The Cubs’ run began when they won the final two games of a three-game set in Pittsburgh (13-17) before returning home and sweeping Washington last weekend. The Cubs (15-14) have won eight of nine overall and are over .500 for the first time since the fifth game of the season.
All three wins over the lowly Nationals were decided by one or two runs, including a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Sunday. The Cubs entered the series with a 2-8 mark in such games.
“Earlier in the year, this type of game was eluding us,” manager Lou Piniella told the team’s official Web site, “and now we’re finding ways to win it.”
“It’s very important to see this thing play like this because the owners put a lot of money into making this team better,” said outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million contract during the offseason.
After a slow start, Soriano has matched the longest hitting streak of his career with his fourth 15-game run. He’s batting .359 (23-for-64) during his streak.
Soriano’s run is just longer than that of first baseman Derrek Lee, who’s hit in 14 consecutive games. Lee is batting .450 (27-for-60) with 10 RBIs during the streak, and he’s reached base in all 29 games this season. He’s hitting .414 overall.
Lee has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games against the Pirates, batting .471 (24-for-51) with 14 RBIs in that span. He went 8-for-14 in last week’s series at PNC Park.
Ted Lilly (2-2, 2.82 ERA) seeks to bounce back after enduring his shortest outing of the season his last time out for the Cubs. The left-hander gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings last Tuesday and didn’t receive a decision in an 8-6 victory at Pittsburgh that started Chicago’s winning streak.
“It was getting crazy that day,” he said. “I don’t think I separated one at-bat from the next very well. I was frustrated with the way I handled things. In baseball, there are going to be some weird things that happen on the field.”
It was Lilly’s first career start against the Pirates, and he actually lowered his ERA against them to 8.22 in three appearances.
Known for being tough on left-handed batters, Lilly has been more effective against right-handed hitters this season, limiting them to a .198 average. Lefties are batting .286 against him in 2007.
Pittsburgh has lost seven of nine overall after dropping the final three games of a four-game set in Milwaukee. The Pirates scored only 11 runs in the series.
“We have a long way to go, obviously,” manager Jim Tracy told the team’s official Web site. “I’m very sure they’re aware of that, too. They’re a very professional group of players and even though we won one ballgame in this series, when you look what we were able to provide offensively, we really had a chance to split.”
Like Lilly, Pittsburgh’s Ian Snell (2-2, 2.31) is coming off his shortest outing of the season in his last start Wednesday, when he lost 7-1 to Chicago. Snell was victimized by control problems and gave up four runs over five innings, issuing four walks and hitting a batter.
The right-hander fell to 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four starts against the Cubs.
The Pirates have won seven of their last 11 at Wrigley Field.