Lilly's no-hit bid paces Cubs' win
Southpaw allows leadoff single in ninth inning
CHICAGO -- Ted Lilly did his best to upstage the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night and nearly made history.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"It all started when the Blackhawks came on the field pregame," Marlon Byrd said. "We wanted [Lilly] to get a no-hitter. It was a close game, both guys throwing well. You really felt the intensity of the series."
Lilly (2-5) and White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (2-7) matched each other with hitless innings through six. But with two outs in the Cubs' seventh, Alfonso Soriano smacked a clean double to left and scored on Chad Tracy's single to center.
"I told [Lilly] after the game I was having flashbacks to 2004 when I played in a perfect game with [Randy Johnson]," Tracy said. "It just so happened I drove in the only run in that game, too. I was hoping he'd get it so I could have another lineup card and another story to tell my grandkids."
Pinch-hitter Juan Pierre ended Lilly's no-hit bid when he singled to center to lead off the ninth, lining an 0-1 slider. Lilly struck out three, walked one and hit two batters.
"I was just looking for something out over the plate and he threw it there and I put a good swing on it," Pierre said. "I knew he was going to throw strikes pretty much. I just got a pitch he probably wants back, but I did put a good swing on it and broke it up."
Lilly was pulled after the hit and 108 pitches. He received a standing ovation as he walked off the field.
"It was unbelievable," Lilly said. "There was so much energy. I can't remember that much energy -- I guess I'd have to go back to 2001 [with the Yankees] and the World Series and some of those big late inning game-winning homers and you get that kind of feeling. It was awesome and really special."
He was vying for the fourth no-hitter in the Major Leagues this year. Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, Oakland's Dallas Braden and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay have all accomplished the feat.
This was the fifth time Lilly has held an opponent hitless through the first six innings of a game, and first time since last season's home opener against Colorado, April 13, 2009. The last time he flirted with a no-no was April 27, 2002, against Seattle when he went 7 1/3 innings without giving up a hit.
The win didn't come easy. After Pierre singled and Lilly exited, closer Carlos Marmol entered and walked Andruw Jones. He was then called for a balk. Marmol explained that he hit his leg on purpose with the ball because he didn't want to throw the pitch.
"The walk to Jones and then the balk and I said, 'Oh, [shoot],'" Piniella said.
"He knows I can get out of it," Marmol said.
And he did. The Cubs closer struck out Alexei Ramirez and the Cubs intentionally walked Alex Rios to load the bases. Paul Konerko hit a grounder to first baseman Derrek Lee, who threw home for the force, and Carlos Quentin flew out to center to end the game.
The game got off to a rousing start as the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks were toasted prior to the game, parading the silver trophy around the ballpark to their signature tune, "Chelsea Dagger," and posing for a photo on the mound with both the Cubs and White Sox players and staff.
"It's funny because we talked about it when the Blackhawks were walking around the field," catcher Koyie Hill said. "I said to Teddy, 'Let's do that.' There was a little extra buzz in the air and you see how much fun [the Blackhawks] were having, it kind of carries over to what we're doing. I'm sure over there on the other side of the field, too. That was neat. There was a little more energy. It felt like something special was going to happen."
What did Hill want to do -- win the Stanley Cup or catch a no-hitter?
"Either one and you're champs," Hill said. "You want to be a champ in the show, that's what you have to do."
Lilly said the chatter in the dugout was normal for a close game, nothing special.
"I was definitely aware of what was going on and determined to get it done," Lilly said. "Unfortunately, I made a bad pitch [to Pierre]. A situation like that, there's a tendency for me to second guess my pitch selection, but it wasn't a very good pitch either.
"No question there's a little bit of a letdown," he said. "You get over that and then you realize it's a 1-0 game and we have to find a way to win this game. You've got a basestealer on. We're in a situation there where they have a chance to tie it up. How many times have we seen Marmol walk a guy or falls behind in the count and then finds a way. ... I think he loves those situations. He's physically and mentally capable to step his game up."
"I put 200 percent of my heart out there," said Marmol, who picked up his 13th save, even if it did give Piniella a few more gray hairs.
The last Cubs no-hitter was Sept. 14, 2008, when Carlos Zambrano shut down the Houston Astros in a game played at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
"When a guy's throwing the ball exactly where he wants to, it's easy to call that game," Hill said of Lilly. "There might have been three, four innings in a row where I didn't have to move my glove much. He was in a groove and you could see his arm slot was repeating good and the release point and he was behind the ball. We were getting ahead of hitters. When you have Teddy's demeanor, it's a good situation for us."
It was nearly perfect.
The White Sox lead the intracity series, 2-1, and the two teams will resume the series June 25-27 at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Whoever paid a ticket to watch these last two games in this ballpark, it was worth every penny," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "They were watching pretty good baseball."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.