Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Phillies – 07/20/09

Game Ninety-One: Cubs (47-43) vs. Phillies (51-38)
Game Time – 6:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet/ESPN Monday Night Baseball – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 184
Location – Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

Ted Lilly (9-6, 3.18/1.11) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (1-0, 3.18/1.15)

After sweeping the Nationals, the Cubs will face the defending World Champions, and the second best team in the NL tonight. The Cubs showed a lot of improvement against Washington but the next three games will be a good barometer of exactly where Lou Piniella’s crew is at this point of the season.

The Phillies are ‘on fire‘ right now. They have won their last eight games and 12 of 13. The eight-game winning streak is the Phillies’ longest run since April 30 – May 9, 2006 in which they won nine in a row. One of the reasons is Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies leadoff hitter is 23-for-58 over the last 14 games (.397 average) with eight doubles, a home run, five stolen bases, 10 walks and eight RBI. The Phillies do not have a weak spot in their lineup but cooling off Rollins would be a good first step to winning the series.

The Cubs have not played well against the Phillies under Lou Piniella. They posted a 3-4 record against the Phillies last year, including a 2-2 record at Wrigley Field. The Phillies could make this series very ugly if the Cubs do not show up. After Rodrigo Lopez tonight, the Phillies will send Joe Blanton to the mound on Tuesday with Jamie Moyer and his five-game winning streak taking the ball on Wednesday afternoon. The Cubs will miss Cole Hamels due to the rainout on Saturday in Florida. Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ted Lilly repeatedly stated he is fine after being skipped on Saturday. Lilly has been dealing with a sore left knee off and on for a majority of the season.

After proclaiming he was ‘back‘ and would be hitting for the remainder of the year, Milton Bradley continued to struggle at the plate over the weekend … and now finds himself with a new hitting coach, Lou Piniella. Piniella will work with Bradley over the next few games.

Jake Fox is expected to get a start in the outfield tonight and Micah Hoffpauir could spell Bradley in right on Tuesday. Piniella hinted Bradley would likely miss the first two games and return against the southpaw, Jamie Moyer, on Wednesday. Bradley’s next appearance between the lines will vest his option on the third year of the contract he signed in the off-season.

While the offense must do their job against Rodrigo Lopez, it all begins with Ted Lilly … and one win at a time. After being pushed back two days from his scheduled start on Saturday, Ted Lilly will make his first start since dominating the Cardinals on July 11 at Wrigley. ‘The Bulldog‘ completed his excellent first half by posting his ninth win in a game the Cubs had to win. Lilly allowed a run on four hits in eight innings with a walk and four strikeouts to the Cardinals. Lilly wanted to take the hill in the ninth but was pinch hit for in the eighth and Kevin Gregg cleaned up Carlos Marmol’s mess to close out the 5-2 win. But that was then …

As long as Ted Lilly is healthy, the Cubs pushing him back to tonight could end up being a blessing. Lilly could set the tone for the entire series with another solid start tonight.

For as good as Lilly has been this year, he has struggled on the road. Lilly is just 3-5 in nine starts outside of Wrigley with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. Lilly’s last road win came on June 9 in Houston despite a good outing against the Pirates on June 30.

Ted Lilly is 2-0 in his last two starts (both at home) with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.

Tonight will be Lilly’s fifth career start against the Phillies. He is 1-3 in the first four with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. Last year Lilly was rocked by Philadelphia and posted an 0-2 record in two outings with a 6.55 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP (eight runs, all earned, on 13 hits with three homers, two walks and eight strikeouts in 11 innings). For his career, Lilly is 1-1 in two starts at Citizens Bank Park with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP.

One reason for Lilly’s success this season is just 24 walks in 119 innings. The Phillies figure to hit a couple out of the park tonight, Lilly must make sure they are of the solo variety and he does not give arguably the best offense in the league any help.

  • Paul Bako – 0-for-3
  • Eric Bruntlett – 0-for-5
  • Pedro Feliz – 4-for-13 with 2 home runs
  • Ryan Howard – 3-for-9 with a double and a home run
  • Raul Ibanez – 2-for-12 with a walk
  • Rodrigo Lopez – 0-for-1
  • Jimmy Rollins – 3-for-11 with 2 doubles
  • Carlos Ruiz – 0-for-7
  • Matt Stairs – 1-for-2
  • Chase Utley – 2-for-8 with a double
  • Shane Victorino – 2-for-9
  • Jayson Werth – 4-for-12 with a home run and a walk

The Cubs will get their first look tonight at Rodrigo Lopez in a Phillies uniform. Lopez has pitched rather well for Charlie Manuel after being inserted into the fifth spot in the rotation.

Tonight will be Lopez’s third start of the year and he allowed only two runs on five hits in five innings in his last start against the Reds. Lopez left with right shoulder inflammation but the Phillies say he is fine after the long break. Today will be his first game in 12 days and the Cubs must make him work, especially early.

The Phillies offense can outscore anyone in the Majors, but their pitching staff is questionable at best. The Cubs’ offense must capitalize on all the opportunities they can during the series while the pitching staff and defense must not give the Phillies any help … or extra outs or free baserunners.

Lopez is pitching for a job. He figures to be the odd man out once the Phillies activate Pedro Martinez from the DL. He won his first start of the year, his first since beating the Phillies on July 7, 2007 … and figures to be on top of his game once again tonight.

The Cubs have not faced Rodrigo Lopez since he was a member of the Rockies rotation back in 2007. In his lone start against the Cubs on June 26, 2007, Lopez gave up eight runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings at Wrigley with four walks and a strikeout (15.43 ERA and a 2.79 WHIP). Ted Lilly picked up the win against Lopez with Will Ohman earning his first save of the year in the 8-5 victory.

  • Milton Bradley – 0-for-3 with a walk
  • Mike Fontenot – 1-for-2 with a double and a walk
  • Koyie Hill – 1-for-3 with a double
  • Reed Johnson – 9-for-24 with 2 doubles and a walk
  • Derrek Lee – 0-for-3
  • Ted Lilly – 1-for-3
  • Aramis Ramirez – 1-for-3 with a double
  • Alfonso Soriano – 12-for-35 with 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 2 walks

Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….