Winning at Wrigley Field has become routine for Ted Lilly. The way he earned his victory Saturday was anything but.
For only the second time all season, the Cubs got RBIs in the same game from Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley, and the Cubs needed all of them to hang on for a 5-2 victory over the Cardinals.
The first time? May 7 in Houston, also a Lilly victory.
But Saturday's was much more important. It was the 100th of Lilly's career and brought the Cubs back within 3 1/2 games of the Central Division-leading Cardinals -- with a day-night doubleheader closing out the first half of the season Sunday.
"This is a big series," Lilly said. "We didn't really play well [Friday], so it was important we go out and make fewer mistakes."
But Lilly, as usual, made fewer than anyone, shutting down the Cardinals on four hits and one run over eight innings while raising his home record to 6-1 and lowering his home ERA to 1.86.
If there was a problem Saturday -- besides Carlos Marmol failing to finish the ninth inning -- it was Derrek Lee leaving with a recurrence of neck spasms, although he vowed to be in the lineup Sunday.
Lilly won't be. He'll be getting ready to go to St. Louis, where he will be the Cubs' lone representative to the All-Star Game with his nine victories this year -- and 100 altogether.
"Pretty special," he said. "I was just thinking today about the first one, which came in New York against Oakland. I was never thinking about getting 99 more. Then I go into the clubhouse after the game and my buddies are telling me, 'You only need 200 more.' "
It's doubtful Lilly will get to that Hall of Fame 300-win mark, unless he starts every game at Wrigley. And it would help if the entire lineup would get hot.
Saturday, he got help from what have become unusual sources. For this day, it didn't matter that Cardinals starter Brad Thompson has lost four straight games, that Bradley's RBI came on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and Ramirez's RBI on a groundout.
Bradley drove home the first run when Thompson plunked him on an 0-2 pitch, and Jeff Baker followed with a two-run single.
"I was trying to get a good pitch to hit and stay in the middle of the field," Baker said. "I was trying to help the team win, that's what it's all about."
The Cubs finished their scoring in the fifth inning when Ryan Theriot singled, Lee doubled, Ramirez grounded to shortstop and Soriano followed with a single.
"Ramirez knows how to drive in runs," said manager Lou Piniella, noting the Cardinals' infield was playing back.
"They're playing back, I've got to get the job done," Ramirez said.
Lilly took care of the rest until the ninth inning, when Marmol allowed two hits, a walk and a run before giving way to Kevin Gregg for one out and his 16th save.
"It was a hard-fought win but a win," Piniella said. "We'll take 'em any way we can get 'em."
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