Who needs Roy Halladay, when you have Rodrigo Lopez? Three starts ago, Lopez was best known for sharing a first name with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor's ostrich. After picking up his second win as a Phillie, in the WFCs 10-1 thrashing of the Chicago Cubs, Lopez is still best known for sharing a first name with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor's ostrich. The veteran northpaw isn't likely to continue putting up these kind of starts (ERA: 2.60), but if he can keep his ERA below 4, Jamie Moyer might be the veteran vacating the rotation in August. Lopez, Moyer, and Pedro Martinez may not have much of a postseason impact, but they are important to the Phillies' playoff qualification chances. The three vets will also be receiving the same WFC II rings, as rotation stalwarts Cole Hamels, soon-to-be-acquired Roy Halladay, and Joe Blanton, if the Phils can continue to perform at this level.
Lopez surrendered only one run in six innings, harmlessly scattering five hits and three walks, before leaving for a pinch-hitter. Chad Durbin entered the game in the seventh, charged with protecting a 9-1 lead. This was the perfect low-leverage situation for the erratic reliever, and he succeeded in finishing the game. Durbin was awarded a save for his scoreless, three-inning outing, retiring nine of ten Cubs' batters. Durbin only required thirty-three pitches. Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel has been oft-criticized for his bullpen utilization. On some nights, Manuel may have worked through multiple pitchers, in order to get those last nine outs. Despite a nine-run lead, setup man Ryan Madson and closer Brad Lidge may have appeared, wasting bullets better-saved for higher leverage situations. But not on Monday night. Durbin ate the non-Lopez innings, and the remainder of the 'pen was saved for another day.
The ninth consecutive Phillies win was never really in doubt, thanks to another impressive offensive outburst. The Phils jumped to a quick first-inning lead, on another home run by Raul Ibanez, of the two-out, three-run, variety. Carlos Ruiz hit a two-run blast in the second inning, and the Cubs never truly threatened. Ryan Howard completed the scoring, with a solo homer in the eighth inning.
The Phillies go for their tenth in a row on Tuesday, sending Joe Blanton to the slab. Blanton has had two strong July starts (14.2 IP, 1 ER), after posting a 3.62 ERA in 37.1 May innings. He has pitched like a solid #3 starter. Rich Harden, Chicago's starter, has followed up a 4.24 May ERA (23.1 IP), with a 7.62 ERA in 13 July innings. Looks like a good matchup for the Phils, who continue to lead the NL East by 6.5 games.