Lilly has brush with history in victory
Cubs starter takes no-hitter into seventh at frigid Wrigley
CHICAGO -- It was cold Monday at Wrigley Field. So cold that Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez couldn't feel his fingers. So cold that Lou Piniella's beard appeared to grow significantly as the day progressed. Blankets and hot chocolate were the most popular items sold at the concessions. But it didn't bother Ted Lilly.
Lilly combined with three pitchers on a one-hitter to help the Cubs post a 4-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies and win their frigid home opener. It was the fourth Cubs one-hitter of at least four pitchers, and first since Lilly, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry did so against Houston last Sept. 15.
"He's up for the challenge," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said of the lefty. "It could've been snowing, sleeting, we could've been playing on top of Mt. Everest, and he would've been all about it. It's one thing you know you're going to get out of Ted, and that is you'll get everything he's got."
Lilly (2-0) retired the first seven batters he faced, then walked Chris Iannetta with one out in the third before Garrett Atkins singled cleanly to left with two outs in the seventh to end his no-hit bid. Lilly then walked Seth Smith and was pulled after throwing 104 pitches. He struck out eight.
"It was a cold, raw day to play ball in, and Lilly really mastered the weather," Piniella said. "He threw strikes, changed speeds, got his curveball over. It was really an outstanding pitching performance."
Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman and Kevin Gregg finished things up for the Cubs, who didn't seem to mind the 72-minute rain delay before the game started. The precipitation continued throughout, creating less than ideal conditions for the crowd of 40,077. Lilly also had to deal with a 10-mph wind off Lake Michigan, fog and 36-degree temperatures.
"It's definitely challenging when you're trying to pitch in weather like this," Lilly said. "I think, fortunately, it never got to where it was raining hard. When you can't see and the hitter can't see, then it's really tough.
"I enjoy this weather, too. I understand the weather isn't going to be perfect all the time. It makes it a little more fun when you have conditions like this, and it makes it a little more challenging."
"I was trying to blow on my hands and everything, and it didn't work," Jimenez said. "It was freezing."
Lilly was aware he had a potential no-no but also knew his pitch count was high.
"I wasn't really thinking about it," he said. "I was still trying to focus on making quality pitches and not so much on how I'm going to protect that, protect the no-hitter. I felt if I made good pitches, I liked my chances. And I knew I had a lot of work to do, and a lot of outs."
Hill knew, too. He started to switch caps, then the superstitious side of him kicked in, and he kept to the same routine.
"He was in a terrific rhythm," Hill said of the lefty. "He had everything going. He had great umpire rhythm."
"It's a big part of pitching," Hill said. "You get a guy who's wild and all of a sudden he throws a ball that's close, and he may not get the call. Teddy was throwing strikes and pounding the zone, so those borderline strikes, he got them."
The Cubs got what they needed out of their "small ball" lineup, designed to compensate for the absence of regulars Aramis Ramirez (back), Milton Bradley (groin) and Geovany Soto (shoulder). They loaded the bases with one out in the second, and Jimenez (1-1) walked Hill to force in a run. On Sunday against Milwaukee, the Cubs scored four runs on bases-loaded walks.
Hill singled to lead off the fourth, Lilly walked and one out later, Ryan Theriot hit a potential double-play ball. But second baseman Jeff Baker threw the ball past Todd Helton at first for an error, allowing Hill to score. One batter later, Jimenez was lifted for Glendon Rusch, and Lee smacked an RBI single to make it 3-0. Kosuke Fukudome added an RBI single in the eighth.
How did the hitters deal with the weather?
"It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be," Reed Johnson said. "When the wind picked up, it started pelting you in the face a little bit and made it tougher. The tough thing is there's the pine tar and all the sticky stuff you use to put on your bat, and you stand on the on-deck circle for more than a minute or so and it starts to freeze. You don't have a grip on the bat, and you're doing everything you can to hold onto that thing."
The good news is Wednesday's forecast calls for some sunshine and warmer temperatures. Or maybe that's a bad thing for the Cubs, who seem to like the nasty weather.
"We showed today that we can do the little things," Johnson said. "We've got a smart enough group and a veteran group that's willing to sacrifice and move guys over, whether it's hit the ball to the right side or lay down a bunt and set up the guys who are paid the big bucks."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.