Game One Hundred Four: Cubs (55-48) vs. Phillies (55-49)
Game Time – 6:05pm C.T. ESPN, WGN Radio, XM Radio Channel 183, 174
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Ted Lilly (11-4, 3.46/1.09) vs. Cole Hamels (11-5, 3.63/1.18)
The Cubs open a 4-game series tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies and start a 7-game homestand that concludes on Sunday against the New York Mets. The next 7 games will be a good indication of how far Lou Piniella’s crew has come since the middle of May. Back on May 11th the Cubs started a 7-game road trip that included three against the Phillies and four against the Mets. They won just one game in both cities and limped home to face the White Sox with a 2-5 record to show for the efforts. That was then and this is now and a reversal of that record would be a good way to start the month of August. It will be tough for a Cubs team that does not play very well against southpaws. Tonight is the first of four they will face on this homestand and the Cubs are a Major League worst 9-15 against left handed starters. While the offense must figure out how to beat Cole Hamels tonight, it all starts with Ted Lilly. While the Cubs have their struggles against lefties, the Phillies do not fair much better. They are 15-20 against left-handers and they will face the surprising Ted Lilly tonight. Lilly has been a welcomed addition to the Cubs and one of the most surprising signings of this past off-season. Not one expert thought Lilly could have pitched this well for the Cubs and while there is still a long way to go (not to mention three more years), the way he has pitched to this point has made the Faithful forget a couple of names of the past.
Lilly has pitched well at Wrigley this season (6-3 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.03) but will have to once again be at the top of his game tonight if he expects to win his 8th in a row. The Phillies have a very good offense and Lilly will have to contend with the reigning NL MVP, Ryan Howard. Howard was on the DL back in May when the two teams faced off the first time. So while they took a big blow with the loss of Chase Utley to the DL, they did trade for Tadahito Iguchi and the former White Sox will look to beat his old crosstown rival once again.
Lilly is 5-0 in his last 5 starts with a 1.83 ERA (21 strikeouts and 9 walks) and has picked up a win in his last 7 decisions. His last time out against the Cardinals he gave up 1 run on 6 hits in 7 innings with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts (the only start all season he had more walks than strikeouts). Lilly beat the Phillies the last time he faced them on May 13th in Philadelphia. He gave up 1 run on 3 hits in 8 innings with a walk and 6 strikeouts.
Cole Hamels has quickly become one of the best pitchers in the National League. After a successful rookie campaign last season (9-8 with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 23 games) he is among the league leaders in strikeouts (135, behind Jake Peavy, 144, and Aaron Harang, 138) and has become the ace of the Phillies staff in just his first full year at the Major League level.
Hamels is 2-1 in his last 4 starts with a 2.67 ERA but is just 5-3 with a 3.84 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP on the road this season. He beat the Cubs and Rich Hill back on May 11th and gave up 2 runs (solo home runs by Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez) on 7 hits in 7 innings with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks. Hamels is 1-1 in 2 career starts against the Cubs with a 7.00 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP. Tonight will be Hamels second career start at Wrigley….his first last August was very disappointing and short. Hamels gave up 9 runs, 5 earned, on 9 hits in 2 innings pitched with home runs from Angel Pagan and Michael Barrett.
If the Cubs are to continue their winning ways, they have to figure out how to beat lefties and tonight will be a very good test against one of the best.
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