Strong defense aids Lilly's effort
Tracy, Byrd come through with big plays to keep no-no intact
CHICAGO -- There was one out in the White Sox sixth inning Sunday night when Andruw Jones lined a ball down the left-field line. It should have been a double. But Cubs third baseman Chad Tracy made a slick stop of the ball and threw Jones out in time.
At the time, Ted Lilly had a no-hitter -- and so did White Sox starter Gavin Floyd -- and the Cubs' lefty carried that into the ninth, losing his bid for history when pinch-hitter Juan Pierre singled to lead off the frame. Lilly and Carlos Marmol combined on a one-hit, 1-0 win over the White Sox.
"At the time, you don't even think about it that early in the game," Tracy said of his defensive stop. "Now that you look back on it -- [Lilly] had me playing the line all night. He's known to give up doubles down the line. He made sure he wanted me to play the line. Any other pitcher, that's probably a double."
"That was very impressive," Lilly said of Tracy's play. "That's a really tough play. That's one thing I wouldn't want to be is a third baseman in the big leagues with the guys turning on balls and hitting them hard. You're playing goalie down there. He's made quite a few plays. I know he just got here, but before he was sent down, he made a lot of nice plays."
Tracy started the season with the Cubs but was sent down to Triple-A Iowa after hitting .273 in 19 games. He rejoined the club Wednesday in Milwaukee.
In the White Sox fourth, outfielder Marlon Byrd robbed Alex Rios of a possible extra-base hit with a running catch in center for the second out. Again, Byrd felt he was in the right place, right time.
"[Lilly] was hitting his spots," Byrd said. "Wherever I played, it seemed like if they did hit it in the air, it was going to come right to me. He was phenomenal."
This is the longest Lilly has carried a no-hitter in a game. His previous best was 7 1/3 innings April 27, 2002, at Seattle while with the Yankees.
The Cubs defense also came through in the ninth. After Pierre's single, Lilly was pulled. The White Sox loaded the bases against Marmol and with one out, Paul Konerko bounced the ball to first baseman Derrek Lee. He fired home for the force.
"D-Lee makes the big play -- that's not an easy play, coming from another first baseman," Tracy said. "Those balls are sometimes the hardest ones because they're moving all over the place, plus it's wet out [because of rain]. You're thinking double play with Paul Konerko, but at that point, you have to make a split-second decision to go home. That's why [Lee] is a Gold Glover."
The Cubs did think Pierre might try to bunt his way on in the ninth.
"You have to be ready for anything," Lilly said.
It also helped the left-hander that he was in sync with his catcher. Lilly said he didn't shake Hill off much in the game.
The win snapped Lilly's personal five-game losing streak and was his eighth quality start. He hasn't had many wins to show for it.
"You go out there and compete and play to win," Lilly said. "I don't get too caught up in it. It's not really an emotional thing."
The close win could give the Cubs a boost. They have yet to get above .500 this year.
"We have a group of guys who aren't going to throw in the towel and never say die," Lilly said. "We're willing to go out there and earn it."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.