CHICAGO (AP)—Cubs manager Lou Piniella has been looking for more consistency from his team at the plate and on the mound.
Ted Lilly delivered on both counts Saturday.
Lilly struck out 10 in eight innings and hit a two-run double, powering the Cubs to a 6-1 victory over the Florida Marlins.
“Eight strong innings, not only that but he swung the bat,” Piniella said. “Good all-around game for him.”
Ryan Theriot homered for the second consecutive day and Derrek Lee added a solo shot for the Cubs, who won their second straight after losing seven of nine. Chicago hadn’t won consecutive games since it won three straight from April 17-21.
Lilly (3-2) allowed a run and five hits with no walks, giving the bullpen a much-needed rest after Cubs relievers pitched 11 1-3 innings over the previous three games. Aaron Heilman struck out the side in the ninth.
Anibal Sanchez (1-3) gave up six runs and nine hits over four innings for the Marlins, who have lost nine of 12 after an 11-1 start.
“I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “I tried to throw the ball on the corners. I wanted to be aggressive in the first inning. Today I just couldn’t feel the ball.”
Hanley Ramirez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to the Marlins’ starting lineup. Ramirez entered Friday’s game in a double switch for his first appearance since being hit on the right hand in New York on Monday.
Theriot, who also tripled, had gone 620 at-bats without a homer before his grand slam in Friday’s 8-6 win. Then in his first at-bat on a windy Saturday afternoon, he lifted a 1-0 fastball over the left-field wall to give Chicago a 2-0 lead in the first.
“You never actually go up there trying to do it,” Theriot said. “Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m just glad it came when it did. Is it weird that it happened? Probably. But we’ll see, hopefully it will continue.”
Mike Fontenot added an RBI single in the first, and Lilly extended the Cubs’ lead to 5-0 when he doubled off the right-field wall in the third.
“I’d like to say the wind wasn’t blowing out, but I think once it got up there it kind of carried the ball pretty well,” Lilly said. “I think it’s important for us as pitchers to get our bunts out first and every once in a while come up with a big hit or find a way to work a walk.”
Lilly earned his first career win over Florida after going 0-4 with a 5.53 ERA in his first five starts against the Marlins. The Cubs are the only major league team Lilly hasn’t beaten—or faced.
Lilly became the first Cubs pitcher since Terry Adams on July 13, 1998, to commit two balks in a game. That was about the only thing he did wrong.
Lilly breezed through the first four innings before allowing Cody Ross’ homer in the fifth, snapping his 18-inning home scoreless streak to start the season. Lilly then allowed leadoff singles in the sixth and seventh, but worked his way out of trouble both times.
“He had everything working,” Ross said. “His fastball—he was spotting it. His curveball—he was getting it over for strikes. He was backdooring his slider.”
Sanchez became the latest Marlins pitcher to struggle. Florida starters have gone a team-record 15 straight games without a win, going a combined 0-6 during that time.
With Aramis Ramirez still out of the lineup (left calf) and Milton Bradley getting a day off, Chicago’s struggling offense got help from some unlikely sources while improving to 12-1 when scoring at least four runs.
Theriot, a slap-hitting shortstop, has nine career homers in 1,356 at-bats. He had just seven RBIs this season before driving in six the past two games.
Lilly entered with a career .139 batting average in 165 at-bats. He just missed his first career homer, sandwiching the double between two ugly strikeouts.
Even Lee’s power came as a surprise. The cleanup hitter entered batting .205 with just one homer and 10 RBIs in 78 at-bats. He ended up 1-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Florida LHP Andrew Miller threw a 60-pitch bullpen session before the game. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Miller looked good and likely will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday or Wednesday. Miller has been on the DL with a right oblique strain since April 20. … Florida reliever Hayden Penn pitched three scoreless innings after leaving Friday’s game with a sprained right ankle. … Piniella said he’s hopeful Ramirez will return to the lineup “very soon.” Ramirez pinch hit on Friday for the first time since leaving the April 24 game in St. Louis with a left calf strain.