The last time two pitchers had gone nine hitless innings in a game was in 1917 when Hippo Vaughn and Fred Toney met at this very park. And for a moment there, I thought we might just see it happen again. With three no-hitters already in the books this season, what better year for the feat to repeated.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Floyd went to the mound in the seventh and with two outs Alfonso Soriano ripped a double down the line to end the no-hit bid. Chad Tracy then singled up the middle giving the Cubs the 1-0 lead. Now it was Lilly’s game to win. He needed two more innings of hitless ball and he would be the fourth pitcher to throw a no-no in 2010.
After pitching a perfect eighth, Lilly was three outs away. Ozzie Guillen sent Juan Pierre to the plate to lead off the ninth – a seemingly odd choice considering the lefty-lefty matchup. However, Guillen must have known something because he was able to take one right back through the middle for the Sox first hit of the game, ending Lilly’s no-hitter with nobody out in the ninth.
It was the deepest Lilly had ever gone without allowing a hit and you could see the disappointment as he turned to watch Pierre’s liner buzz past him. With well over 100 pitches in the books, Piniella decided Ted had done enough and brought in closer Carlos Marmol to seal the victory.
Marmol walked the first batter he faced before balking to put runners on second and third with nobody out. It was looking as if the Sox were going to somehow pull off the win after going hitless for eight innings. It was looking as if we were watching the Marmol of old – the guy with no control letting his emotions get the best of him.
However, hope came in the form of an Alexei Ramirez strikeout. Immediately following that K, you could see Marmol’s mindset change. He was fired up and throwing heat consistently hitting 95-96 on the gun. But would he be able to get out of the humongous hole he had dug for himself?
Alex Rios was intentionally walked to load the bases for Konerko. He took a horrible swing at Marmol’s first fastball before grounding the next pitch to first. Lee fielded the ball clean and forced Pierre out at the plate, giving the Cubs two outs while the bases remained full of White Sox.
It was now up to Carlos Quentin to come through for the South Siders. After getting strike one, Marmol put Koyie Hill to work throwing consecutive sliders in the dirt. Hill was able to stay in front of both, but you were now wondering if Marmol had again lost his control. He hadn’t. His next pitch was right down the pipe and Quentin popped it up to short center where Byrd made the play, ending the game.
It was a spectacular finish to what was a rather unspectacular series for the Cubs. The crowd was deafening as both starters fought for the first no-hitter at Wrigley field since 1972. It was as good a pitching duel as you can ever hope to see. The emotions were high throughout the entire stadium in what, for all practical purposes, was a rather meaningless game.
Ted Lilly’s performance was one to remember. He struck out only three batters, but the defense was able to make all the plays. Fundamental baseball is something the Cubs have struggled with this season, but on Sunday night they pulled it all together. And although he wasn’t able to finish the deed, it was certainly an outing he’ll remember for the rest of his life.
Despite the amazing pitching, Cubs fans are still left wondering why their offense can’t get going. They were only able to score seven runs in the series – definitely nothing to be excited about as we move forward. With playoff aspirations mostly out the window for a majority of fans, it’s games like this that will keep them watching.