Ted Lilly wouldn’t give in with men on base, kept the runners from scoring and, as usual, gave the Chicago Cubs a chance to win.
“Typical Ted,” catcher Koyie Hill said after Lilly pitched six scoreless innings in Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. “You know what he’s going to do: locate, change speeds, keep them off-balance. That’s why he wins so often.”
More often than most people might think. Not exactly a superstar, Lilly leads all National League pitchers with 44 victories since the start of 2007, when he joined the Cubs.
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“He’s a great team guy, a great competitor, and we love having him around,” Hill said. “That’s more important than the accolades or all that stuff. Flying under the radar is a good thing.”
Lilly (12-8) allowed six hits, walked two and struck out seven in winning his seventh consecutive home decision. He is 8-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 12 starts at Wrigley Field.
The Reds had runners in scoring position in five of his six innings, but he worked out of trouble each time.
“Not to say it’s not important when you’re on the road because the games count just as much,” said Lilly, who has a 4.62 road ERA. “But it’s definitely fun when you can get out of an inning with guys on, and the crowd gets into it.”
Derrek Lee homered and singled twice and Andres Blanco had three hits and two RBIs for the Cubs, who won the season series 10-5. They are 41-25 against NL Central opponents, 32-43 in games outside the division.
The Reds were officially eliminated from the NL Central race. They were 26-20 and 1 1/2 games out of first place on May 28 but are 38-58 since and have fallen 19 1/2 behind St. Louis. The Reds took the Central title in 1995, the first year of three-division play, but haven’t won it since.
“I hate to look at the (standings) in the paper and see an ‘X’ by us,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Homer Bailey (5-5) allowed three runs on nine hits in 5 1-3 innings, losing after a four-start stretch in which he went 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA.
All the runs against him came in the fourth. Lee and Aramis Ramirez opened with singles. After Micah Hoffpauir walked and Jeff Baker struck out, Hill lined an RBI single. Blanco followed with a soft single to right, scoring Ramirez and Hoffpauir.
The hits by Lee, Hill and Blanco all came on 0-2 pitches.
“He was throwing the ball as well as I’ve seen him,” Dusty Baker said of the 23-year-old Bailey. “So it was kind of disheartening that he gave up three 0-2 hits. That’s part of the learning process on how to put them away when you have them eating out of your hand.”
Lee made it 4-0 with a homer off Jared Burton in the seventh, his 32nd of the season. In 100 games since May 16, Lee is batting .330 with 29 home runs and 82 RBIs.
Bobby Scales had an RBI groundout in the eighth.
Cincinnati avoided being shut out on Drew Stubbs‘ two-run, ninth-inning single off John Grabow.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella said the No. 5 spot in the batting order is “what we need to solve more than anything else.” RF Milton Bradley, signed for $30 million last offseason, has only 39 RBIs. He went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts Sunday, completing a 1-for-13 series in which he fanned six times and stranded 12 baserunners. After drawing a team-high 66 walks through August, he hasn’t had one in September. … It was the last assignment at Wrigley for Dayton Daily News sportswriter Hal McCoy, a Hall of Famer who has covered the Reds for 37 years and is retiring after the season. The Cubs gave him a No. 37 panel from the center-field scoreboard. … Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano on Tuesday will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which has bothered him much of the season.