Game Eighty-Nine – Cubs 9 Astros 3
WP – Ted Lilly (9-4) LP – Roy Oswalt (8-6) Save – None
On a beautiful day at Wrigley with the wind blowing straight out, the only long ball hit was by the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs offense exploded for 9 runs off of Roy Oswalt and Soriano’s 3-run homer in the 6th put an end to the Cubs recent power outage. Aramis Ramirez had a 4 RBI day that included a 2-run double in the 4th that got the Cubs on the board. Cesar Izturis made a rare start at short and responded with two hits and two runs scored, including the first of the day. Mark DeRosa had another fine offensive day but his flexibility in the field proved very valuable to Lou Piniella once again. DeRosa ended up playing three different positions after Cliff Floyd left the game in the 1st inning and he finished the afternoon at 3rd base.
Ted Lilly pitched a gem, plain and simple. He won his 5th start in a row by beating the Astros for the first time. After a rocky first inning, Lilly settled in and kept the ball down. He limited the Astros’ offense to 1 run on 4 hits in 8 innings while walking 1 and striking out 7. Lilly helped his own cause with his 3rd career RBI in the 6th and was on base when Soriano went yard in the same inning. The Cubs moved above .500 at Wrigley with the win and are 3 games over .500 for the first time this season. Saturday’s win also guaranteed Piniella’s crew their 5th series victory out of the last six. Balls were leaving Wrigley at a rapid rate during batting practice. The wind was blowing straight out and the immediate thought was, Ted Lilly has to keep the ball down today….and he did. Lilly had arguably his best outing as a Cub. After struggling to get through the 1st inning, Lilly responded with a 5-pitch 2nd inning and a 12-pitch 3rd inning. He got into a rhythm and showed the pinpoint control he has during his winning streak. With all of the runs the Cubs’ offense scored off of Oswalt, Lilly’s performance will be overlooked.
The first hit of the game for the Astros was a blooper down the right field line that Cliff Floyd tried to catch but was unable to and by the time Mark DeRosa picked the ball up, Chris Burke stood at 3rd with a leadoff triple. Hunter Pence followed with a groundout to DeRosa to score Burke from 3rd. Mark Loretta worked a 3-2 count before flying out to right center. Lilly walked Carlos Lee on 4 pitches but struck out Lance Berkman swinging to end the inning.
As mentioned, Lilly retired the Astros in order on 5 pitches in the 2nd and sat them down in order with two strikeouts in the 3rd. Carlos Lee flied out to the warning track in left center in the 4th, but Lilly retired the side as well in the 4th on just 11 pitches.
Morgan Ensberg singled to center to lead off the 5th, the second hit of the day allowed by Lilly. With 1-out, Brad Ausmus singled to center and the Astros appeared to be on the comeback trail. Roy Oswalt attempted to sacrifice the runners into scoring position but bunted the ball back to Lilly who threw to Ramirez to cut down the lead runner, Ensberg, at 3rd. Chris Burke followed, swung at the first pitch and popped out to right field.
Lilly settled back down in the 6th and retired the Astros on three groundball outs. In the 7th, he worked around a 1-out single by Morgan Ensberg. Thanks to a great diving catch by Jacque Jones to start the 8th, Lilly retired the Astros in order including striking out Hunter Pence to end the inning and his outing.
Michael Wuertz gave up the other 2 runs in the 9th. A leadoff double by Mark Loretta and then consecutive doubles to Ensberg and Bruntlett with 2 outs led to the 2 runs. Wuertz struck out Brad Ausmus to end the game.
Roy Oswalt threw 3 1/3 perfect innings to start the game. The Cubs offense did not look good either as Oswalt threw strike after strike. Soriano led off the 4th with a ground out to 2nd on Oswalt’s first pitch but Cesar Izturis singled to left center after a very good at bat….it was the Cubs’ first hit of the day. Derrek Lee followed with a double to right and Mike Quade held Izturis at 3rd, much to the dismay of the Wrigley Faithful. Aramis Ramirez bailed him out with a ringing double off the right center field wall that appeared to be heading for the bleachers (the wind had died down at the point). The ball ended up in the ivy, Pence raised his hands but Ramirez circled the bases on the offhand chance the Astros’ rookie was wrong. Ramirez ended up back at 2nd but with 2 outs scored on an infield single by DeRosa and another throwing error by the Astros. DeRosa hit a tapper to the 3rd base side of the mound, Ausmus picked it up and threw the ball down the right field line, Ramirez scored and DeRosa ended up at 2nd.
Alfonso Soriano singled to center with 2 outs in the 5th. Izturis and Lee walked to load the bases and Ramirez came through with a big 2-out, 2-run single to left that gave Ted Lilly a little breathing room.
Mark DeRosa led off the 6th with a single to right center and advanced to 3rd on a single to right by Jacque Jones. Rob Bowen struck out for the first out but Ted Lilly took Oswalt’s first pitch into right to score DeRosa. Soriano stepped in and hit the first home run for the Cubs in their last 10 games….a drive into the bleachers in left.
The Cubs played a solid game once again and did so in impressive style. With the win the Cubs are 3 games above .500 for the first time since May 2006.
Jason Marquis will look to get his second half off to a good start on Sunday afternoon. The Astros will send lefty Wandy Rodriguez to the mound and Lou Piniella’s crew has to beat the lefty to end their recent losing streak against southpaws.