SAN FRANCISCO -- Lou Piniella said he didn't think he'd be ejected for arguing a check-swing call in the Cubs' game Sunday night. He said he didn't see it coming. The way he was "ambushed" by the umpires, though, isn't really important. In beating the Giants, 9-2, at AT&T Park on Monday night, the Cubs broke a pair of streaks that had Windy City fans tightening their seat belts in anticipation of a wild second half of the season.
The Cubs snapped a six-game road losing streak. They dashed a four-game overall losing streak -- their longest of the year. One more thing: The Cubs took some of Piniella's well-planned silliness and translated it into an offensive explosion. Not buying Piniella's methods? The last time he was ejected, June 2, 2007, the Cubs won nine of their next 13 games after losing six in a row. Before that, Piniella, infamous for his occasional rants, had been ejected 58 times in 19 seasons. Maybe the manic manager has turned methodical. Or maybe Ted Lilly (9-5) just happened to have his best effort of 2008 on the same night Mark DeRosa reacquired a feel for the long ball. Whatever it was, it worked. Lilly painted the corners with well-placed breaking balls, fastballs and changeups. He tossed eight-plus innings of two-run, seven-hit ball, continuing his recent success on the road. Where his teammates mostly have struggled, Lilly has allowed just four runs in his past three appearances away from Wrigley Field. "I felt like I was mixing my pitches well," Lilly said. "I was throwing three different pitches for strikes for the most part. I think that was the key." So what if he put to shame all wearers of the golden sombrero, striking out five times? "He always tells me he wants to pinch-hit, too," Piniella said. "I don't think I put much fear into any of those pitchers. I guess once the scouting report gets out, I'm done," Lilly joked. Regardless of his offensive ineptitude, the Cubs fans in the stands cheered Lilly when he came out to hit in the ninth. He was an inning away from throwing his third career shutout before the Giants scored a pair in the final frame. Continuing their dominance over the National League West (19-5), the Cubs notched their 50th win of the year and added an exclamation mark to their third consecutive winning month (15-12). It's the first time since April-June 2005 that they've been above .500 in three straight months within one season. Monday was also the first time DeRosa had hit a home run in 17 games. He had just three RBIs in his last 10 starts, but he smacked a two-run shot off Giants pitcher Barry Zito (3-12) in the fifth. Then he added a grand slam in the eighth. He tied a career high with six RBIs. Both balls were hit to the same spot in left-center field. The first scored Geovany Soto, who reached on a double and also had a single and a walk. The slam, the third of DeRosa's career and the second of the Cubs' season, plated Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Soto, who all reached on walks. "It was just nice to get back on the winning side," DeRosa said. Speaking of Zito, DeRosa said, "You walk runners and you put guys in scoring position, eventually somebody's going to get a hit." Working with a lineup sans Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez -- who's expected back from a family matter on Thursday -- Piniella was pleased with the way the Cubs opened their four-game stand against the Giants. Chicago took advantage of Zito's inability to consistently throw strikes. The lefty walked five and allowed six hits in five innings of five-run ball. Breaking a scoreless game in the second inning, Kosuke Fukudome lashed a two-out single to center field to score Jim Edmonds, who reached on a walk. Matt Murton went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and Kerry Wood struck out two and allowed one hit in the ninth inning. "Lilly gave us a big game on the mound," said Piniella, "and DeRosa gave us a big day with the bat. It was a good win for us."
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.