Lilly lives up to challenge in win over LA
Cubs starter yields one run over seven, backed by Hill
CHICAGO -- Ted Lilly didn't face the Los Angeles Dodgers in last fall's National League Division Series. Maybe he should have.
Lilly stymied the Dodgers and got some help from backup catcher Koyie Hill, who smacked a game-tying home run in the seventh inning, as the Cubs beat L.A., 2-1, on Friday to even the series.
It's the fewest runs scored by the Cubs in a win this season. They had tallied four or more runs in all 23 of their previous wins, and have scored three or fewer runs in 19 of their 23 losses.
"Our offense is going to score runs," Lilly said. "I don't know if we're going to break any single-season records, but we're going to score runs. They're going to pick us up, and there are going to be days when we pick them up. You look at winning teams, and that's what they do."
Lilly (6-4) struck out five over seven innings and gave up four hits, including Matt Kemp's solo homer on a changeup with two outs in the seventh. The ball landed in the basket rimming the left-field bleachers.
But Hill tied the game in the Cubs' half when he launched the first pitch from Chad Billingsley (6-3) leading off. Again, the ball landed in the basket, only this time it was in front of the right-field seats.
"I looked at it on tape and it was the swing I wanted," Hill said. "You hit a homer and there's a certain feeling, and I wouldn't say that was one of the ones that was a no-doubter. I thought I hit it OK but that the wind would hold it up and catch it. It was just enough, and that's all you need."
One out later, the Cubs loaded the bases on singles by Jake Fox -- now 3-for-3 as a pinch-hitter -- Alfonso Soriano and Bobby Scales. Kosuke Fukudome hit a tie-breaking sacrifice fly to center to go ahead, 2-1.
It was a nice rebound at-bat for Fox, who struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Dodgers.
"After you have a game like that and you get a little disappointed in one at-bat, it's important to come back and have a good approach in the next at-bat," Fox said. "After I let the team down [Thursday] night, I wanted to come back and give the team a chance today."
The Cubs had chances earlier, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. There were two on and none out in the second, but Billingsley escaped when Mike Fontenot lined out, Hill struck out, and Andres Blanco popped up. Chicago loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, and Blanco grounded out to end that threat. In the sixth, the Cubs had a runner at third and none out, but Derrek Lee hit a comebacker, and Micah Hoffpauir and Fontenot both grounded out to first baseman James Loney.
"You've got to tip your cap to Billingsley," Fox said. "I was sitting there watching the whole game and every time he got in a jam, he got out of it."
The Dodgers right-hander actually lowered his ERA to 2.80 despite the loss.
"That's the whole idea is to find a way to win those games," Lilly said of the close game. "I know Billingsley has been throwing really well and he's been tough to score runs off, and going into it, it's the kind of challenge you look forward to."
That's exactly the approach the Cubs expect from Lilly.
"That was patented Ted Lilly," Hill said. "He's a gamer, everybody knows it. He's always going to go out and give you a chance to win, and today he didn't get discouraged. A lot of guys can let what happened early in the game affect them and try to do too much, and he stayed the course and pitched his game. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have the opportunity to win. A lot of this is him."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella has said his only regret from last year's postseason is that Lilly didn't get a chance to pitch. The lefty would've started Game 4, but the Dodgers swept the Cubs in three.
"I didn't think about that or take that into consideration," Lilly said of the missed opportunity to participate in the 2008 NLDS. "I was just pitching against one of the best teams in baseball. Their pitchers tend to be pretty stingy, and they play solid baseball and have guys who work counts and get on base and steal bases and come up with clutch hits.
"When you look at the Dodger team, that's how I look at them, and I was definitely looking forward to the challenge of facing a good club like this."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.