'Biggest game of the year' for Lilly

'Biggest game of the year' for Lilly

HOUSTON -- Ted Lilly will make his first start of the 2009 season on Wednesday in the series finale against the Houston Astros.

"It's the biggest game of the year," Lilly said.

He said that with a straight face. OK, so why is it so important?

"Because it's the first one," Lilly said. "They're all important. Every one I'm starting is the most important, and that's the mentality you have to have. Regardless of the outcome of the previous start, you let it go and prepare for this one. There's no question I'm excited about the first one of the year."

A lot of that has to do with Lilly wanting to move on after his last outing. His final regular-season tuneup was last Friday night at new Yankee Stadium, where he gave up seven runs and seven hits over four innings. Among those hits were three homers by the Yankees.

"I'm certainly not going to be able to take anything from that outing into the next one," Lilly said. "I'm going to have to let it go. One thing that would be good from it is it's a little more fuel. Maybe I need a little bit of that, I guess, to use it to my advantage. [It was a] bad experience, learn from it."

A year ago, Lilly got off to a rough start, going 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA in his first six starts. He may have been relying on his changeup too much. And now?

"I want to use all four pitches now and not rely on any one pitch," he said.

Does he have a better feel for all four pitches?

"Pretty good," he said.

The Astros will have no idea what's coming.

"Neither do I," Lilly said, laughing. "I don't know how they're going to [know]."

Pitching matchup
CHC: LHP Ted Lilly (17-9, 4.09 ERA in 2008)
Lilly set career highs in wins and strikeouts (184) last season and tied his career high with 34 starts. The lefty pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, making two starts. This spring, he worked on getting his changeup going; it was one of the reasons he got off to a slow start last year, going 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA in six April starts. "We'll really find out where I am once the season kicks off," he said. "That counts the most. My goal is to make sure I'm prepared to get off to a good start."

HOU: RHP Brian Moehler (11-8, 4.56 ERA in 2008)
Moehler was the surprise of the rotation in '08, logging 11 wins after working himself into the rotation once the season started. Moehler originally was a fill-in for the injured Wandy Rodriguez, but he pitched so well that he maintained his starting job even after Rodriguez returned. Moehler ranked second in wins among Astros pitchers and third in games started last year. He recorded a five-game winning streak from July 9-Aug. 19, his longest since he won six straight in 2000. The Astros were 16-10 in his 26 starts last season, and he allowed four runs or fewer in 20 of those.

Tidbits
Aramis Ramirez needs to hit one home run to surpass Andre Dawson for 10th on the team's all-time list. Ramirez has hit 17 homers in his career at Minute Maid Park, second-most among any Astros opponent. Albert Pujols leads the list with 22 homers there. ... Alfonso Soriano has hit home runs in back-to-back games for the first time since last Aug. 5-6, also against Houston at Minute Maid Park. ... The Cubs are 2-for-11 so far with runners in scoring position, and have stranded 11 in the two games. ... The Cubs have not opened a season 2-0 since 1995, when they kicked off the year with a four-game winning streak.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN+

On radio
• WGN 720

Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Cubs (RHP Rich Harden, 5-1, 1.77 with Cubs in 2008) at Brewers (RHP Braden Looper, 12-14, 4.16 in 2008), 3:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 1-0, 1.50) at Brewers (Dave Bush, 0-0, 18.00), 6:05 p.m. CT

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