HOUSTON -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella joked with Ted Lilly that he picked the right night to have a mediocre start.
Lilly gave up five runs in five innings but it was good enough to earn the win in Chicago's 11-6 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.Aramis Ramirez and Mike Fontenot drove in four runs apiece. Kosuke Fukudome had four hits and scored a career-high four runs for Chicago, which won an opening series for the first time since it took two of three from the New York Mets to begin the 2003 season.Piniella knows Lilly can pitch much better."He's a little behind," Piniella said. "His location is not good. When he should be missing down, he's missing up in the zone. And today the wind was blowing out to left field and they got a hold of a few of them."Lilly (1-0) allowed eight hits, struck out three and walked none."We're going to score a lot of runs, there's no doubt about it," he said. "But I don't know if we're going to score 11 every night. I want to be prepared when we don't and I need to limit the opposing club to two runs, or whatever is necessary to get the 'W.'"Lance Berkman and Ivan Rodriguez connected for Houston, which finished with five homers. Jeff Keppinger, Kaz Matsui and Hunter Pence also went deep.Chicago scored four runs in the first and second. Ramirez, Fontenot and Ryan Theriot had RBI singles and Derrek Lee doubled in a run in the first. Ramirez singled in a run in the second before Fontenot's three-run homer made it 8-0.Brian Moehler (0-1) allowed seven runs and eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings, reinforcing concerns that the Astros' rotation is shaky behind ace Roy Oswalt."I just didn't have it tonight," Moehler said. "We battled back a little but I stunk up the place, bottom line."He was replaced by Russ Ortiz, Houston's fifth starter who is working in long relief until his first scheduled start. He pitched three innings and allowed four hits and three runs."Russ threw the ball pretty well," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "He might have run out of gas a little. I might have stayed with him a little too long."Keppinger and Berkman hit back-to-back homers to make it 8-2 in the third inning. Keppinger, who was acquired in a trade with Cincinnati a week ago and drove in the winning run on Tuesday, got his first start for Houston."Keppinger is going to do a lot of things for us this year," Cooper said. "He's a professional hitter."Rodriguez's two-run shot to the Crawford Boxes in left field cut it to 8-4 in the fourth inning. But Ramirez doubled in Alfonso Soriano and Fukudome in the fifth to restore Chicago's six-run lead.Ramirez went 4-for-6 and Fukudome also had a solo drive in the ninth."He's been working on his hitting, believe me, been working hard," Piniella said of Fukudome. "Today, my gosh. This is the best game he's had here in two years."
Piniella said C Geovany Soto was going to Chicago on Thursday for what Piniella termed a "precautionary" evaluation of his sore right shoulder. Soto left Tuesday's game early and didn't play Wednesday. Piniella said Soto could be ready for Friday's game in Milwaukee. "He should be OK in a few days," Piniella said. "We'll see how he is on Friday." ... Astros RHP Brandon Backe threw 40 pitches off the mound in his first bullpen session since straining a muscle in his left side at spring training. "No tweaks, no pulls, no strains," Backe said. "But I didn't do too much out there." Cooper said Backe would throw another bullpen on Friday. "He threw well, nice and easy and free," Cooper said. "He really didn't cut it loose. This was more just for him to just get on the mound and make sure I saw it." ... Astros radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton was honored before Wednesday's game when Hamilton Street was renamed Milo Hamilton Way. The 2009 season is his 25th with the team.