Ted Lilly has been the most consistent starter the Cubs have had so far this year -- despite getting hit hard in two of his five starts. Today, he became the first Cub starter of 2009 to pitch into (and finish) the eighth inning -- and you could have made an argument for him to finish, since he threw "only" 104 pitches (76 strikes). With plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth, one of the better ball & strike umpires, calling a very good and consistent game, Lilly struck out ten, walked none, and capped his great afternoon with a two-run double off the wall in right-center field after the Marlins had intentionally walked the dangerous Aaron Miles to pitch to him.
Aaron Heilman finished the game with a flourish by striking out the side in the ninth, and the Cubs won a game 2008-style, 6-1 over the Marlins. What do I mean by "2008-style"? Last year, the Cubs specialized in being patient (they drew five walks today), didn't just rely on the home run (they had two today, but also nine other hits), everyone contributed, and when regulars were out of the lineup, the subs stepped up and had good days (Micah Hoffpauir, subbing again in RF for Milton Bradley, had two hits, a walk, and a diving catch in right field. I think he's even opened his eyes since he caught that ball).
Meanwhile, Ryan Theriot started off the day like he wanted to go cycling, homering in the first inning (in his second straight at-bat) and tripling off the right-field wall in the second. He wound up 2-for-5, and the three extra-base hits in a row gives him seven for the season. That may not seem like a lot of XBH, but he had only 24 (19 doubles, 4 triples and a HR) all of 2008. If he could have 35 or 40 XBH this year and maybe push that SLG over .400 (it sits at .457 after today's outburst), he'd be a much more useful offensive player.
Derrek Lee looked bad three times at the plate, striking out swinging, but on his other time up he hit a home run that landed on the other side of Waveland right in front of the house on the northeast corner of Waveland & Kenmore that now bears that casino ad on the roof. In the ballpark it was announced at 415 feet, but I'd guess it was closer to 450. BCB's Ballhawk, who stood on Waveland wearing his Cubs cap (keep it on, Ken, it's working) during BP, was nowhere to be seen as the ball bounced into the fenced-in yard of the house. Watching D-Lee closely today, it struck me that his entire batting stance looks different -- far more upright than usual, which might be a result of the chronic neck and back trouble he is having. The homer today was nice, and it simply put an exclamation point on a nicely executed win -- but I still think Lee probably ought to be DL'd, rather than try to grit his way through this injury, and get himself right.
Oddity: the game came within one play -- a fifth-inning grounder back to Lilly by Cameron Maybin (who had beaten out a similar grounder for the game's first hit in the third) -- of being the 10th game in major league history where one team had no assists. You'd think that would be more common, but that means no groundouts, no caught stealings, no runners thrown out on the bases. You need, in general, a flyball pitcher (which Lilly is) who gets a lot of strikeouts (which Lilly did).
It was, as Lou the Weather Forecaster said in his postgame remarks, a beautiful spring day for baseball -- 65 degrees, with, for a fairly rare occurrence this time of year in Chicago, the wind not blowing off the lake. The west wind clocked at game time at 12 MPH occasionally gusted higher, but none of the three homers (including the solo shot by the Marlins' Cody Ross) was wind-aided today. A few puffy cumulus clouds scudding on by cooled things off from time to time, but the baseball played by the Cubs was as beautiful as the weather. Jared Light, who runs the SBN University of Oregon site Addicted To Quack and who now lives and works in Chicago and has become a Cubs fan, stopped by to say hi this afternoon, as did a couple of other BCB readers. You saw what we hope we'll see going forward this season -- onward to tomorrow, let's win another series.