Cubs run into dominant Willis, fall

Cubs run into dominant Willis, fall

MIAMI -- The Cubs' magic number is on hold.

Dontrelle Willis was too much Tuesday night as the Florida Marlins beat the Cubs, 4-2. The Cubs now have a two-game lead in the National League Central over the Milwaukee Brewers, who won Tuesday, and the magic number stayed at four.

"I don't want to rely on anyone else," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We have this thing manageable. It's one game at a time until this thing is over."

The Cubs fans in the sparse crowd of 16,044 at Dolphin Stadium probably expect the team to win every one of its remaining games.

"You can't win every day," Piniella said. "You'd like to, you think you can, you want to. It just doesn't happen the way you want it to happen. You just keep playing, and tomorrow come out and we'll try again."

Ted Lilly (15-8) took the loss, giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings while striking out five. The left-hander, who has two wins in his last nine starts, would like to take one pitch back -- the one to Jeremy Hermida in the four-run second inning.

"I'm going to be thinking about that for a few days," Lilly said of Hermida's two-run double. "If I throw a good breaking ball there ... make sure I get it down and throw a good one, and I only come out of that giving up two runs, and I'm doing OK. That's one of the things you can't do is give up a big inning, and I did that."

Willis (10-15) had his best outing of the season. He struck out seven over eight innings, including Alfonso Soriano three times. The Marlins lefty gave up two hits -- a single by Ryan Theriot with one out in the third and a two-run homer by Craig Monroe in the eighth. It was Monroe's first homer since joining the Cubs on Aug. 23 from Detroit, and a franchise-record 39th for the team this month. The previous high was 38 in September 2004.

"It's one I'll remember because I've been waiting for one in this jersey, in this uniform," Monroe said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't a big one where we go ahead or we win a game, but at the same time it gives me some confidence."

Monroe wasn't surprised by Willis' solid performance.

"You can't win every day. You'd like to, you think you can, you want to. It just doesn't happen the way you want it to happen."
-- Lou Piniella

"That guy over there has a job to do, and they're playing for something over there, they're playing for pride," he said.

"We just got beat," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "Dontrelle is capable of that. Tip your cap, and come back tomorrow.

"We've been playing well. We're not going to get down over this. We didn't expect to win every single game. We just want to try to play good, consistent baseball and win series."

The Marlins loaded the bases with one out in the second on three straight singles and took a 1-0 lead on Hanley Ramirez's single that dropped in front of second baseman Mark DeRosa. Dan Uggla hit a sacrifice fly, and Hermida smacked a two-run double on a 1-2 pitch to go ahead, 4-0.

"I've been at this long enough to know you're going to give up some balls that are struck well right at guys, and there are going to be balls that fall in," Lilly said. "When you have those innings, that's when you have to bear down. I have to find my way out of it and work out of it. I thought I had an opportunity to do that.

"It was a two-strike pitch to Hermida and I have to make a better pitch, and sure enough we end up scoring two runs," he said. "That's what it takes to stay in those games, especially with the way Dontrelle was throwing the way he did."

Chicago's Aramis Ramirez flew out to center in the ninth and said something to home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher as he crossed in front of home plate and was ejected. Ramirez was surprised he was tossed.

"Yes, because I didn't say that bad a thing," Ramirez said.

He wasn't the only one upset with Fletcher's strike zone. DeRosa had a few words with the umpire after being called out on strikes to lead off the ninth.

"It's done," Lilly said. "We'll go out there tomorrow and we'll be ready to play, and that's all we can do."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.