Rodrigo Lopez: Chicago Cubs Have Finally Found Their Ace in the Hole

Daniel MorrillCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2011

Rodrigo Lopez might just be the best starting pitcher on the Cubs.
Rodrigo Lopez might just be the best starting pitcher on the Cubs.David Banks/Getty Images

Roy Halladay was the 17th overall pick.  Rodrigo Lopez wasn’t drafted.

Roy Halladay has played for two teams in his career.  Rodrigo Lopez has played for six.

Roy Halladay has 180 career wins.  Rodrigo Lopez has started 204 career games.

But Monday July 18, 2011 will go down in history as the day that Rodrigo Lopez outdueled Roy Halladay. 

The stage was set for a true David and Goliath matchup.  The lights were on at Wrigley field.  A first-place team versus a fifth-place team.  The best pitcher of the decade against the one who was traded for Ryan Butcher.

And Rodrigo Lopez did it.  Instead of a slingshot, the right-hander was armed with a slow fastball and an even slower curveball.  He threw 6.2 strong innings; his only blemish a solo home run to Jimmy Rollins in the 6-1 win.

He received a standing ovation as he walked off the field in the top of the seventh inning, quite possibly the first of his 10-year career.  As he awkwardly tipped his cap to the crowd on his way to the dugout, he almost looked embarrassed.

Halladay lasted just four innings, giving up seven hits and three runs.  The pressure of pitching against a legend like Lopez got to him in the fifth inning, and he had to be removed from the game.  Or he was just suffering from heat exhaustion the entire night, and looked like a polar bear trying to pitch in a sauna, but come on; this is Lopez’s night.

Rodrigo Lopez went 7-16 for the Diamondbacks in 2010.
Rodrigo Lopez went 7-16 for the Diamondbacks in 2010.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lopez pitched for the Phillies the year before they acquired Halladay.  The team released him just over three months before they traded for the Cy Young winner.  The two just missed being teammates.  Maybe it was for the best.

Don’t look now, but Lopez might just be the Cubs ace.  He once almost lost 20 games with the Orioles in 2006 (yes that was him), and he managed to stay on the Diamondbacks long enough last year to lose 16.  But he’s the Cubs ace.  A scary thought, but one that holds truth.  Honestly, if the Cubs were in a must win situation (insert joke here), Lopez would be their best option. 

He’s put together three quality starts in a row—when was the last time a Cubs starter did that?  Carlos Zambrano did it on June 5th, then called the Cubs a Triple-A team the next day.  Oh, and Ryan Dempster did it in early May.

Give Lopez his props.  He has actually pitched pretty well, certainly better than fellow 35-year-old Doug Davis did.  Lopez’s 3.55 ERA leads the Cubs staff, and he improved to 2-2 with the win Monday.  Imagine if every Cubs pitcher was 0.500.  Thant would be nice.

Breaking news: The Cubs have an average starting pitcher.  Let the trade rumors begin. 

Maybe the Yankees are interested.  Maybe we can get a top prospect back for him.  Or maybe we should sign him to an eight-year deal, he’s only five years older than Soriano was.

I don’t know what to make of Rodrigo Lopez.  Before I was in favor of cutting him to allow prospects to get work in at the major league level, but how do you cut your ace? 

Maybe its time to just sit back and appreciate.  If you like average starting pitching, you no longer have to change the channel every time the Cubs take the field.  Enjoy watching Rodrigo Lopez.  He’s just okay, but we have to take what we can get.

Unless the Yankees actually are interested.