Game One Hundred Thirty-One – Cubs 2 Astros 0
WP – Ted Lilly (10-8) LP – Felipe Paulino (2-7) Save – Carlos Marmol (8)
For the first time since the home opener back on April 13, Ted Lilly was on the right end of a shutout. Lilly combined with Carlos Marmol on the fourth shutout of the season for the Cubs pitching staff … and the first since Randy Wells shutdown the Astros 12-0 on July 29. Lilly pitched a gem and won his first game since July 11. The Cubs 2-0 victory on Wednesday marked the first time this year the Cubs won a 2-0 contest.
Ted Lilly threw strikes and kept the Astros guessing all afternoon. Houston managed only four hits in eight innings against ‘The Bulldog‘ and Lilly did not issue a single free pass while striking out five.
The Cubs offense struggled against Felipe Paulino. Ted Lilly actually recorded the Cubs’ first hit in the third inning but was thrown out trying to steal second. Lou Piniella was asked about Lilly trying to steal a base and the skipper’s response was, “The light was red as hell.”
A day after Randy Wells became the team’s first 10-game winner, Lilly matched the rookie’s win total and made another case to be the Cubs’ number one pitcher next season.
Derrek Lee drove in the game’s only runs in the fourth inning. Following a double by Andres Blanco, Lee launched a 0-1 pitch from Felipe Paulino into the bleachers in left. Lee’s 27th longball of the year (RBI number 89 and 90) gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead … one that Ted Lilly would be able to hold up.
The Cubs offense managed only four hits on the afternoon with three walks.
Carlos Marmol picked up his eighth save of the year with an effective ninth inning. Marmol walked Hunter Pence and gave up a single to Carlos Lee but retired Miguel Tejada on a fly out to right center and pinch-hitter Geoff Blum on a pop up to Jeff Baker.
The Cubs’ defense played a huge part in Wednesday’s victory. Andres Blanco made one sensational play to rob Jeff Keppinger of at least a single to end the third … then took away a hit from Miguel Tejada in the fourth. Mike Fontenot turned in a highlight reel catch in the sixth. Fontenot made a great diving catch into the bullpen area down the right field line to end Kaz Matsui’s at bat to start the inning.
Derrek Lee played his typically solid game at first and Jeff Baker did a fine job subbing for Aramis Ramirez … the Cubs might have found a utility player for next season.
Lou Piniella’s crew finished the season series with the Astros with an 11-6 record, and tied the organization’s mark for the most wins in a single season against Houston set in 1964. The Cubs improved to three games over .500 for the year behind the tenth win of the season by Ted Lilly. The veteran southpaw threw only 105 pitches in eight shutout innings, 69 for strikes.
Lilly retired the Astros in order in the first, fifth (on six pitches), sixth and seventh innings.
Carlos Lee recorded the Astros’ first hit in the second. Lilly was able to induce a grounder of the bat of Tejada for the first out … and both Jason Michaels and Aaron Boone flied out to end the inning.
Kaz Matsui singled with two outs in the third, on a 3-2 pitch. Lilly struggled with his command briefly and ran the count to 3-0 against Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger ripped Lilly’s next offering up the middle, just to the left of second base. Andres Blanco made a tremendous diving catch to rob Keppinger of a hit … and with two outs possibly saved a run.
Hunter Pence led off the fourth with a hustle double to center. Lilly retired Carlos Lee on a pop out to second, Miguel Tejada on a nice play by Andres Blanco and Jason Michaels fouled out to Derrek Lee.
Humberto Quintero recorded the Astros’ first hit since the fourth inning with one out in the eighth. Quintero turned a bloop single down the first base line into a double. Cecil Cooper went to his bench for Lance Berkman. Lilly struck out Berkman for the second out and retired Kaz Matsui on a fly out to right center.
Wednesday was a game the Cubs needed to play back in June … Solid defense, just enough offense and winning a low scoring game.
Ryan Dempster will face Carlos Torres in the makeup with the South Side on Thursday afternoon.