Cubs

Cubs bullpen coughs up game to lowly Phillies: 'It stinks'

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Cubs bullpen coughs up game to lowly Phillies: 'It stinks'

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer put the onus on adding pitching depth before MLB's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline when he met with the media before Friday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

But after a bullpen implosion that resulted in a 5-3 loss to the Phillies in front of 41,230 fans at Wrigley Field, the Cubs GM may have to act sooner rather than later.

Jason Motte suffered his first blown save as a member of the Cubs after allowing a Cody Asche RBI double in the top of the ninth inning, and veteran reliever Rafael Soriano allowed a game-winning two-run homer to Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur in the 10th inning in Friday's loss.

"Every loss stings," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We had an opportunity to win it. Motte has been fabulous. He has not been good, he has been fabulous. You grieve for 30 minutes and then you throw it in the trash can and you come back tomorrow. We still have a chance to win the series and that's where my mind is at right now."

Motte took the same approach as his skipper when reflecting on the loss. 

"They all stink," Motte said. "It's one of those things where we were up, we were down, we battled back. It stinks but we have to come out, forget about it and play tomorrow."

[MORE CUBS: Cubs not feeling the pressure of ticking clock on trade market]

The Cubs got in front early when Kris Bryant crushed his 13th homer of the season to right field, giving the North Siders a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but the Phillies would come fighting back in the top half of the fourth. Philadelphia picked up their only two runs off Cubs starter Jon Lester via an Asche two-out double, but their lead wouldn't last long.

With the Cubs trailing 2-1, Chris Coghlan deposited a Jerome Williams offering into the right field bleachers, also plating Jorge Soler who led off the inning with a single. It was the 10th home run of the season for the 30-year-old veteran outfielder, setting a new career-high.

Lester, who earned a no-decision after allowing just two runs on seven hits to go along with six strikeouts, settled in nicely after Coghlan's homer, retiring six of the the final seven batters he faced before handing over the lead to the Cubs bullpen for the final two innings.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Hector Rondon took care of business in the eighth inning, giving up just one hit, when Maddon called on Motte for the ninth inning.

After retiring Ryan Howard to begin the ninth, Motte allowed a one-out triple to Freddy Galvis. Asche followed with his third RBI of the game on a ground-rule double to center, evening the game at 3-3. Motte retired the next two Phillies in order, limiting the damage to just one run.

It was another instance on Friday that the Phillies, who own the worst record in baseball at 35-63, showed no signs of a defeatist attitude.

"They're still big leaguers," Lester said. "They're still the best players on the planet. They are here for a reason. They haven't quit, obviously you saw that today. There's a lot of times where I've been on that side and you're the last place team.

"The last two and half months suck. They are the worst. You're in last place and it's hot. It seems like everything that can go wrong goes wrong. Your plane breaks down, your hotel room isn't ready or whatever. It all seems to come to a head.

"But we still have to play good baseball regardless of who you're playing. You kind of have to have that invisible opponent mentality of where they are in the standings. You have to take each day as 'we have to win today' and we played good baseball today and they just beat us at the end."

The Cubs threatened to push across the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth when Chris Denorfia lead off the inning with a pinch-hit single. Addison Russell then moved Denorfia into scoring position with a groundout and Phillies reliever Ken Giles walked Dexter Flower with one out, setting up the stage for the Cubs Core. But Giles managed to strikeout Bryant and retire Anthony Rizzo on a groundout, sending the game into extras for Francoeur's heroics. 

Rumored Cubs trade target, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, earned his 17th save of the season in Philadelphia's victory.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: