The back end of the Cubs' lineup had Ted Lilly's back on Sunday.
Light-hitting part-timers Koyie Hill and Andres Blanco broke a scoreless fourth-inning tie with RBI hits, and Lilly authored another masterful home start, as the Cubs topped the Reds, 5-2. Derrek Lee also homered for Chicago, which won the three-game series and improved to 8-4 in September.
"It makes a huge difference," Lee said of the production from the bottom of the order. "When you can stretch that lineup out and get production throughout, it puts a lot more pressure on the other pitcher."
Lilly (12-8) threw six scoreless innings to improve to 8-1 with a 1.60 ERA at Wrigley Field this season.
"The games count on the road just as much as they do here at home," Lilly said. "But it's definitely fun when you get out of an inning with guys on, and the crowd gets into it pretty good."
He experienced that plenty on Sunday. Lilly pulled a narrow escape in the first when Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips singled with two outs before Micah Hoffpauir pulled down Scott Rolen's deep fly ball at the left-field wall to end the inning.
Lilly also escaped two-on, two-out jams in the third and fourth and threw a season-high 119 pitches.
"I found myself in a lot of deep counts, and part of that was due to the fact that when I would make a pitch, they would continue to foul the good pitches off," Lilly said. "So to their credit really, they made me work hard. They got a lot of guys in scoring position. I was fortunate enough to be able to get out of some of the jams and keep the momentum going in our favor."
Lilly has 44 wins since joining the Cubs in 2007, tying him with Milt Pappas for the most victories in a player's first three seasons with Chicago since 1969. He has a 1.37 ERA in six outings since he returned from the disabled list Aug. 17.
"I take pride in what I do," Lilly said. "That's for sure. It's really important to me. This is a pretty special opportunity I have, not only to play Major League Baseball, but to be able to do it here in Chicago. I think anyone in their right mind would consider themselves pretty fortunate."
Reds starter Homer Bailey (5-5) matched zeros with Lilly until the fourth, when Lee and Aramis Ramirez led off with consecutive singles and Hoffpauir worked a walk to load the bases. Jeff Baker struck out to bring up Hill, a career .215 hitter.
Hill fell behind in the count 0-2 but then lined a single to right to score Lee and put the Cubs in front. That brought up Blanco, who is known for playing sparkling defense in the middle infield but not for his bat.
Blanco came through with a single to right that scored two and put the Cubs ahead, 3-0.
"I tell you what: He's got a good glove, and he's a versatile kid," manager Lou Piniella said. "If the bat's there, he can help a Major League team, including ours."
Blanco added two more singles to finish 3-for-4 and raise his batting average to .257. He couldn't remember his last three-hit game, which was Sept. 11, 2005, with Kansas City.
"It's not like I say I need to show [the Cubs] everything," Blanco said. "Once in a while if I get the opportunity to play, they know what I can do at the plate and in the field. ... I know I can play, and I can hit more than that."
Lee extended the Cubs' lead in the seventh with his 32nd home run, a solo shot into the center-field basket off Jared Burton. In the eighth, Hill walked, moved to third on Blanco's single and scored on Bobby Scales' ground ball.
That put the Cubs ahead 5-0, and although John Grabow gave up a two-run single to Drew Stubbs in the ninth, Chicago held on for the victory.
The Cubs start a four-game series against the Brewers on Monday before heading out on a 10-game road trip.