The end of the City Series was a great relief to Cubs manager Lou Piniella and many of his players, after last weekend's sweep by the White Sox overshadowed the Cubs' sweep of the Sox one week earlier.
Before the Cubs opened the West Coast portion of their nine-game road trip with a 9-2 win over San Francisco on Monday, Derrek Lee said their rivalry with the Sox has become too suffocating for any of the players to enjoy.
"It just gets to be kind of a headache," Lee said. "I'm glad it's over. It's great that the fans get excited, but it gets too blown out of proportion for a middle-of-the-season series. People act like since we got swept that our season is over. But we've still got three months to go."
The Cubs managed to shake off the post-Sox doldrums and end their four-game losing streak as Ted Lilly pitched eight shutout innings for his fourth straight win and Mark DeRosa hit two home runs—the second a grand slam—and tied a career high with six RBIs while replacing Aramis Ramirez at third base.
Despite getting little sleep after arriving in San Francisco in the middle of the morning after their Sunday night loss to the Sox, the Cubs appeared much more energized than the Giants, who own the worst home record in baseball at 14-25. They took a patient approach against Giants left-hander Barry Zito, who lost for the 12th time in 15 decisions and fell to 0-8 at AT&T Park, allowing five runs and six hits with five walks over five innings.
Ramirez won't be available until Thursday after he flew home to the Dominican Republic to take care of a family matter. Piniella knew it was coming for a while.
"He's got a family matter that he went home to attend to, and boy, the timing is not good for us," Piniella said. "But what can you do?"
With Ramirez out, DeRosa filled in ably at third with a two-run homer off Zito in the fifth, after Matt Murton's two-run double in the third handed the Cubs a 3-0 lead. DeRosa added a grand slam off Billy Sadler in the eighth after the Giants reliever loaded the bases with three straight walks.
After losing Alfonso Soriano and Reed Johnson to the disabled list, the loss of Ramirez for three days was a double whammy on the Cubs.
"We definitely have some men down, but what are you going to do—you fight through it," Lee said. "We're only going to miss him three days, and it seems like after that we'll start getting people back and getting back to full strength."
Lilly turned in his best outing since throwing six shutout innings against Toronto on June 15, improving to 9-5 and winning for the eighth time in his last nine decisions. After starting the season 0-3 with a 9.16 earned-run average, he's 9-2 over his last 14 starts.
Lilly's sharp outing couldn't have come at a better time. Cubs pitchers had given up an average of 6.2 runs a game in the 10 games since Carlos Zambrano's last start June 18 at Tampa Bay. Zambrano returns on Friday in the opening game of the St. Louis showdown at Busch Stadium.
"Get the big boy out there again and hopefully our pitching will settle down a little bit, because our pitching really hasn't been good over the last week," Piniella said.