It was a better night for Shane Victorino than it was for Rodrigo Lopez. The centerfielder, who is campaigning for a final All-Star Game roster spot, heard loud cheers from the fans at Citizens Bank Park, stole two bases and singled home the winning run in the ninth inning of a 3-2 Phillies victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Lopez, the pitcher who finally emerged after 2007 elbow surgery to win an important game Friday, pitched well for five innings and left with right-shoulder inflammation. The Phillies, who have been short on pitching and rich in comeback victories all season, saw more of the same last night.
Victorino has been part of an intense marketing effort by Major League Baseball intended to inspire fans to visit its Web site, MLB.com and vote for the last member of the NL and AL all-star teams. Last night, his performance could have been scripted by gleeful MLB Network writers, and his chances of making the National League team also improved when New York Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran was scratched from the game with a knee injury.
"I guess the Flyin' Hawaiian wants to go to the All-Star Game," said manager Charlie Manuel.
More important than an advertising campaign, Victorino again showed an ability to spark the Phillies with his aggressive play. He instigated the team's first run in the bottom of the fourth inning, which he led off by hustling to first on an infield single. He stole second, moved to third on a Chase Utley fly ball, and scored when Ryan Howard poked a ground ball into left field.
Then he singled home Pedro Feliz in the ninth for the walk-off win.
"I can only do what I do on the field, and what happens [with the All-Star Game] happens," said Victorino, speaking to a thick crowd of reporters and cameramen in front of his locker.
Halfway across the room, Lopez addressed a much smaller crowd and expressed cautious optimism. "I think it's just a little bit of tightness," he said of his shoulder. "So far, I don't think it was something bad."
Lopez, 33, was the second starting pitcher to audition for Brett Myers' spot in the rotation after Myers injured his hip and was likely lost for the season. Antonio Bastardo was the first, and he strained his left shoulder. Lopez, who underwent reconstructive Tommy John elbow surgery in 2007, lasted only five innings into his second start before injuring his own pitching shoulder.
Before the injury, Lopez showed the same guile he used to defeat the Mets on Friday. He relied on variations of a high-80s fastball that touched 90 m.p.h. He sometimes threw it high, sometimes low, sometimes made it a cutter. After allowing two runs in the fourth, Lopez saw a dramatic drop in his velocity the next inning. Throwing what appeared to be an 82-m.p.h. change-up, Lopez was in fact trying to throw fastballs, catcher Paul Bako confirmed.
But the pitcher said after the game that he expected to be able to make his next scheduled start, which does not come until July 20 because of the all-star break. The Phillies, who have spent the week scouting free agent Pedro Martinez and inquiring about Toronto starter Roy Halladay, hope that Lopez's optimism proves well-founded, and that they have not lost yet another pitcher.