06/15/08 6:44 PM ET
Lilly adds to Cubs' dominating pitching
Left-hander handcuffs former team; club 20 games over .500
By David Singh / MLB.com
On their way to defeating the Blue Jays, 7-4, at Rogers Centre on Father's Day, the Cubs had scored all of their runs in just two innings. Chicago (45-25) plated three runs in the third inning and then another four in the seventh.
"Offensively, we had a four-run inning," said Piniella with a smile, following the victory. "You know, I'll be honest with you, I don't remember [it]. ... It's Father's Day, it's a senior moment. What can I tell you?"
All joking aside, the large spurts of offense by the Cubs have managed to show Piniella one important thing about his club.
"We're playing with confidence, that's obvious," he said.
That much is clear for the Cubs, who have now improved to 20 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. The club has also won 16 out of its last 20 games. What may be more impressive though, is that since losing Alfonso Soriano, one of the team's offensive leaders, the Cubs have not missed a step.
Chicago has won three of the four games since Soriano broke his left hand on Wednesday. Over that span, the Cubs hitters have seemed to turn it up a notch, scoring a total of 18 runs.
"We have got a good enough team to get by [without Soriano]," said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who launched a two-run home run in the seventh inning. "We're playing great. I thought we should have won all three games here."
Instead, the Cubs just settled for beating the Jays in two of the three games to take the series.
Ramirez capped off the Chicago scoring on Sunday when he launched an 0-1 pitch from Jays reliever Shawn Camp into the left-center-field stands that gave the Cubs a 7-0 lead. Designated hitter Derrek Lee was 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs.
The Chicago offense also provided support for Cubs starter Ted Lilly, who stifled the Blue Jays (35-36) over six innings. Although Lilly (7-5) struggled with command during his start, the left-hander allowed no runs and just one hit. Although he did walk a season-high five batters, Lilly was able to keep the Jays off the scoreboard.
"I feel like against a club like this, I really got away with a few pitches," said Lilly. "I know I only gave up a hit, but there were some hard-hit balls that were right at guys. Especially with the walks. Being able to come out of that, without the damage that they could have done, I'm pretty fortunate."
Over his last three starts, Lilly has now posted a 2.25 ERA. During that span, he has allowed just five runs on 12 hits over a total of 20 innings. He has also struck out 21 batters in that time.
Piniella said he has seen improvement in Lilly.
"I think he's been improving as the season goes on," he said. "I think his pop on his fastball is better. He's got a little more sharpness on his curveball, and that makes his changeup a whole lot better."
Reed Johnson, who started in left field, also praised Lilly's efforts.
"Ted threw really well today, and I wish I was in center field to see it," Johnson said. "It's fun to watch when you get that view from center field. He was tough. It looks like he's starting to get some of that velocity back, and it makes his changeup that much better.
"He was as good as I've seen him all year."
Like Johnson, Lilly is a former Blue Jay who made his first return to the city as a player this weekend. Lilly was a member of the Jays from 2004-06.
While Johnson provided the heroics on Saturday with a key three-run home run against his former team, Sunday was Lilly's turn to haunt the Rogers Centre fans. However, the starter said Sunday's game was just business as usual for him.
"Not really," Lilly responded when asked if there was any extra emotion when facing the Jays. "I tried not to get too emotional about it. It's fun being able to pitch against those guys, but once the game starts, it comes down to making pitches."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.