Soriano, Lilly Lead Cubs Over Astros
In Houston, Ted Lilly straightened himself out after a ragged beginning—four-pitch leadoff walk to Kaz Matsui, gopher ball to Miguel Tejada; Miggy's first home run in 116 at-bats this season—as the Cubs beat the Astros, 8-5, to sweep the two-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Cubs have now won six of seven and have climbed to four games above .500 for the second time this year, heading into a weekend series in Milwaukee.
Alfonso Soriano paced the offense tonight with a pair of home runs. The second shot, coming in the ninth inning, helped break open a 4-2 game. The Cubs would go on to build an 8-2 lead before Chad Fox, just up from Iowa, allowed the home team to creep back in the game a bit. Kevin Gregg ultimately had to come in to record the final two outs and lock up the victory.
Aside from Lilly, who yielded just two runs and four hits over six innings, and Soriano, who has hit four of his nine home runs this year in Houston, other Cub bright spots on this night included:
— Aaron Heilman and Carlos Marmol, who recorded one scoreless inning apiece as the Cubs tried to hold onto a 4-2 margin. Marmol allowed a leadoff double to Tejada, before fanning Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence in order.
Marmol's last three outings have been stellar: 3 shutout innings, 5 K, no walks, 2 hits allowed and just 39 pitches needed to get through those nine outs.
— Among the position players, Aramis Ramirez (3-for-4), Ryan Theriot (2-for-4), and Micah Hoffpauir (2-for-4, including a clutch, two-out RBI single in the first inning) all had multiple hit games. Hoffpauir was again subbing for the ailing Derrek Lee.
Picked off: Ryan Theriot committed yet another gaffe on the bases, getting picked off third with Aramis Ramirez at bat and just one out in the opening inning. Hoffpauir's run-scoring single removed some of the sting of Theriot's carelessness.
Chad Fox highlight: I would say that the high point of the evening for the veteran, making his first appearance since his recall yesterday from Iowa, was not getting strangled by Lou Piniella when the manager came out to replace him with one out and two runs already in for the Astros in the last of the ninth. Fox, who allowed two hits, a walk, and three earned runs in just one-third of an inning, will go to sleep tonight with an ERA of 81.00, but at least he'll be sleeping on a Major League pillow.
About our man Milton: Bradley did come through with a bases-loaded single to score a run, his first Cub RBI that didn't result from a home run. In the eighth inning, however, he took a third strike with men at second and third and none out. He looked tentative and defensive at the plate; he looked like a .143 hitter which right now, he is.