Last time it happened, Ted Lilly slammed his glove to the mound in disgust.
This time, when Chris Young homered in the first inning to put the Diamondbacks ahead of the Cubs 1-0, Lilly kept his composure, subsequently striking out Young twice and eventually gaining a 3-1 victory Friday.
Sure, that first time was on a much bigger stage—Game 2 of the National League division series last season—but this time it was for early-season supremacy for two teams favored to again win their respective divisions.
"I'm pretty pumped up," Lilly said. "I, obviously, wanted to win for a number of reasons."
Would one of them be revenge for October?
"Maybe a little bit," Lilly said. "I don't want to admit to it too much but I was … you have to let it go but don't forget, and at the same time not come out of your game and do anything crazy."
Make no mistake, this was a big game—and this is a big series—for the Cubs after the Diamondbacks embarrassed them in three straight playoff games. The revenge-minded fans considered it huge and so did the media.
"It's too early to put too much emphasis on one series," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "As far as the media goes, I can see there's probably a little extra teeth to this series based on what happened last year and the way both teams started last year."
Lilly considered it big as well and took matters into his own hands, literally.
His fifth-inning single off Dan Haren, after an intentional walk to Reed Johnson, tied the game 1-1 before Alfonso Soriano followed with a go-ahead RBI double.
"That was fun," Lilly said. "I think he threw it right into my swing."
Lilly has three hits and two RBIs this season after spending years in the American League, where pitchers don't swing, prompting the question of whether he was underutilized in the AL.
"I wouldn't go that far. I don't want to get too excited," Lilly said. "One thing I've realized is that it is important to put the bat on the ball. You're going to get some at-bats in close games. [You have] to at least make contact."
Then there was Lilly the pitcher.
He threw seven innings against the highest scoring team in baseball, striking out 10 and allowing no hits after the third inning. In his last three starts, Lilly (3-4) has allowed only four runs in 19 innings for a 1.42 ERA.
"We've seen a steady progression every time out," manager Lou Piniella said. "He pitched like he did last year when he was going well."
After Lilly left, Derrek Lee's eighth-inning homer gave closer Kerry Wood breathing room, although he didn't need it with a one-two-three inning for his sixth save.
Also after Lilly left, the Cubs were spared possible trouble when Eric Byrnes interfered with catcher Geovany Soto on his back swing in the eighth while Soto was trying to throw out would-be stealer Augie Ojeda. Byrnes was out on strike three and Ojeda was ruled out on batter's interference, leaving Arizona with two outs and no one on base.
For the Cubs, who had lost nine of their last 13 games, it was a fast beginning to their longest homestand of the season. They raised their record at Wrigley Field to 12-6, compared to 8-9 on the road.
"Good win for us, good start to the homestand," Piniella said.Copyright © 2015, CT Now