04/22/08 7:17 PM ET
Fifth straight brings thrill, perspective
Cubs 7-1 on homestand after Cedeno's slam, Lilly's first victory
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"I'm taking that back," Cedeno said following the Cubs' 8-1 victory over the New York Mets of his World Series boast. "I went too fast. I was so happy last night, I talked about a World Series. It's very early. We've been doing great, and we have to keep going."
Doing "great" may be an understatement. The Cubs closed their homestand 7-1 and averaged slightly more than eight runs a game. The team now is one win away from becoming the second franchise in Major League history to win 10,000 games. Only the New York/San Francisco Giants have won more games, with 10,192 wins heading into Tuesday's contest against Arizona.
The Cubs aren't counting to 10,000. They're taking things one day at a time.
"My observation is you have a bunch of guys who are not talking about what they're doing individually," said pitcher Ted Lilly, who picked up the win, his first, on Tuesday. "It's fun, obviously, because we're winning, but guys are talking about us winning games. It's really encouraging for me being in the clubhouse and hearing guys talk and getting an idea of where everyone's head is at. It seems like everyone is concerned about winning."
Reed Johnson hit a two-run single to back Lilly as the Cubs completed the two-game sweep of the Mets. The odds were against Lilly (1-3). The Mets were 8-1 against left-handed starters, batting .300 off southpaws. He held them to four hits, walked four and struck out four over six innings. Lilly retired the first 10 batters he faced before Angel Pagan doubled into the gap in right-center with one out in the New York fourth.
"He needed that," Mark DeRosa said. "I know he puts a lot of pressure on himself, a lot of undue pressure on himself, and it's nice for him, and I'm sure it'll be a nice plane ride to Colorado [for the next series] for him."
Lilly was able to mix in more breaking pitches and had more velocity on his fastball. His location was better, and so were the results. The Cubs had hoped the left-hander would go seven innings, but Lou Piniella pulled him after six. They wanted the day to end on a positive note.
Kosuke Fukudome singled with one out in the Chicago fourth off Nelson Figueroa (1-1) and scored one out later on Cedeno's double that Pagan seemed to have trouble getting a glove on along the right-field wall. Henry Blanco was intentionally walked, and Lilly then beat the throw on an infield hit to Easley to load the bases. Johnson hit a two-run single for a 3-0 lead.
The Mets added a run in the sixth, but DeRosa made it 4-1 with an RBI single in the seventh. Chicago loaded the bases in the eighth, and Cedeno connected off Jorge Sosa for his first homer this season and first career slam. It was a little bit of redemption for Cedeno, who came up with the bases loaded and none out in the seventh and struck out.
"We should be excited as a team right now," said Johnson, who is batting .368 at Wrigley Field this season. "Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We know over 162 games there will be bumps in the road. We're not worried about it right now. We'll enjoy it while it lasts and go from there."
Cedeno has been subbing for Ryan Theriot, whose back tightened up. Piniella likes to go with the hot bat, and Cedeno could get more playing time.
"As long as he doesn't talk 'World Series,' I'm happy," Piniella said.
"We'll have to get duct tape for him," DeRosa said of Cedeno's boast. "I'm happy he believes it. Ryan [Dempster] mentioned it in Spring Training, but it's early."
The Cubs now are 14-6 for the first time since 1975, and have surpassed their win total from April 2007.
"There was a belief when we showed up in Spring Training," DeRosa said. "We knew we left a lot on the table last year [in the playoffs]. We felt we were better than the three games we showed in Arizona [in the National League Division Series]. We know it's still early, but it's a heck of a lot better than it was last year."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.