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.
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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."