Lilly returns to lead Cubs to win over Blue Jays
Former Toronto pitcher had bad run-in with manager John Gibbons two years ago
If revenge is best served cold, Ted Lilly earned his the right way on Sunday.
Coming back to Toronto for the first time since signing with the Chicago Cubs after the 2006 season (a year that featured a nasty run-in with Blue Jays' manager John Gibbons on the mound and in the dugout), Lilly was outstanding on Sunday afternoon.
The left-hander gave up just one hit in six innings of work and then sat and watched his Chicago teammates finish off a 7-4 victory over the Jays.
"Those guys did what everyone wants to do when they come back to (face) their former team," said Toronto's Vernon Wells, "and that's beat them and do what they can to make the other team hurt."
Lilly (7-5) helped the Cubs go to 45-25 on the season, while the Jays dropped to 35-36. Jesse Litsch (7-3) pitched well for Toronto but took the loss.
Despite just the one base hit, Lilly was in trouble twice in the afternoon, but he worked his way out of it each time.
Two walks, a fielder's choice and another walk somehow produced nothing for Toronto in the third inning, thanks to a pop-up to second by Wells.
"I played with Vernon for three years and I'm sure that they want to get their hits off me and I want to get them out," said Lilly. "I made a good pitch to get Vernon out with the bases loaded."
With one out in the sixth, Wells reached on an error, and Kevin Mench walked behind him, putting two on. But the Jays' rotten offence failed again, this time thanks to a fly to the warning track in left by Rod Barajas and a line-out by Brad Wilkerson.
"We're playing good enough to stay close but not good enough to win," said Gibbons. "I don't know how to sum it any more than that.
"We struggled in April, played very good in May. We've been in a lot of games this month, we're either not getting that big hit or that big shut-down out or whatever it is. We're just not good enough right now; that's all there is to it."
This all had to be especially sweet for Lilly, who in August of 2006 had been struggling against the Oakland A's when Gibbons came out to get him in just the third inning. Words were exchanged and a heated argument started on the mound.
After Lilly went to the dugout and down the stairs to the tunnel for the dressing room, Gibbons followed him and a wrestling match broke out before the two were separated.
The combatants said it was over and done with, but Lilly left town for Chicago in the winter with a reputation for being difficult.
"It's nice to come in here and pitch well and everything but I'm not going to take it much further than that," said Lilly. "I need to win games for this team and that's it."
One bad inning
For Litsch's part, his concentration disappeared long enough for the Cubs to jump all over the young right-hander in the third inning.
Micah Hoffpauir led off with a double that found the right field line. With one out, Litsch gave up consecutive singles to right by Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome, the latter scoring a pair to make it 2-0.
An out later, Jim Edmonds threaded one up the middle to score Fukudome for a three-run Cubs' lead.
The redheaded starter settled down after that, retiring the next nine men he saw before giving up a harmless base hit in the sixth.
Cubs go for the throat
Already trailing 3-0, the seventh inning went completely sour for the Jays, starting when Litsch got an out and then gave up a single and double.
With the lefthanded hitting Kosuke Fukudome coming up, Gibbons pulled his starter and brought in lefty Jesse Carlson who got a line out to first for the second out.
Out came the manager again, going to righty Shawn Camp to face righthanded designated hitter Derrek Lee. But Camp had nothing, as events revealed.
Lee singled to centrefielder Wells, scoring Ryan Theriot and sending Reed Johnson homewards. Wells' throw was perfect, offering catcher Rod Barajas a nice bounce right into his glove.
And right out again.
The bobble — something Barajas has been making a habit of in the past week — allowed the 5-0 run to score.
Up came cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez, who promptly pounded a Camp offering on a rope over the left field wall for his 10th homer and it was 7-0.
Gregg Zaun celebrated his return from the disabled list with some strong at bats, capped by a home run to left in the eighth off reliever Neal Cotts that scored Brad Wilkerson in front of him and cut the margin to 7-3.
Zaun had been out since May 27 with an elbow injury.
Toronto's first run came in the seventh thanks to a pinch-hit double by Joe Inglett, who scored Zaun after the latter had walked. Inglett moved Marco Scutaro to third on the play.
Chicago manager Lou Piniella pulled reliever Scott Eyre for Carlos Marmol with Wells coming to the plate.
Eyre got Wells to fly out to deep left, making it five runners left on by the Toronto outfielder.
Wells would bring in the final run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly before reliever Kerry Wood got the last out.
With files from the Canadian Press