The ebullient feeling of walking off the mound to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field is something Ted Lilly could get used to.
One day after Cubs fans vented their wrath on closer Ryan Dempster, they showered their love on Lilly after a dominant outing in a 6-2 victory over the New York Mets.
"I definitely take some pride in making that happen," Lilly said. "I'm aware they're not going to be happy every time, but I'm going to enjoy the time I'm out there. We certainly want to please the fans, but we're also aware we're going to make some mistakes and have some bad games. It's tough if you get caught up in it too much. [Fans] should be demanding. We have good players and a good team, and so there are expectations."
With the victory, the Cubs remained one game behind first-place Milwaukee, which rallied to beat the Phillies 6-5 Saturday night. The Cubs scored six two-out runs in the third inning off Mets starter John Maine and then coasted the rest of the afternoon as Lilly did most of the heavy lifting.
Lilly (12-5) gave uptwo home runs—both to Moises Alou—in 7 2/3 innings for his eighth victory in his last nine decisions dating to June 15.
Now the Cubs will try to deny Mets lefty Tom Glavine his 300th victory in a nationally televised game Sunday night.
"It's unbelievable," Mark DeRosa said. "This is a playoff atmosphere right now, and it's great. It speaks volumes from where we were in April, and just to have the fan support. I know there were a lot of Mets fans out there today. Obviously, they travel well. This was a precursor of some teams we could potentially see if we go to October."
If the Cubs get to October, chances are good they will have to get past the Mets at one point or another. They managed to beat New York's best starter in Maine, who entered the day with a 2.92 earned-run average, fourth best in the National League.
With two on and two outs in the Cubs' sixth, Ryan Theriot beat out an infield hit to bring home the first run, starting Maine's downfall. Derrek Lee then walked on four pitches to load the bases and Aramis Ramirez walked on a 3-2 count to force in a run.
Maine then hit Cliff Floyd with a pitch to make it 3-0 before DeRosa's two-run single to left broke it wide open. Jacque Jones finished out the scoring with an RBI single, his second hit of the inning, as the Cubs snapped their losing streak at two games.
Since a six-game losing streak May 27-June 2 that preceded the Cubs' turnaround, they have yet to lose more than two straight.
"I liken this to the stock market," manager Lou Piniella said. "You get a nice spike up in price, and then you get a little consolidation period before another spike, and that's what we have to do here. We just have to consolidate the right way and wait for another hot streak."
Piniella needed a long outing from Lilly to help his bullpen, which has been taxed lately because of the lack of innings with the starters. Now that Kerry Wood is up, the Cubs don't have the roster flexibility they had when rookie relievers shuttled back and forth from Triple-A Iowa to suit their needs.
Outside of Lilly and Carlos Zambrano, the rest of the rotation probably could use an extra day of rest for a breather.
"The problem with our starting pitching is we don't really have another starter sitting here to come in and go into the rotation if there is a problem," Piniella said. "The next kid we have would be a kid like [Sean] Gallagher, who never has started a game at the big-league level. So we have to be very careful with our starting pitchers."
Cubs 6, Mets 2
Lilly keys changed reaction
Fans cheer solid outing; Cubs remain 1 game back
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