Cubs and Reds Set for Rubber Match; Soto, Lilly Rolling

Matt TruebloodSenior Analyst ISeptember 13, 2009

PHOENIX - OCTOBER 04:  Pitcher Ted Lilly #30 of the Chicago Cubs talks with catcher Geovany Soto #58 in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Two of the National League Divisional Series at Chase Field on October 4, 2007 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs will look to salvage a series win Sunday, after missing an opportunity to go up two games to none on division foes the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

Chicago fell behind 5-0 early, but stormed back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning before closer Carlos Marmol gave up a two-run double to the Reds' Drew Sutton in the top of the ninth. It was the Cubs' first loss in their last five games, and dropped them to 41-28 on the season at home.

Today, left-hander Ted Lilly will take the mound for Chicago. Lilly, who returned from the disabled list on August 17, has allowed just six runs over 33 1/3 innings in his five starts since, and has 23 strikeouts against six walks during that span.

He will look to win his third game in as many September starts. If he succeeds, he will be the first Cub to reach 12 wins in 2009.

In Lilly's only start against Cincinnati this season, he took the tough-luck loss, after allowing just one unearned run in seven innings of work, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out two. Both Cubs errors in the game belonged to Lilly himself.

Lilly's battery-mate will likely be Geovany Soto, who has heated up in response to manager Lou Piniella's decision to give more playing time to backup Koyie Hill. In just five September games, Soto already has more hits, extra-base hits and runs batted in than he had in all of August.

Coming off an injury that cost him just over a month, Soto hit just .128 (6-for-47) in August, but has rounded into form down the stretch with a .438 mark in September, with seven hits in just 16 at-bats. He also has nine RBI this month, five more than he accumulated in August and (along with third baseman Aramis Ramirez) the most of any Cub since September 1.

Homer Bailey, as recently as 2007 the top prospect in the Reds' organization according to Baseball America, will start for Cincinnati. Bailey, 23, has a 5.60 ERA over 15 starts for the parent club this season, but is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings over his last four starts.

Bailey threw 5 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs to earn the win over the Cubs on the last day of the 2007 season. It is his only career start against them.

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Both pitchers have extreme fly ball tendencies. Lilly has the second-highest fly ball percentage in baseball since the start of 2008, while Bailey has allowed 12 homers in just 82 innings this year.

Mr. Everything?
Bobby Scales could be in line for a utilityman's role in 2010, if he continues to impress Cubs coaches with his versatility and clutch hitting. Scales tacked on an insurance run in the team's 6-4 win on Friday, and capped Chicago's three-run rally in the sixth inning Saturday.

Scales can play three infield spots, and has so far acquitted himself well as a defensive left fielder. His contributions as a pinch-hitter from either side of the plate could also be valuable.

Much may depend on the Cubs' offseason activities: if Jake Fox, Sam Fuld, and Jeff Baker all find themselves on the bench next season, Scales will probably begin the year in AAA Iowa. Given speculation that the Cubs will try to add speed at the top of the order, and the conventional wisdom within the organization that says the only open spot would be second base, that scenario seems highly likely.


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