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Cubs' early offense backs Lilly

Cubs' early offense backs Lilly

CHICAGO -- The Cubs were able to cover up Ted Lilly's mistakes Wednesday night.

Geovany Soto drove in three runs and Jim Edmonds hit a solo homer to back Lilly and lift Chicago to a 7-4 Interleague victory over Baltimore, which got two home runs from Jay Payton.

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The Cubs resumed their winning ways at Wrigley Field after a one-game blip, and now have won 15 of their last 16 at home. Kerry Wood struck out the side in the ninth for his 20th save.

Lilly (8-5) helped himself, collecting a career-high two hits. But don't tell anyone.

"The fourth at-bat [in the sixth], they started throwing me changeups," Lilly said. "I definitely don't want the word to get out and have them start throwing me offspeed stuff. Let's keep that in this room here."

Let's talk about pitching. The lefty struck out four and served up five hits, including both of Payton's homers, over seven innings. It was his fifth straight win at Wrigley, although it was also the sixth time this season he's served up multiple home runs in a game. He didn't get his curve working until the fourth inning, and then it kicked in.

The Cubs gave Lilly a 4-0 cushion when they batted around in the first. Ryan Theriot doubled with one out, advanced on Derrek Lee's single and scored on Aramis Ramirez's single. Matt Albers (3-3), a last minute replacement for Brian Burres, who was ill, then walked Edmonds. Albers then left the game because of discomfort in his right shoulder. Soto greeted Lance Cormier with a two-run single, and Mark DeRosa hit an RBI single.

Lilly tried not to change his approach.

"Early leads in the game with so much left to go doesn't dictate a whole lot," he said. "I've seen too many things happen. Some clubs will score early and take some innings off, and the next thing you know, it's a close game late. You can lose on a broken-bat single or something crazy in the game.

"I wanted to throw zeroes up there," he said. "I made some mistakes again. Fortunately, I'm getting away with it because we can score a lot of runs."

After Payton hit his first homer in the Orioles second to close the gap to 4-2, the Cubs added two more runs in the second on a run-scoring fielder's choice by Edmonds and an RBI single by Soto.

Edmonds, who came into the game averaging one home run every 11 at-bats, third best among National League outfielders, improved the ratio with a solo shot leading off the fourth. It was his second homer in as many games. Just don't ask him about it.

"I'm not here to talk about my hitting," he said. "I'm just going to keep my head down and keep going out there and playing and help this team."

"He's worked hard, and he's done a really nice job in center field and now he's starting to supply some punch," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who has been looking for some power from the left side. "He gives you a good at-bat. He knows the strike zone and he's hitting the ball out of the ballpark and that's something we really needed, especially with all the injuries we have."

Add Kosuke Fukudome to the injury list. After playing six games on artificial turf in Toronto and Tampa Bay, the Cubs' outfielder was scratched Wednesday because of a sore calf. His status is day-to-day.

Edmonds has been on World Series teams, and likes what he sees of the Cubs.

"It's a solid team," he said. "We have a lot of great athletes. We have everything that we need to be there. We just need to play well. A lot of times, you put a good team on paper and it doesn't play well. We just have to stay consistent."

Piniella is trying to make the Cubs better, even if he can't always explain it. On Wednesday, he was still a little riled about the bad at-bats in the ninth inning the night before against the Orioles. The Cubs had the bases loaded with none out, but Orioles closer George Sherrill struck out the final three batters for the win.

"You're not going to win every game -- that is understood," Piniella said before his Cubs evened the series. "If we would've showed a little more patience at home plate, I think the outcome possibly could've been different. I learned some things last night. This is, what do you call it? Something in motion."

Someone suggested "progress."

"It's a progress in motion," Piniella said. "When you see things, you make adjustments."

What's "progress in motion" mean?

"'Progress in motion' -- was that a good word or bad word?" Piniella said. "Oh, what the heck, it's a work in progress. What's the difference -- you all know what I'm trying to say."

We're trying.

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

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