07/20/09 11:14 PM ET
Phils drub Cubs, notch ninth straight win
Howard, Ibanez, Ruiz go deep, back Lopez's solid effort
By David Gurian-Peck / MLB.com
With men on second and third, first baseman Derrek Lee made a nice stab on Chase Utley's hard grounder, checking the runners before stepping on the bag. Ryan Howard struck out. Raul Ibanez was down to his final strike.
Then Lilly left a 2-2 fastball down the middle of the plate. Ibanez crushed it.
Lilly watched the ball sail 417 feet over the center-field wall for a three-run homer and threw his arms up in disgust. The Citizens Bank Park faithful erupted. That game-changing swing put the Phillies well on their way to a 10-1 win over the Cubs, their ninth consecutive victory.
It's their longest winning streak in three years; Philadelphia has not won 10 straight since a 13-game win streak July 30-Aug. 12, 1991. The Phillies have also won 10 of 11 at home, reaching the .500 plateau there after their much-ballyhooed earlier struggles.
"Ibanez didn't let him get away," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I felt like it was a big hit in the game."
Rodrigo Lopez, seeing Pedro Martinez in his rearview mirror, pitched as he has since joining Philadelphia -- not dominant, but awfully effective. Lopez was hit fairly hard but induced line-drive outs and scattered five hits over six innings of one-run ball. He showed no ill effects of the right shoulder inflammation that plagued him July 8, his last outing, striking out five and throwing 97 pain-free pitches Monday.
The 33-year-old right hander, who had been sidelined for nearly two years recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, has surrendered just five runs in his three starts (2.60 ERA), all Phillies victories.
But Martinez, who was signed last week presumably to become the team's fifth starter, is set to throw a simulated game on Tuesday. Each time Martinez's return gets closer, Lopez's future gets cloudier.
"I like decisions," Manuel said. "When people are doing good, that right there helps you. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what baseball's all about, anyway."
Said Lopez: "As long as I'm doing my job and everything, I think there's going to be a spot open for me. I'm just going to try to work on that, be more consistent. Again, I can't control what can happen in the future."
|"Ibanez didn't let him get away. I felt like it was a big hit in the game."|
|-- Charie Manuel, on Raul Ibanez's first-inning homer|
He is out of Minor League options, though, so if he loses his rotation slot to Martinez, the Phillies will have to send Lopez to the bullpen or another club.
Lopez, pitching on 12 days' rest, described himself as effectively wild Monday, stemming from the long layoff and fatigue as he approached 100 pitches. Indeed, he walked three, more than in his first two starts combined.
"I think that's what was keeping the batters off-balance," he said. "Sometimes, I didn't even know where the ball was going."
The Phillies did a better job knowing where Lily's pitches were heading. In the second inning, catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had been hitting just .133 (11-for-83) with a .381 on-base-plus-slugging percentage since June 9, launched a two-run homer to left-center field.
For a fourth-inning encore, Ruiz waited for a slow pitch and yanked an inside slider to left for an RBI double, clapping his hands in excitement as he reached second base. Extra batting work paid off: It was just his second multi-hit game since June 7, and his three RBIs tied a season high.
"Definitely today I was here early and taking swings in the cage and extra swings on the field, and I feel good," Ruiz said. "Not every time, but when you feel good at the plate, you can look for one pitch especially, and then you can hit."
Chicago's defense collapsed during the rest of Philadelphia's four-run fourth. Pedro Feliz, who scored on Ruiz's double, had hit a pop fly fell that between center fielder Kosuke Fukudome and left fielder Alfonso Soriano. Four batters later, Soriano dropped a routine fly ball hit by Victorino, who wound up on second and scored on an Utley single.
Lilly allowed a career high nine runs, seven earned, on eight hits and two walks over just four innings.
"Those lefties stay in there pretty good," Lilly said. "They haven't changed too much of the lineup that won them the World Series last year and they went out and added another left-handed contributor."
That contributor would be Ibanez, who is now tied for the National League lead with a career-high nine homers against lefty pitchers.
Howard capped off the onslaught with a solo homer to left in the eighth, and Chad Durbin pitched the final three innings to record the third save of his 10-year career.
The Phillies, who are a Majors-best 13-1 (.929) since July 3, are a season-high 14 games over .500. They have padded their NL East lead to 6 1/2 games; Atlanta beat San Francisco to keep pace.
"I think it becomes a feeling where you expect to win," said Ibanez, whose 25 homers trail only Albert Pujols. "But on this club, we kind of get that feeling all the time."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.