Rodrigo Lopez knows he might get dumped from Philadelphia’s starting rotation for a healthy Pedro Martinez.
He just wants to make next month’s decision a tough one for the Phillies.
Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard each went deep to back Lopez, and the sizzling Phillies won their ninth straight game, 10-1 over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
With Jack Nicholson watching from a front-row seat, Philadelphia’s A-list lineup was about as good as it gets. The Phillies rocked Ted Lilly (9-7) in his shortest outing of the season for the Cubs, and they won for the 13th time in their last 14 games.
Up ahead, a shot at their first 10-game winning streak since 1991.
“You go out with a good feeling, and right now, things have kind of been going well for us,” Howard said. “You just try to continue the feeling that you have.”
The Phillies scored five in the first two innings to stake Lopez (2-0) to early lead and he never let the Cubs rally. Lopez, who left his last start with right shoulder inflammation, allowed one run over six innings.
His solid effort helped his cause to stay in the rotation once Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner, is deemed healthy enough to join the Phillies. Martinez signed a free-agent deal last week and was medically cleared to pitch a simulated game on Tuesday. He might take Lopez’s turn in the rotation in August.
“I would think as long as I’m doing my job and everything, I think there’s going to be a spot open for me. Somewhere,” Lopez said. “I’m just going to work on that and be more consistent. I can’t control what will happen in the future. I’ve got worry about my next start.”
With Martinez signed to a $1 million deal loaded with incentives, manager Charlie Manuel realizes something’s got to give.
“I like decisions,” Manuel said. “When people are doing good, I like that.”
The Phillies gave Lopez nothing to worry about in this one.
The Phillies are on their longest winning streak since 2006 and improved to 23-23 at home. They were 13-22 at home before they went 9-1 in their last homestand.
Ryan Theriot had an RBI single in the fifth for the Cubs, who snapped a four-game winning streak.
With Nicholson wearing a Yankees cap and grinning at the Phillies Phanatic, the Phillies wasted no time picking up where they left off in their first game back in Philadelphia since before the All-Star break.
Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a single, Shane Victorino followed with a double, and Ibanez connected off Lilly two batters later for his 25th homer, well over the 401-foot sign in dead center.
Ibanez moved into second place in the NL in homers, and Howard is right behind him with 24. Howard’s solo shot in the eighth made it 10-1.
Chad Durbin tossed three scoreless innings to finish off the win and earn his first save for the hottest team in baseball.
“They are a great team, the champs,” Theriot said. “They are even better with Ibanez and we have to play better if we want to have a chance.”
Lilly had pitched at least six innings in 14 straight starts and had allowed only six runs in his last three outings (21 1-3 innings). The All-Star lefty gave up five runs after two – Ruiz connected for a two-run shot in the second – then completely unraveled behind a defensive gaffe in the fourth.
Ruiz’s double and Rollins’ sacrifice fly stretched the lead to 7-0. Victorino hit a deep fly to the warning track in left, and the ball bounced off the heel of Alfonso Soriano‘s mitt and onto the dirt for an error, and another run scored.
The catch would have ended the inning. Instead, Chase Utley followed with an RBI single for a 9-0 lead that capped the inning.
Two of the runs charged to Lilly in the inning were unearned. He gave up nine runs and eight hits in four innings.
“We are not going to win if I am giving us less than four innings,” Lilly said. “The lineup is a big challenge.”
Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster reported no discomfort after he threw 60 pitches in the bullpen before the game. Dempster has been on the DL since July 7 with a broken toe. Manager Lou Piniella says Dempster will pitch in a simulated game before working his way back into the rotation.