Late rally unable to bail out Cubs, Lilly
Lefty lasts just 3 2/3 innings in his shortest outing of season
LOS ANGELES -- If this was one of Ted Lilly's last games with the Cubs, it was one he won't want to remember.
Russell Martin hit a three-run homer off Lilly and Andre Ethier and Casey Blake each drove in two runs to lift the Dodgers to a 9-7 victory Friday night over the Cubs.
Lilly (3-8) struggled with his mechanics and was pulled after 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season and shortest since he lasted two innings Sept. 5, 2008, against Cincinnati. He gave up seven runs -- five earned -- on seven hits and two walks. In his last two starts, he's given up 16 runs over 10 1/3 innings.
"I feel healthy, just not happy," Lilly said. "The only thing that doesn't feel good is the way the ball's coming out. There's a few things I need to do to make that happen mechanically. Whatever it is, I need to figure it out."
The left-hander, who will be a free agent after this season, has been mentioned in trade rumors by teams searching for starting pitching, especially now that Cliff Lee has been traded from Seattle to Texas. Lilly's record isn't reflective of how he's done, as he's received an average of 2.31 runs of support per start, the lowest mark in baseball.
"I've got my hands full just getting guys out," Lilly said of all the gossip. "I'm busy doing that. I've got to go out and get hitters out regardless of anything else that's going on around me and that's it."
He didn't make a good sales pitch for himself Friday, but the problem wasn't just Lilly.
"Ted wasn't sharp," manager Lou Piniella said. "The last couple starts he's gotten the ball up and they've hit him. The difference in this ballgame was we had ample opportunities early and didn't take advantage of it and they took full advantage of it. We battled back to make it a ballgame but fell short. It's a big difference scoring runs early and not scoring early."
The Cubs were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight, including five in the first three innings. They loaded the bases with none out in the second and tallied when Mike Fontenot hit into a force at first off Chad Billingsley (7-4). The Dodgers answered in their half with Martin's three-run homer, driving in James Loney, who had singled, and Blake, who walked.
All-Star Marlon Byrd made it 3-2 with a two-out RBI single in the third, one of his four hits in the game, but the Dodgers took advantage of sloppy play in their half. Rafael Furcal doubled and moved up on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice, which Lilly fielded and flipped too low to Derrek Lee to catch. Lilly was charged with an error. Ethier then hit an RBI single that Fontenot deflected, and Matt Kemp followed with an RBI double to go ahead, 5-2. One out later, Blake hit a sacrifice fly.
Billingsley struck out nine, two shy of his season high, and survived the Cubs' early threats.
"He was fighting it and he had a really good seventh inning," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We were hoping to get through the eighth at least one hitter with him and then it got more exciting than we cared to think about."
Chicago added two runs in the eighth when Byrd singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch and Koyie Hill hit a sacrifice fly. The Cubs also rallied in the ninth as Kosuke Fukudome singled off Justin Miller, prompting Torre to call upon Jonathan Broxton. He retired the first two batters, but Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI triple off the closer and scored on Byrd's single.
It was too late.
"We tried to put up runs," Byrd said. "We got in a hole early."
Lilly will have a long All-Star break to think about Friday's game.
"You give up seven or eight runs in three innings and put your team in a real tough position," Lilly said. "Their pitching is pretty good. Then we score seven runs. You look at it and think if I could've done a few things differently and held it together a little more, maybe we're still playing right now.
"There's a lot of second guessing and self-reflection that goes on at a time like this," he said.
There's also the nasty rumors swirling around. Maybe that was the problem with Lilly?
"It's a possibility," Byrd said. "It can affect you mentally. [Lilly] is a professional and he's never going to let it show. But it can start creeping in there."
First baseman Lee also will be a free agent after this season and his name also has been mentioned as possible trade bait. He does have a full no-trade clause and would have to approve a move. Would he consider it?
"That's something I'll have to think about if it happens, if it gets to that point," Lee said.
The Cubs had hoped that at this point in the season, they would be considering adding help for the stretch run.
"It's not good news," Lee said of the rumors, "because it means you're not doing your job."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.