Close….But No Cigar – Cubs 6 Astros 1

Game One Hundred Forty-Eight – Cubs 6 Astros 1
WP – Ted Lilly (15-9) LP – Brian Moehler (11-7) Save – None

wflag.jpgHow does Ted Lilly follow up a no hitter? By throwing 6 innings of no hit ball of his own. A day after Carlos Zambrano tossed the Cubs’ first no-no in 36 years, Ted Lilly entered the 7th inning without allowing a hit and erased the only mistake he made, a walk to Lance Berkman in the 2nd inning, by picking him off of first base. Lilly faced the minimum through 6 innings of work and allowed only 1 hit in 7 innings with a walk and 9 strikeouts. Lilly tied a career-high with his 15th win of the year….for the third straight season.

The Cubs pitching staff allowed 1 run on 1 hit with 4 walks and a hit batsman in the two games against the Astros (18 innings) with 20 strikeouts.

The Cubs’ offense came alive for the second game in a row against a pitcher they struggled mightily with this season. The Cubs scored 5 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings with 2 of the 3 home runs of the day off of Brian Moehler. Derrek Lee continued to show signs of driving the ball and came through with one of the biggest hits of the game, a 2-run homer to left center in the 6th that gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead….his first longball since August 22nd.

The Cubs manufactured a run in the 1st inning after a lead off single by Alfonso Soriano, a single by Derrek Lee and a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez. Jim Edmonds hit his 17th home run as a Cub (18th of the year) and his first since September 2nd to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the 5th. Geovany Soto inched closer to Billy Williams’ record with his 22nd of the season, a 2-run shot to left in the 6th that capped the scoring for the Cubs on the afternoon.

The Cubs’ defense played a big part in Ted Lilly’s success. Jim Edmonds made one of his patent diving catches in the 6th to rob Brad Ausmus. Alfonso Soriano took a hit away from Miguel Tejada with a leaping catch to end the 4th inning. Mark DeRosa helped limit the damage in the 8th with a running catch into right center that turned a single into a sacrifice fly for David Newhan that accounted for the Astros’ only run of the game and of the 2-game series.

The Cubs swept the brief 2-game series against the Astros in Miller Park and unless the third game of the series is necessary, completed the season series with a 8-9 record against Houston.

With the win on Monday afternoon, the Cubs improved to 32 games over .500 with their 90th win of the season…. After beginning the season with a horrible April in which he posted a 1-4 record in his first 6 starts with a 6.46 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP, Ted Lilly turned around his season and is 14-5 in his last 26 games. Lilly followed his gem against the Cardinals with an even better start against the Astros and did not allow his first hit until the 76th pitch of the game. Lilly showed very good command and 5 of his 9 strikeouts came in the first three innings.

Lilly left after 7 innings of work, the only hit he allowed was off the bat of Mark Loretta with one on and no outs. With a 6-0 lead, Lilly struck out Miguel Tejada for the first out in the 7th then retired Lance Berkman on a fly out to the track in right. Lilly saved his best curveball of the game until the end….he struck out Hunter Pence looking to end the 7th inning and his outing.

Jeff Samardzija retired the first batter he faced in the 8th but issued back-to-back walks to Darin Erstad and Brad Ausmus. Lou Piniella made the slow walk and brought in Carlos Marmol, with the game still in question. Marmol uncorked a wild pitch with David Newhan at the plate. Newhan then lined what appeared to be a single into right center but Mark DeRosa made a nice running catch for the second out….Darin Erstad tagged and scored the Astros only run. Marmol struck out Geoff Blum on a check swing to end the inning.

Bobby Howry turned in an uneventful 9th inning.

The Cubs offense managed only 7 hits, but 3 were home runs….a solo shot by Jim Edmonds and 2-run homers by Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto. Soto is only 3 home runs short of the Cubs’ rookie record for home runs, 25, set by Billy Williams in 1961.

The Cubs took care of business in Milwaukee against the Astros….and have won their last 4 in a row. After starting the road trip by dropping 2 of 3 against the Reds, the Cubs finished with a 5-3 record.

Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face CC Sabathia and the Brewers on Tuesday night in the first of three at Wrigley Field….minus Ned Yost.