Early trouble sends Cubs to defeat
Lilly yields leadoff homer, club unable to catch Brewers
CHICAGO -- This was not how Ted Lilly or the Cubs wanted to start the season.
Rickie Weeks notched his first home run on the first pitch from Lilly to power the Milwaukee Brewers to an 8-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in front of 39,468 fans at chilly Wrigley Field on Wednesday.
"Obviously, that's not the way you want to get the game going," Lilly said. "It was just a matter of not being able to locate the other pitches well. As a starting pitcher, it's up to me to get the momentum going and set the tone of the game early."
Unfortunately for Lilly (0-1) and the Cubs, the Brewers did just that. The left-hander gave up four runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings, striking out five.
"He didn't have a good fastball, he really didn't," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "That pitch was missing. It wasn't his best stuff. Milwaukee's a good hitting team."
"I wouldn't argue with Lou," Lilly said. "Not only the velocity wasn't where I'd like it to be, but my command wasn't there either. When you've got both things working against you, you're going to have to find other ways to get guys out, and I wasn't able to locate the other pitches.
"Throwing strikes is one thing, but you still have to make good pitches and locate the ball well. You saw Jeff Suppan do that. I thought he moved the ball in and out very well, and he got good results."
Suppan (1-0) earned the win, giving up two runs on six hits -- including a pair of solo homers -- and two walks over 6 1/3 innings.
In an effort to get the Cubs going, Piniella announced after the game that Alfonso Soriano will flip-flop with Ryan Theriot and move into the leadoff spot, effective Thursday in the series finale. The other change will be an emphasis on better defensive play all around. Piniella wasn't happy with mistakes on Wednesday.
"We didn't play well today," he said. "We gave them three or four runs when we didn't execute. We overthrew the cutoff man from center field; first-base ground ball, the throw wasn't good, and the pitcher missed the bag. We threw a ball into center field. When you're not scoring too many runs, you can't do those things."
After Weeks' blast, which cleared the left-field bleachers, the Brewers made it 3-0 in the fourth, when Ryan Braun doubled with one out down the left-field line and scored on Bill Hall's single. Corey Hart followed with an RBI double.
The Cubs' offense did show some life as Derrek Lee hit his first home run leading off the fourth, and rookie Geovany Soto connected on his first with one out in the seventh. Lee is ahead of last year's pace; he didn't hit his first homer in 2007 until April 25.
Kosuke Fukudome, who had three hits on Opening Day, including a three-run homer, was 0-for-3, striking out twice.
Braun had three hits in the game, including an RBI single with two outs in the fifth. The Brewers scored another run in the sixth without a hit, as Hart walked, stole second, then stole third before scoring two outs later on an errant throw by Soto.
"You never want to lose games," Theriot said. "I don't think anybody's pushing the panic button. I think everybody's out there playing hard and giving everything they've got, and we just have to group some hits together and start winning games."
Lilly was 9-1 last season after a Cubs loss but couldn't notch the team's first "W." Piniella had emphasized during a team meeting Sunday the importance of having a winning record in April.
"It's only two games, but it's certainly not a good start," Piniella said. "I told our baseball team they better be ready to play. I meant it, too. I wasn't joking around. [On Monday] we got beat, and today we didn't play well. One of the things we need to do is play good defensive baseball and not give away runs, and today we didn't."
After all the preseason hype and predictions of the Cubs repeating as National League Central champs and possibly ending the 100-year drought of their last World Series championship, it's tough to be winless.
"Believe me, we came out with the intentions of going 2-0," Lilly said. "We were unable to do that, but you'd like to get off to a good start. Like you saw last year, we weren't able to do that, and we were able to continue to battle through the season, and we got ourselves in position to win the pennant."
Piniella would probably prefer not to have to make that uphill climb again in 2008.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.