Lee's two-run homer powers Lilly, Cubs past Astros

CHICAGO -- Ted Lilly spoiled Aaron Boone's dream of a storybook return to the major leagues, and the Chicago Cubs left-hander was plenty tough on Boone's Houston Astros teammates, too.

Just a little more than five months after open-heart surgery, Boone played first base in the Astros' 2-0 loss to Lilly's Cubs. Boone went 0-for-3, with his drive to left in the fifth inning getting caught at the warning track.

"[Homering] would have been a fun way to come back but it wasn't in the cards today, so go get 'em next time," Boone said. "Lilly was real good today, obviously."

Lilly has been one of baseball's underrated pitchers for some time. His eight shutout innings Wednesday, backed by Derrek Lee's two-run homer, gave him his seventh consecutive 10-win season.

Mark Buehrle, CC Sabathia and Johan Santana are the only other active lefties in that club.

It was Lilly's fourth attempt at Win No. 10 since coming back from a shoulder injury, and he had allowed four runs in the first three games without anything to show for his efforts.

"It's nice to win these close ones," said Lilly (10-8), whose previous victory was on July 11. "I was getting outpitched by the opposing pitcher."

Lilly, who is 7-1 with a 1.72 ERA at home, made up for what manager Lou Piniella called "that ill attempt trying to steal second base" in the third inning with hard-throwing Astros rookie Felipe Paulino on the mound.

Asked if Lilly had been given the green light to steal, Piniella laughed and said: "The light was red as hell." The manager added that Lilly pitched "a wonderful, wonderful game."

Carlos Marmol worked the ninth inning for his eighth save. He walked Hunter Pence with one out and gave up Carlos Lee's single before retiring Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum.

Boone, best remembered for his 2003 AL pennant-winning homer for the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox, was on deck when Blum popped out.

"Sure, that's a little bit of a thought ... get an opportunity with some runners on to impact the game," said Boone, who robbed Jeff Baker of a third-inning double with a diving stop. "But it didn't happen. Hopefully, I'll get in that position again."

Lilly hasn't given up any runs to the Astros in 20 2/3 innings and is 4-0 against them this season. After scoring 26 times in Lilly's first three victories over Houston, however, the Cubs managed little offense against the overpowering Paulino (2-7), who held Chicago to four hits in six innings.

Andres Blanco led off the fourth with a double and Lee followed with his 27th homer of the year. Lee, who after a slow start is batting .322 with 24 homers in 92 games since May 19, reached the 90 RBI mark for the fifth time in his career.

"He just left a fastball over the middle for me," Lee said.

The Cubs went 11-6 against the Astros this year, matching their most victories over Houston in one season.

The Astros ended a nine-game road trip with only two victories, making it their worst multi-series trip this season. Like the Cubs, they have slumped badly the last month to fall well behind St. Louis in the NL Central.

Game notes
Even though Astros center fielder Michael Bourn has reached base in 25 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors, he was given the day off. "I really didn't want to do it," manager Cecil Cooper said. "Michael's probably the MVP of our team. I'm aware of [the streak], but I need to play some of these other guys, and he's 1-for-8 against [Lilly]." Jason Michaels played center and went 0-for-3. ... The Cubs activated right-hander David Patton from the DL, giving them 29 players on their active roster.