ball from his glove to Utley at 2nd. Utley could not get the ball out of his glove; Ramirez beat out the throw at 1st and Pagan scored from 3rd. Murton grounded out to end the inning.

Aramis Ramirez did receive a visit from Mark O’Neal and Lou Piniella prior to the start of the bottom of the 9th. Ramirez remained in the game.

Ted Lilly gave the Cubs exactly what they needed….a WIN.

Jason Marquis is slated to start the first game of the series with the Mets on Monday night at Shea against another former Brave, Tom Glavine.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon