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Lilly does best Big Z imitation
After Carlos Zambrano finished off his no-hitter Sunday night at Miller Park, Cubs manager Lou Piniella spoke to Ted Lilly about his start on Monday.
"I told him 'You've got a tough act to follow, young man,' " Piniella said. "He said that game charged him up."
Lilly followed closely in Zambrano's footsteps on Monday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the Cubs' 6-1 win over Houston.
Mark Loretta broke up the no-hit bid with a single in the seventh, ending an 0-for-44 skid by Astros hitters against Zambrano and Lilly.
"I haven't seen a no-hitter followed by a one-hitter ever," Piniella said. "Our pitching was spectacular here."
Piniella had never seen it because it had never happened. The Cubs became the first team in major league history to throw a no-hitter and one-hitter in back-to-back games. Lilly wound up allowing no runs on one hit over seven innings, striking out nine and nearly matching Zambrano's gem.
"I thought about [the no-hitter] during the sixth inning," Lilly said. "And after what Z did, it would've been fun to do something that I'm not sure has been done yet. You don't know if you'll ever have that opportunity again, but I'll take it the way it was."
The Cubs won their fourth straight game and increased their Central Division lead to eight games over Milwaukee as they prepared to head home and take on the sagging Brewers in a three-game showdown at Wrigley Field.
While the no-hitter was not meant to be, the first six innings provided the small but raucous crowd of 15,158 with plenty of moments to ponder the possibility of lightning striking twice. Fielding gems by Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and a diving catch by Jim Edmonds in the sixth helped keep the no-hitter intact.
Then Reggie Abercrombie started the seventh inning with a sharp grounder to Ramirez that deflected off his glove as he tried to backhand it.
The crowd held its collective breath while awaiting the decision by the official scorer, and when E-5 flashed on the scoreboard, fans erupted.
Ramirez knew it wasn't an error, but he also understood it's one of baseball's "unwritten rules" that a hit must be clean to break up a no-hitter late in the game.
Loretta followed with his no-doubt-about-it single to right, giving the Astros their first hit in 15 innings.
"Over the years I've faced him, I've gotten him out a certain way," Lilly said of Loretta. "And he comes up the next at-bat and is prepared to hit that pitch."
The last time two pitchers threw no-hitters on back-to-back days in the same ballpark was in September 1968 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
The Giants' Gaylord Perry no-hit St. Louis 1-0 on Sept. 17 before the Cardinals' Ray Washburn came back to no-hit San Francisco 2-0 on Sept. 18.
The Cubs managed only seven hits off Brian Moehler and five relievers. Edmonds, Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto hit home runs in support of Lilly.
Houston hit .019 (1-for-53) in the two-game series, which was moved to Milwaukee because of the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in the Houston area.
"Houston came in here very, very hot, playing really good baseball," Piniella said. "Our pitching basically just shut 'em down."
Now it's up to Ryan Dempster to keep the string intact, facing Brewers ace CC Sabathia on Tuesday night at Wrigley.