this writer has seen ted lilly pitch on a handful of occasions over the last few years, dear reader, but never like he did last night. lilly has always possessed a fine curve, but only very rarely the command of it that he demonstrated against the reds, walking just one while allowing three hits and fanning nine over seven complete, using 101 pitches.
if he pitches like that the rest of the way, the cubs are going to be a pretty good ballclub. it's too bad that he almost certainly won't. bronson arroyo was almost as good -- 7 ip, 8 h, 2 bb, 9 k -- despite not showing his best stuff, and that's perhaps indicative of what was at work. the plate umpire for last night's tilt was bob davidson, and on a night where the first pitch conditions were 39 degrees and a 20 mph wind, the corners went to the pitchers. davidson was last year among the more difficult strikeout umpires in the majors, but also called among the fewest walks and was toward the bottom in pitches per inning pitched, making this sort of evening the exception only in degree.
nonetheless, the cubs have marked their first of many victories in 2007 and are balanced in account. this afternoon's game matches jason marquis against kyle lohse, and so with somewhat warmer conditions today promises some run scoring. sam holbrook favors more pitches, more scoring, and was one of the most walk-happy umpires in the sport last season.