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09/15/08 7:15 PM ET

Lilly flirts with no-no of his own

Lefty, 'pen follow Big Z's no-hitter with one-hit triumph of Astros

MILWAUKEE -- Ted Lilly couldn't match Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter, but he certainly came close.

Lilly had a no-hitter broken up with no outs in the seventh and was pulled after he finished the inning. The bullpen finished the one-hitter, in a 6-1 victory against the Astros on Monday. It's the first time in Major League history that a team has followed a no-hitter with a one-hitter. Derrek Lee, Jim Edmonds and Geovany Soto homered to aid Lilly, not that he needed much help.

The Cubs picked up their 90th win and sliced their magic number to clinch the National League Central to six. Second-place Milwaukee is waiting in Chicago for a three-game set at Wrigley that begins Tuesday.

An hour after word surfaced that Brewers manager Ned Yost had been dismissed, Mark Loretta finally ended Lilly's no-hit bid with a soft single to shallow right field with no outs in the seventh. It bounced once in front of Reed Johnson, who wouldn't have had a chance even if he dove for it.

"All I was thinking was there was no way this can happen again," said Soto, who also caught Zambrano's no-hitter Sunday.

Lilly (15-9) started thinking about history in the sixth.

"There's so many things that it takes to go into a no-hitter for it to take place," said Lilly, who struck out nine and walked one. "My expectations were just to go out there and try and make good pitches and be aggressive. Next thing you know, I was in the sixth, and I hadn't given up a hit yet."

Teammates throwing no-hitters on consecutive days? It had happened before. St. Louis Browns pitchers Ernie Koob and Bob Groom hurled no-hitters on May 5-6, 1917, the latter coming in the second game of a doubleheader. In 1969, Houston and Cincinnati traded no-nos against each other on April 30 and May 1.

Zambrano, a power righty, and Lilly, a lefty sporting a 71-mph curveball, provided the perfect combination to keep Houston off balance. Well, almost perfect.

"He and I are out there with a different repertoire, from a right-handed and a left-handed perspective," Lilly said.

"If they cry about it, that's the wrong thing to do, because you've still got to play the game."
-- Aramis Ramirez,
on the Astros having to play home games at Miller Park

Center fielder Jim Edmonds made a spectacular diving catch to keep the no-hit bid alive in the sixth, robbing Brad Ausmus on a low liner. The play drew boisterous applause from the crowd of 15,158, and a salute from Lilly. Reggie Abercrombie reached base after smoking a ball off Aramis Ramirez's glove to start the seventh, but the sharp grounder was ruled an error.

Just as Zambrano rebounded from a poor August, Lilly has bounced back from his shortest start of the year, a two-inning, five-run outing on Sept. 5. The left-hander held St. Louis to one run and five hits over eight innings his previous time out.

"The last two games that he's pitched are as good of back-to-back games as we've had pitched all year," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

Lilly's victory earned him a third straight 15-win season. He went 15-13 with Toronto in 2006 and 15-8 in '07. He's not satisfied.

"It's important, but once you do that, you want 16," Lilly said. "Then when you get 16, you want 17. My aspirations have always been a little bit higher and to try and get a little bit better every year. It would be nice to get a couple more here before the postseason starts."

Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry combined to throw two hitless frames to finish the game. Lilly was taken out after 88 pitches to keep him rested for his next start against the Mets.

"When I leave him in, I get asked why did I leave him in?" Piniella said. "When I take him out, I get asked why did I take him out? I flipped the coin, and it came up 'out.'"

Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a single off Brian Moehler (11-7) and came home on a Ramirez (105 RBIs) sacrifice fly. Edmonds lifted his 18th homer to left in the fifth. Lee hit his 19th an inning later, followed by Soto's 22nd three batters later. Both were two-run shots. Obviously, the Cubs hitters were the undercard all weekend.

"Houston came in here really, really hot, playing really good baseball," Piniella said. "Our pitching basically just shut them down."

Houston went 1-for-53 (.019) in the two games at Miller Park. The series was moved from Minute Maid Park because of Hurricane Ike. The remaining postponed game is scheduled for Sept. 29, the day after the regular season ends, but will only be played if it has playoff implications.

It's a tough break for the Astros, who flew to Milwaukee winners of 14 of their past 15 games, a run that got them back into the NL Wild Card chase. They faced a pro-Cubs crowd both days and openly voiced their displeasure over the situation.

"If they cry about it, that's the wrong thing to do, because you've still got to play the game," Ramirez said. "You've got to go out there and try to win ballgames. It doesn't matter where you play or what situation you're in. We're on the road, too. Even though we had a lot of Cubs fans, we weren't playing at Wrigley Field."

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.