Ted Lilly was taking a cab ride from his hotel to the Rogers Centre on Sunday morning when the conversation turned to baseball. One of Lilly's teammates jokingly asked the driver what he thought of the former Blue Jay-turned-Cub, and the driver had a ready reply.
"Lilly? He stinks," the driver replied, pretending he didn't know Lilly was riding in the back seat.
A few hours later, after Lilly pitched the Cubs to a 7-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in his homecoming game, the cabbie had to laugh. "I guess I motivated him," he said.
Lilly didn't need much motivation on Sunday, despite the fact he was pitching against the team that let him leave via free agency. He shut out the Blue Jays on one hit over six innings, overcoming some early control problems to earn his sixth win in his last seven decisions and improve to 7-5.
"That's attitude," left fielder Reed Johnson said. "Whether he's got his best stuff or not, he's got the same attitude of going out there and trying to beat you every day. When you've got a guy like that on your team, there's no better feeling for the other eight guys who are playing behind him.
"He's a competitor, and you can see how bad he wants it. That can become contagious."
Derrek Lee drove in three runs, Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer and the Cubs won another road series, leaving them 5-0-1 over their last six series. They've now compiled a .722 winning percentage (26-10) since May 9. They're 20 games over .500 (45-25) and lead St. Louis by 31/2 games in the Central Division.
Though Lilly left Toronto after a season in which he scrapped with Jays manager John Gibbons, he insisted he had no extra emotion while pitching against the organization that let him go without a fight.
"I tried not to let myself get too emotional about it," Lilly said. "It's fun being able to pitch against those guys, but once the game starts, it comes down to making pitches."
Lilly insisted he held no grudge against his former manager, or the Jays.
"Everything that happened was sort of washed away toward the end of ['06] and I felt I left on good terms," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the organization and the guys who run it, and guys in the clubhouse too. I'd really like to see them win the division."
Rain started falling and the retractable roof was being closed during the top of the third, causing a three-minute delay while shadows moved over the mound. The Cubs scored three runs off Toronto starter Jesse Litsch (7-3) on RBI singles by Kosuke Fukudome, Lee and Jim Edmonds.
"We were waiting for the shadows to get equal with the pitcher, because the pitcher throwing out of the sun into the shadows is really disadvantageous for the hitters," manager Lou Piniella said. "It was fine until part of it got fully closed, and then the shadows started to come back the same way.
"We didn't say anything. But it was quite different [with the roof closed]. It's hard to see for an inning or two, to get your eyes focused. Maybe that's why I don't remember [how the Cubs scored] the runs."
Lee added a two-run single off reliever Shawn Camp in the seventh, and Ramirez followed with his 10th home run to make it 7-0. The Cubs' bullpen allowed four late runs, but Kerry Wood ended it in the ninth to give the Cubs a 6-4 record over their last 10 road games. Have they finally begun to turn things around on the road?
"We're playing with confidence, that's obvious," Piniella said. "But let's see. We've got three tough games in Florida, and then we've got the crosstown rivalry coming up."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times