Sitting in my house still in the afterglow of last night's magnificent performance, I watched Ted Lilly pile up no-hit innings and thought, "This really would top everything, if he could go back-to-back with Z."
Lilly couldn't -- he kept it briefly when a hard smash of A-Ram's glove was ruled an error, and then allowed a clean single to Mark Loretta -- but he threw masterfully for the second straight start and the Cubs won their fourth in a row, 6-1 over the Astros, reducing their magic number to Keith Moreland, and increasing their division lead to eight games over the Brewers, who come into Wrigley Field tomorrow having done one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen any major league franchise do -- firing their manager, Ned Yost, with two weeks left in the season and the club still tied for the wild card lead. He'll be replaced by longtime Brewer favorite and third base coach Dale Sveum for the rest of the year.
The befuddled look on Ned's face in this photo, I think, sums up his tenure in Milwaukee. I'm guessing Brewer fans are celebrating tonight -- most of them seemed to really detest Ned. Whether it will shake up the Brewers, in a 3-10 slump since Ned decided bitching about a hit of CC Sabathia was more important than the playoff race, remains to be seen.
In the meantime, the Cubs continued their winning ways at Miller Park -- they've won all six games they've played there this season -- by thoroughly dominating the "home" team from Houston, who apparently still haven't gotten over their whining about having to play these two games in Milwaukee. Lilly walked one and struck out nine, lowering his ERA to 4.13, the lowest it's been all season, and only Jeff Samardzija's wildness, walking a pair in the 8th inning, gave Houston a run on a sacrifice fly. Even Bob Howry contributed today, throwing a scoreless and uneventful ninth inning.
Showing again how this team has a balanced offense, last night's four-run rally in the third inning featured timely hitting after two were out. Today, four of the six runs scored as a result of two-run homers, one each by Derrek Lee (on a bounce UP off the top of the wall, and it's nice to see D-Lee's power returning and Geovany Soto, who needs three more to tie Billy Williams for the all-time Cub rookie record -- 25, set in 1961, the year Billy won the Rookie of the Year award, and Geo seems well on his way to doing that this year, not just for his offense but for his total game. Jim Edmonds chimed in with a solo shot -- only his second homer since August 13.
15,158 made the Monday afternoon pilgrimage to Milwaukee, a fine turnout on a school day in September, making over 38,000 Cub fans (I say that because the total attendance was 38,599 over the two days and there couldn't have been more than 599 fans of other teams there) trekking into Wisconsin for this unique series. If the Astros step up and play well over their final 13 games, the wild card may still be theirs. But that's up to them, and perhaps we'll see them again in October -- hopefully, though, NOT on September 29 to make up the one game in this series that wasn't played.
History will be made, now, with virtually every win. Today's win was the 90th of the year -- that makes this team only the fifth since 1945 to win that many (1969, 1984, 1989, 1998 were the others, and it took a 163rd game, the wild card tiebreaker, in 1998 to get that 90th win). You are living the most remarkable Cubs season in ... well, a hundred years. Savor every moment. Now rest up for the final regular season homestand, because as great as this mini-series was... the best is yet to come.