Lilly allows four hits in eight innings in his 100th career victory

CHICAGO -- Ted Lilly called it a cool experience. Earning his 100th major league victory was a milestone that had him reflecting on his past, while his teammates joked with him about the future.

"It's pretty special. I was thinking today about the first one in New York against Oakland [2001]. Just getting that one I hadn't even been thinking about trying to get 99 more," Lilly said.

Lilly allowed just four hits in eight strong innings and the Cubs beat the first-place St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 Saturday to stop a three-game losing streak.

Lilly is 100-81 in his major league career that began in 1999. He has also pitched for the Expos, Yankees, Athletics and Blue Jays. Of his 100 wins, 41 have come in his 2 seasons with Chicago.

"It's really a cool thing. And then you come into the clubhouse and talk to your buddies in there and they're telling you, 'You only got 200 more to go,'" Lilly said.

Lilly (9-6), the Cubs' lone selection to the All-Star game, walked one and struck out four in a 103-pitch outing and left with a 5-1 lead. The veteran left-hander was staked to an early 3-0 lead with Jeff Baker hitting a two-run, bases-loaded single in the first.

"He's been our best pitcher," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He pitches into the ball game deep every game. He's a professional."

St. Louis got a run in the ninth off reliever Carlos Marmol and had the tying run at the plate before closer Kevin Gregg struck out pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker to end the game.

The Cubs trail the Cardinals by 3 games. The teams will meet in a split doubleheader Sunday on the final day before the All-Star break.

"We'll see where we are after the second game tomorrow night. We could be 1, 3 or 5 [out]. We'll find out," Piniella said.

Albert Pujols singled with one out in the ninth and Ryan Ludwick walked. Pinch-hitter Chris Duncan hit a chopper back to Marmol, who threw to second for the force but the relay was too late to complete the double play.

Yadier Molina then hit an RBI single to make it 5-2. After Marmol threw a wild pitch, Gregg relieved and struck out Schumaker to get his 16th save in 19 chances.

"We made three or four mistakes and they didn't miss them and that was the difference for them," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I just enjoyed watching us keep playing and having a legitimate shot there at the end. That's just my favorite part of the game."

The Cubs loaded the bases in the opening inning on two walks and Aramis Ramirez's single. Brad Thompson (2-6) then hit Milton Bradley with an 0-2 pitch with two outs to force in the first run before Baker lined a two-run single up the middle for a 3-0 lead.

"I had two outs in the first and it was ugly for me just getting the two outs, but I had 0-2 on Bradley and I hit him. There's just no excuse for that," Thompson said.

"That's ridiculous. And then Baker gets a big knock."

The Cards got a run back in the fourth on Ludwick's RBI double.

Ryan Theriot's single, a double by Derrek Lee and Ramirez's RBI grounder made it 4-1 in the fifth. Alfonso Soriano, who has been in one of the biggest slumps of his career with a .189 average over his previous 41 games, delivered an RBI single to make it a four-run lead and finish Thompson.

Thompson gave up five hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings. He also walked three, threw a pair of wild pitches and hit a batter.

Baker, in his second start since being acquired from the Rockies on July 2, had a single, double and a walk and helped turn a nice double play in the seventh by bare-handing a flip from shortstop Theriot and firing to first.

Game notes
Lee left the game after the bottom of the fifth with neck spasms. He has had problems with them in the past but said these weren't as bad. He expects to play Sunday. "Just a tweak, got out as a precaution," he said. ... Cardinals RHP Kyle Lohse is expected to come off the disabled list Sunday (forearm strain) and start the opener of the doubleheader. He's been on the DL since June 4. ... Bradley had nine putouts playing in sunny right field. He said the middle-of-the-afternoon start actually made it easier to see.