The Cubs will try to snap a three-game losing streak as Lilly goes for his ninth win in 10 starts in the middle game of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.
Chicago (60-58) was a major league-best 25-10 from June 22-Aug. 1 to claim a share of the NL Central lead with Milwaukee. The Cubs, though, have since lost nine of 12 to fall 1 1/2 games back.
Despite the Cubs’ lack of success lately, Lilly (13-5, 3.51 ERA) is 8-1 with a 2.90 ERA in nine starts since June 26. He has been the winning pitcher in two of Chicago’s three victories since Aug. 1.
The left-hander held Colorado to two runs and five hits in six innings on Thursday, but threw a season-high 127 pitches in the 10-2 win.
“He was struggling with his curveball and threw a lot pitches, but he made good pitches when he had to,” manager Lou Piniella told the Cubs’ official Web site. “He’s done really well for us.”
Lilly, who hadn’t faced Cincinnati until this season, is 1-1 in two starts against the Reds. He has allowed only two runs and five hits while striking out 19 in 13 innings against them.
Cincinnati first baseman Jeff Conine is 8-for-25 (.320) with two home runs in his career against Lilly.
The Cubs, who went 2-4 with third baseman Aramis Ramirez sidelined by a wrist injury, hope the return of their RBI leader will help them recapture their July form. Ramirez says he’s still bothered by the injury, but he’ll try to play through it.
“I won’t be 100 percent, and it’s something for me to deal with the rest of the season,” he said. “Right now, there’s no time for me to miss any more games. We’re in a pennant race.”
Ramirez homered in his first game back Tuesday, but Carlos Zambrano gave up six runs over seven innings as the Cubs fell 6-5. They blew a chance to gain ground on Milwaukee, which lost to St. Louis 12-4.
The Reds (51-67) are a distant fifth place in the NL Central, but they’ve won three of four games at Wrigley Field this year and are 6-4 against the Cubs overall.
“Anytime you come here or St. Louis, any team that’s in first place or right on the bubble, you always kind of get up for that a little bit more,” said Tuesday’s starter Aaron Harang. “The atmosphere around here is so intense, it’s always nice to come here and get a victory.”
Second baseman Brandon Phillips went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored on Tuesday, but is batting just .184 (7-for-38) against Chicago.
Cincinnati will go for its fourth straight road win as Phil Dumatrait (0-1, 7.71) tries again for his first major league victory. The rookie left-hander lost his debut Aug. 2, and allowed two runs in six innings of the Reds’ 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.