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


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.

[MORE CUBS: Cubs don't want to wring Kyle Schwarber out to dry]

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."

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.