04/18/10 9:04 PM ET
Penny, Lopez healthy, ready to contribute
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
On Monday, the two healthy hurlers will square off in the first of a three-game series at Chase Field in a battle for respectability.
The Cardinals, leaders in the National League Central, have it. The D-backs want more of it.
That's where Lopez comes in. The right-hander missed the latter part of the 2007 season and all of '08 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He's 1-0 in two starts this year and the D-backs can use a solid start Monday. The team is 5-7 and at the bottom of the standings in the NL West.
"I know that it was a hard time after the injury to find the right situation," said Lopez, who lives near Phoenix. "This year I followed my heart. I said I was going to play for the D-backs. Anytime you get a win, it's a good feeling, but it's extra special to be a D-back and be at home."
In his last outing, Lopez allowed five runs on 11 hits over five innings. The start was in contrast to his outstanding Arizona debut against the Pirates, when he gave up just one run on six hits over six innings. He has battled arm troubles since being the ace of the Orioles' staff earlier in the decade, but still throws a fastball, cutter, curveball, slider and change.
Penny, who has struggled with shoulder issues in the past, has exceeded expectations through two starts and is throwing strikes early in the count. A pitcher who has averaged upwards of 17 pitches per inning in earlier seasons, has needed fewer than 14 per frame this year. In his last start, Penny pitched seven scoreless innings against the Astros.
"I'm locating my offspeed and throwing my offspeed for strikes," Penny said. "Not [just] strikes, but quality strikes. The few hits I gave up today, they weren't quality strikes."
Penny is 9-3 with a 1.96 ERA against Arizona, including 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA in five starts at Chase Field. He's not the only pitcher performing well. Entering Sunday's game, Cardinals starting pitchers were 6-1 with 2.34 ERA in 73 innings. They struck out 52, walked 18 and gave up only two earned runs in 36 innings during that stretch.
"When he's healthy, he's lights-out," said Ryan Franklin. "He's going to be 93 to 97, 98 [mph], painting his fastball. The split that he's got now is filthy, and he can throw his curveball for strikes at any time. He pitches like an Oklahoman should."
Cardinals: Healthy Holliday?
Matt Holliday was back in the lineup Saturday and went 0-for-5. He's 0-for-16 on the club's current homestand after going 11-for-26 on the season-opening road trip. He first felt ill on Thursday afternoon against the Astros, and he was removed from the game in the ninth inning. He came to the park feeling worse on Friday and was held out of the starting lineup, though he did pinch-hit in the seventh.
D-backs: Home sweet home
The D-backs follow the three-game series against the Cardinals at Chase Field with three games against the Phillies. The club hits the road for 11 days in Colorado, Chicago and Houston.
The D-backs are 4-2 a home.
"You can convince yourself it's a tough homestand or it's another opportunity to play at home," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "The teams are good, we're going to play some talented teams before we go on a long road trip."
The D-backs' Adam LaRoche, who is recovering from a right quadriceps muscle problem that has dogged him since Wednesday, should be back in the starting lineup Monday. The injury does not affect him when he swings, only when he runs. LaRoche is hitting .276 in eight games this season. ... The members of the Cardinals' starting rotation will be trying to repeat the mojo of their just-completed homestand, when they went 4-1 with a 0.80 ERA and 36 strikeouts and averaged more than seven innings per game. Overall, St. Louis starters are 7-1 with a 2.30 ERA. "I felt great about this rotation in Spring Training, to be honest with you," said Adam Wainwright, who posted a complete-game victory over the Mets on Sunday night. "Our rotation is very good."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.