Game One Hundred Forty-Three – Cubs 12 Cardinals 3
WP – Ted Lilly (15-7) LP – Joel Pineiro (5-4) Save – None
The Cubs played one of their best games of the season on a scheduled day off. Monday was supposed to be a day of rest for the Cubs in Houston but instead they spent Monday afternoon at home knocking the cover off the ball. Lou Piniella has been promising his team will get hot one more time this season, and Monday was a good start to the biggest week of the year. The Cubs pounded out 17 hits, 9 were for extra bases with 3 home runs. Derrek Lee was 3-for-5, just a triple short of the cycle. Lee scored the first run of the game after a 2-out double in the 1st inning and broke a 1-1 tie in the 4th inning with his 18th home run of the season. Aramis Ramirez had 4 extra base hits that included his 21st and 22nd home runs of the year to go along with 2 doubles. Jacque Jones played a solid game in the field and was 3-for-4 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. The Cubs scored runs in 5 of the 8 innings and 5 of the 12 runs were scored with 2 outs.
What will be lost in the offense explosion is the performance of Ted Lilly. Lilly threw a gem and ran his record to 9-1 after a Cubs’ loss. Lilly won his 15th of the year with another quality start to tie Carlos Zambrano for the team lead. He held the Cardinals to 3 runs on 5 hits in 7 innings with 7 strikeouts and no walks. Lilly doubled in the Cubs 5-run 4th inning, his first career extra base hit and his 5th RBI of the season.
The Cubs picked up a much-needed win against their long time rival. The Cubs improved their season record against the Cardinals to 8-4 and finished the year against the Redbirds at home with a 4-3 mark. With the win the Cubs are 3 games above .500 and are tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the lead in the Central Division. Ted Lilly once again was the stopper on a day the Cubs needed a big win. Lilly made only two mistakes on the afternoon and the offense did the rest. The entire team appeared to relax after Derrek Lee’s home run in the 4th. They recorded 5 straight hits, with 3 consecutive doubles from Jacque Jones, Jason Kendall and Ted Lilly. Hopefully this will be the start of a good week of baseball for the Chicago Cubs.
Lilly retired the first two batters he faced to start the game but gave up a 2-out double to Albert Pujols. With Rick Ankiel at the plate, Jason Kendall let one get past him that advanced Pujols to 3rd. Lilly ended up striking out Ankiel to end the inning….the first of 4 strikeouts on the afternoon for Rick Ankiel.
In the 2nd, Lilly gave up a solo home run to Jim Edmonds, his 11th of the year tied the game at 1. Aaron Miles followed with a bloop to right. Cliff Floyd could not make the catch and it bounced off his glove in shallow right. Mark DeRosa picked up the ball and threw a strike to Ryan Theriot to nail Miles at 2nd for the second out of the inning. That play changed the momentum of the game. Lilly struck out Pineiro to end the inning.
Lilly retired the Cardinals in order for the first time in the 3rd and again in the 4th. After the Cubs took a commanding lead in the 4th, Lilly threw a perfect shutdown inning. He retired 10 in a row before a lead off double by David Eckstein in the 6th. One out later, So Taguchi hit his 3rd home run of the year to left. Taguchi’s 2-run homer cut the Cubs lead to 7-3, but that was as close as they would get.
Lilly retired the last 5 he faced with 3 of his 7 strikeouts.
Bobby Howry pitched a perfect 8th and after walking the first two batters he faced in the 9th, Michael Wuertz struck out the next three to end the game. Cubs pitching allowed a total of 5 hits, 2 walks and struck out 11.
The struggles of the Cubs’ offense this entire season have been well documented but for one afternoon everything fell into place. They hit for power, they hit with runners in scoring position, they found gaps and did not make any baserunning mistakes.
Derrek Lee kick started the offense with a 2-out double to the right field corner in the 1st inning. Cliff Floyd, making a rare appearance in the clean-up spot, followed with a broken bat single to center, Lee scored.
Joel Pineiro retired the Cubs in order in the 2nd and 3rd innings but Derrek Lee led off the 4th with his 18th home run of the year. One out later, Aramis Ramirez hit his 21st of the season. Mark DeRosa followed with a single to left and scored on a double to center by Jacque Jones. Jason Kendall doubled to left, Jones scored and then Lilly followed with a double to right that scored Kendall. Alfonso Soriano walked but Ryan Theriot lined out to Albert Pujols, he turned the unassisted double play to end the inning.
The Cubs added one in the 5th. Floyd walked with 1-out then Ramirez doubled to center to put runners on 2nd and 3rd. DeRosa was hit (again) to load the bases. Jones followed with a single to left to plate Floyd. But Kendall popped out to right and Lilly struck out to end the inning.
Aramis Ramirez led off the 7th with a double. DeRosa grounded out. Tony LaRussa intentionally walked Jacque Jones but Kelvin Jimenez hit Kendall to load the bases. Daryle Ward pinch-hit for Ted Lilly. Jimenez uncorked a wild pitch, Ramirez scored from 3rd and Ward walked to reload the bases. Soriano flied out and Theriot grounded out to short to end the inning.
The Cubs added 4 in the 8th, all with 2 outs. Aramis Ramirez hit his 22nd of the year to left. Mike Fontenot and Jacque Jones singled. Jason Kendall reached on a throwing error by Eckstein to load the bases. Mike Maroth uncorked a wild pitch, Fontenot scored and Craig Monroe followed with a single to center that scored Jones and Kendall….Monroe’s first two RBI’s as a Cub.
Lou Piniella said after the win, “A game like this can really get you going.” Monday was a great game, no doubt….now the question is, what will the Cubs do for an encore?
The Cubs open a 3-game series at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. Jason Marquis is scheduled to face Brandon Backe.