“I’m going to take it back,” Cedeno said. “I go too fast.”
Cedeno swung as if he wants to help the Cubs get there, hitting a grand slam and driving in five runs in surging Chicago’s 8-1 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday for its 13th victory in 16 games.
Ted Lilly won for the first time in five starts, helping the Cubs to their best start over 20 games since the days of Don Kessinger and Rick Reuschel.
The Cubs, who a season ago started 7-13, had 14 hits and improved to 14-6, their best record at this point since 1975.
Cedeno, who almost was cut at the end of spring training, has started the past two games with Ryan Theriot, the usual shortstop, out because of back pain.
Cedeno drove in Chicago’s first run in a three-run fourth, then hit his first career grand slam in the eighth against Jorge Sosa for a 7-1 lead. Cedeno, who has 10 RBIs in his past four games, also had a key hit in Monday night’s win — which led to the giddy talk of a World Series, something the Cubs have not won in 100 years.
“As long as he doesn’t talk ‘World Series,’ I’m happy,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
The left-handed Lilly (1-3) retired his first 10 batters and lowered his ERA from 9.16 to 7.30 after allowing a run, four hits and four walks over six innings. He struck out four and combined with three relievers on a five-hitter.
“You hear guys talking, whether they went 0-for-4 or whatever the case was, they’re talking about us winning games,” said Lilly, who 15 games a season ago. “That made it a little bit easier for me to swallow given the fact that I was going out there and not giving us quality outings. We were winning games that I wasn’t pitching. That made my load a little bit easier to bear.”
New York was outscored 15-2 in the two-game series and has lost three in a row following a five-game winning streak.
Slugger David Wright said everyone on the team is accountable.
“Offensively now we’re just not clicking,” Wright said. “A few of our regulars weren’t in there today, but we just can’t get anything going offensively right now. We need the guys at the top of the order to get on base and we need the guys in the middle of the order to drive them in. It’s not one guy or another.”
Manager Willie Randolph bemoaned the lack of bats and the Mets decision-making on defense.
“There were some lack-of-focus kind of plays. You can’t make mistakes like that,” Randolph said. “Our bullpen is struggling a little bit right now and in this series, if you give them extra outs like that, it makes it very difficult. The Cubs are playing well and have swung the bats well all series. But when you give them opportunities like that, you end up paying for it to say the least.”
Nelson Figueroa (1-1) gave up three runs, seven hits and five walks—one intentional—in five-plus innings.
Chicago loaded the bases with no outs in the second but Cedeno took a called third strike and Henry Blanco grounded into a double play.
After Cedeno’s go-ahead hit in the fourth, Blanco was intentionally walked and Figueroa was late covering first base on a grounder to second that Lilly beat out for a single.
Figueroa blamed himself, but Randolph said first baseman Carlos Delgado misread the play and should have stayed closer to the bag.
The Mets might have gotten out of the eighth before Cedeno came up, but Jose Reyes chose to throw home rather than start what appeared to be a tailor-made, inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
“We talk about that play all the time,” Randolph said. “If the ball is hit slow, you go to home plate. If it’s hard, you have to be able to react and go to second base for the double play. He didn’t make the right call there.”
The Mets rested 2B Luis Castillo (sore knee) and C Brian Schneider (bruised forearm). … With no more position players available, pitcher Jason Marquis pinch hit for the Cubs in the eighth. … Brady Clark hit an RBI grounder with the bases loaded in the sixth for the Mets run.