Astros 4, Cubs 3 (12 innings)

By Chris Rewers on Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hero: Ted Lilly impressed the scouts who were there to see him but he ... couldn't ... quite ... finish the job. Lilly was working on a five-hit shutout when he allowed a leadoff homer to Pedro Feliz in the the eighth inning that tied the game at 1. Hindsight is 20-20, but Lou Piniella allowed Lilly to hit for himself in the bottom of the seventh with an off day Thursday. TRL exited with one out in the eighth after allowing seven hits, walking one, and striking out six.

Lilly also contributed offensively, singling in the fifth after going 0 for his first 27 this season. He then chugged around all the way from first on a Starlin Castro double.

Goat: Third-base coach Mike Quade should have sent home Kosuke Fukudome from second when Ryan Theriot singled to left with one out in the bottom of the ninth. With the way the Cubs' offense performed Wednesday (16 left on base), it behooved Quade to make Houston left fielder Carlos Lee make a play. Instead, Fukudome was held up at third - and he stayed there after Alfonso Soriano flied out to shallow center and Tyler Colvin struck out.

Key Play: A two-out, two-run double by Jason Michaels off Jeff Stevens in the top of the 12th snapped a 1-1 tie.

Comment: Last season, the Cubs hung around in the NL Central race for most of the season by taking advantage of the unbalanced schedule and beating up on division patsies Cincinnati, Houston, and Pittsburgh. The North Siders were 31-15 against those three teams in 2009. This year, they are 9-21.

Next: The Cubs welcome the red-hot, first-place Cardinals to Wrigley Field on Friday (WGN, 1:20 p.m.). The Cardinals (54-41), who complete a four-game series against Philadelphia on Thursday, have won eight in a row and are 7-0 since the All-Star break. They lead second-place Cincinnati (53-43) by 1.5 games and the third-place Cubs (43-53) by 11.5.

Randy Wells (4-7, 4.33 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Cubs. His last start against St. Louis - on May 28 at Wriley Field - was a disaster. Wells did not retire a batter while allowing five runs - all earned - on six hits.

The Cards will counter with pitching coach Dave Duncan's latest reclamation project - right-hander Jeff Suppan (0-5, 6.05). Suppan was released by the Brewers on June 7 and signed with the Cardinals a week later. He is 0-3 with a respectable 4.20 ERA in six starts with his new team.

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