Say what you want about Jim Hendry's bad offseason in 2008-09 -- and I will have more when the season is over -- you have to acknowledge that his signing of Theodore Roosevelt Lilly was not only one of the better free-agent signings in recent Cub history, but is probably one of the best free-agent signings by anyone in the last few years.
Ted Lilly had another outstanding outing this afternoon, throwing six scoreless innings in a 5-2 Cubs win over the Reds. True, he threw a huge number of pitches (119 -- we were joking in the bleachers today that the only reason Dusty Baker left Homer Bailey in so long is that he was upset that Lou had let his starter go longer than Dusty did. Baker failed -- Bailey threw "only" 115 pitches), especially because he had several long counts in the early innings when he was piling up six of his seven strikeouts. His K of Ryan Hanigan with a runner on second in the sixth, on that 119th pitch, gave him a Wrigley Field ERA of 1.60 this season (in 84.1 innings), and now an 8-1 record at home. His season ERA of 3.05 now ranks 11th in the National League, just behind his teammate Randy Wells (2.96).
So give credit to Hendry for the Lilly signing; today's win was his 44th as a Cub against 25 losses, and his control this year has also been outstanding. He walked two today, but one was intentional.
While Ted was mowing down Reds, the Cubs were fashioning a nice 3-0 lead with hits by both mainstays in the lineup (Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez) and those who are auditioning for next year (RBI from Koyie Hill and Andres Blanco).
I was especially pleased to see Blanco in the starting lineup today. Ryan Theriot has hit .211/.250/.211 since August 15 (in 111 plate appearances) and clearly, for the third year in a row, Theriot has worn down over the long season. Had the Cubs realized that Blanco, rather than Aaron Miles, should have been the backup from day one, Theriot could have had regular days off during the season and the Cubs would have had better defense and only a little dropoff in offense. Blanco has been a pleasant surprise and, now hitting .250, should be the front-runner for the #1 infield backup slot next season -- if not to compete for a starting job.
Koyie Hill is another of only a handful of last year's offseason Hendry moves that worked. Hill has been great behind the plate and handling the pitching staff, and, hitting .241, is one of the better backup catchers in the major leagues this season. He's certainly earned the job again for 2010. Maybe it's not completely his doing, but the Cubs are 39-23 in games Hill has started behind the plate in 2009.
So while the chances of postseason play this year are still minuscule -- although if the Padres complete their current 6-3 lead over the Rockies, the Cubs will creep to within 7.5 games of the wild-card lead -- at least there are some things that give us hope for 2010. Also today, on yet another beautiful, sun-kissed summer afternoon, Derrek Lee hit his 32nd HR and is now only three RBI short of his second 100-RBI season. D-Lee's average is at a season-high .302 and he has hit 21 of his HR since July 1 -- which leads the National League in HR since that date.
BCB reader heine41 and his girlfriend stopped by to say hi today. Nice to meet you, and I told him that if the Cubs won that she'd have to come back every day. Sounded good, but it's kind of a long ride for them (from Peoria), so we'll carry on without them tomorrow night.
The Cubs are having a good September at 8-4, and it's always fun to beat the Brewers, who come into Wrigley for a four-game series beginning tomorrow. With 11 home games remaining, the Cubs are 42-28 in the Friendly Confines. Last year they were 55-26; they won't get there this season but still have a shot at 50 wins at home. In the 109 seasons since 1900, Cub teams have won 50 or more at home only 18 times. That's a goal to shoot for. Keep up the good work.