Cubs

Cubs swept by Phillies after Sunday's 11-5 thumping

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Cubs swept by Phillies after Sunday's 11-5 thumping

This was supposed to be the easy part of the Cubs' schedule.

It was assumed that the lowly Philadelphia Phillies, owners of the worst record in baseball, were going to be a welcome sign, but after this weekend's series, the Cubs (51-46) couldn't be more pleased to see them leave town.

Less than 24 hours after getting no-hit by Cole Hamels, the Cubs were throttled, 11-5, in front of 41, 123 Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field as the Phillies continued their scorching play since the All-Star break by completing a three-game sweep.

"Baseball is a great game because you don't know what you're going to get every day," Cubs starter Jason Hammel said. "On any given day any team can win. It's a 100-year-old game, and it's constantly changing. You never know what you're going to get.

"For those guys or whoever wants to talk about good teams playing bad teams, you really don't know who the good team or who the bad team is day in and day out."

The Phillies (37-63) carried over the momentum from Hamels' no-hitter from the get-go.

Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez led off the game with an infield single and came around to score on a Maikel Franco triple. Ryan Howard followed with a towering two-run homer to left field before Hammel recorded an out.

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Hammel again found himself in trouble in the top of the fourth inning. Cody Asche tripled to deep right and scored on a Domonic Brown double. Cameron Rupp followed with an RBI double, and then opposing pitcher Aaron Nola singled to knock Hammel out of the game. Hammel, whose ERA rose from 2.82 to 3.20 on Sunday, allowed six runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings pitched.

It was the fourth time since the end of May that Hammel has failed to reach the fifth inning in a start.

"That wasn't the way the weekend was supposed to go," Hammel said. "My role today was just garbage. Unacceptable. Just too many pitches up in the zone. I didn't really stick with the gameplan at all."

Travis Wood, who replaced Hammel in the fourth, allowed two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings, while Yoervis Medina was touched up for three runs in three innings, highlighted by Howard's second homer of the game in the eighth to make it 11-2.

[SHOP CUBS: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The only Cubs pitcher that went unscathed on Sunday afternoon was catcher David Ross, who came in to pitch the ninth inning. He retired the Phillies in order, setting down Rupp, Darin Ruf and Hernandez on just eight pitches.

Ross continued to give the fans still left at Wrigley something to cheer about when he led off the bottom of the ninth inning with his first home run of the season.

"I don't really want to be out there first of all, to be honest," Ross said after the game. "But if it helps the team to pick up an inning late. I'm just trying to throw strikes to get the game over with as fast as possible and do the best I can. It was nice to get good defensive plays by Addy behind me. And then hitting. He hung me a slider, and I got the head out."

The Cubs offense couldn't muster much off Nola, failing to put a runner in scoring position all afternoon. Making just his second career start, the rookie allowed four runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings. The only blemishes came on a Dexter Folwer third-inning homer and an Addison Russell eighth-inning blast.

This marks the second time the Cubs have been swept this season, the first coming at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals the weekend of June 26-June 28.

"Put this in the filing cabinet and come back and play a better game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We still have a chance for a .500 homestand."

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.