Phillies 9, Cubs 7: Phillies jump out to big lead, hang on to salvage split

Phillies 9, Cubs 7: Phillies jump out to big lead, hang on to salvage split


CHICAGO — The Phillies tried hard to blow a seven-run lead at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, but in the end held on for a 9-7 win over the Chicago Cubs and got out of town with a split in the four-game series that pitted two first-place clubs against each other.

The Phils head to Milwaukee at 29-21.

Aaron Nola was the beneficiary of that early 7-0 lead but he left after 5 1/3 innings as manager Gabe Kapler ran a bullpen shuttle that at times was good and at times was bad. Hector Neris was good — at least in the bottom line. He got dangerous Javier Baez, the potential tying run, for the final out of the eighth inning then stuck around for the final three outs and a save, though it wasn’t easy or pretty.

Even on a day when they had a big lead, Kapler used five relievers.

The Phillies’ offense had a big day.

Only a blown one-run lead in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game stood in the way of the Phillies taking three of four from the Cubs.

The keys

• Neris got the job done.

• The Phillies were able to do something they don’t do often. They took it to Jon Lester. They tagged the Cubs’ starter for seven hits, including two doubles and two homers, and seven runs over four innings. Three of those runs were unearned as the Cubs played shaky defense. Nonetheless, the Phillies did some damage against Lester, who had entered the game 8-0 with a 1.49 ERA against the Phillies in 10 career starts.

• Kapler did not start Maikel Franco because he was 1 for 12 with four strikeouts in his career against Lester. Kapler gave Sean Rodriguez the nod at third base and it paid dividends as Rodriguez had an important hit and scored a run in the Phillies’ three-run fourth inning. He also made the defensive play of the game to get Seranthony Dominguez out of a bases-loaded situation in the sixth. Rodriguez was shaded toward shortstop with lefty-hitting Victor Caratini at the plate. Caratini hit a groundball between Rodriguez and the line and Rodriguez beat Jason Heyward to the bag with a diving tag. Franco is probably not quick enough to make that play.

• Big day for some of the Phils’ top offseason acquisitions. Andrew McCutchen had two doubles, an RBI and scored two runs. Bryce Harper drove in a run in the first inning. J.T. Realmuto homered in the third. Jean Segura doubled and scored in the third and clubbed a two-run homer in the fourth.

Segura’s hitting streak is at 14 games.

The bullpen

Reliever Pat Neshek did not have a good day. He entered with an 8-3 lead in the seventh and faced five batters. He gave up a single, a two-run homer and a solo homer as the Cubs made it a two-run game. Jose Alvarez got the final out of the inning and two more in the eighth before handing off to Neris with two men on base. Neris turned it into a nervous ninth but survived. He got the final out with two men in scoring position.

Nola's day

The right-hander was staked to a nice 7-0 lead but pitched only 5 1/3 innings. Kapler lifted him for lefty Adam Morgan with the lefty-hitting Heyward up in the sixth and a man on second. Nola was at 93 pitches. Could he have kept going? Probably. But, obviously, Kapler did not like the matchup.

Nola gave up three runs, all in the fourth, and got a big double-play ball to slow the bleeding in that inning. Nola’s control was spotty. He walked four and struck out six. He is 5-0 with a 4.53 ERA in 11 starts.

Up next  

The Phils will bus to Milwaukee for the next stop on this seven-game road trip. They play a three-game series against the Brewers beginning Friday night. The Brewers (29-22) took three of four from the Phils last week in Philadelphia and outscored the Phils 22-6 in the final three games.

Jerad Eickhoff (2-2, 3.23) pitches Friday night against right-hander Chase Anderson (2-0, 2.66).

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Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Needing to capitalize on every game against a bad team in a 60-game season, the Phillies are off to a 1-3 start against the Marlins and Orioles. They have two more games with the Orioles Wednesday and Thursday, then seven straight games against the Marlins from Sept. 10-14 in Miami.

The Phillies have dug themselves a hole in which even going 6-3 in those remaining games against two of baseball's least talented teams would result in them finishing just 7-6 against the Marlins and Orioles. NL East and AL East teams entered this season knowing they'd need to clean up on Miami and Baltimore given the strength of the other eight teams, ranging from World Series contenders like the Yankees to clubs in the 85-win range like the Phillies, Mets and Blue Jays.

The Marlins and Orioles have just been better than the Phillies pitchers they're facing. It's the biggest reason why the Phils continue to struggle against bad teams. Do they have better players? Of course. But the gap in talent shrinks when you're forced to use some of your least reliable players (e.g. relievers) every night. You need your bullpen every night. You can't hide it. The Phillies continue to lose these games in the middle innings.

In the four games against the Fish and O's, Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.14 ERA. The bullpen has a 9.00 ERA. The Phillies' offense has averaged 6.0 runs, homered eight times and hit .246/.355/.493 in those four games. It's not at all on the offense, which last season averaged more than 5.5 runs per game against the Marlins and lost the series. The Phillies have already lost games this season when scoring six and nine runs. Even the two times the Phils scored double-digit runs, they had to sweat it out a bit, allowing seven and eight.

That late-season seven-game series in Miami will be another challenge. Because of the postponements, the Phillies will end up playing seven of the 10 games against the Marlins on the road, even if they'll spend a few as the home team in a road park. That seven-game series is smack-dab in the middle of a stretch when the Phillies play 33 games in 29 days. Some of these guys will be running on fumes. Think of how frequently Hector Neris will have to appear in games for the Phillies to hold on to victories.

The Phillies went 33-29 last season against teams under .500. That's OK but not good enough and certainly not an indicator of a contending team. The Marlins and Orioles are actually both over .500 right now, as is every team the Phillies have faced so far. 

One-fifth of the Phillies' season is complete and they are 5-7. You simply need to play .500 baseball to make the playoffs this season. The top two teams in each division, plus the teams with the next two best records in each league make the postseason in this year's 16-team field. Right now, the final team in the NL would be the Brewers at 7-8. The final AL team would be the Orioles at 8-7.

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Joe Girardi after sloppy Phillies’ loss: 'In a lot of ways, we gave it away'

Joe Girardi after sloppy Phillies’ loss: 'In a lot of ways, we gave it away'

There were times Tuesday night when the Phillies produced in the clutch.

And there were times when they tripped all over themselves and looked like the Keystone Kops.

In the end, the Phillies could not play over their sloppiness. They played poorly in the field in the late innings and, of course, their punching-bag bullpen (10.19 ERA) coughed it up once again. The result was the craziest and most demoralizing loss of the Joe Girardi era, a 10-9 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

“We kept coming back but weren’t able to close out the deal,” Girardi said afterward. “We had our chances. We made some mistakes that really cost us. I thought our guys did a great job offensively battling back. Unfortunately, we were one hit short. It’s just frustrating. That’s a game that I thought in a lot of ways, we gave it away.”

Let’s count the ways that the Phillies gave it away.

Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler could not protect a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning.

Reliever Tommy Hunter came into a tie game in the seventh and allowed three hits and two runs to the first three batters.

The Phillies took the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on a pair of homers by Bryce Harper (two-run shot) and Segura (solo shot).

That was clutch.

Hector Neris was called on to close out the one-run lead in the top of the ninth, but he couldn’t do it. He allowed the tying run then was charged with two more when third baseman Segura tripped over the pitcher’s mound while tracking a pop up that would have been the third out.

No problem. Didi Gregorius tied the game at 8-8 with a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies still had life despite Neris' blown save.

Under MLB’s new COVID protocols, both teams started the 10thinning with a runner on second base.

The Orioles scored quickly when Austin Hays — and we’re not making this up — stroked a leadoff, two-run, inside-the-park homer. Phillies centerfielder Roman Quinn tried to make a charging, diving catch on the ball. He missed it and it rolled to the warning track as Hays circled the bases.

The Phils got one back in the bottom of the 10th, but left two men in scoring position.

Not enough.

Painful loss.

Sloppy loss.

The plays involving Segura and Quinn led to four runs.

Segura called off first baseman Rhys Hoskins on Pedro Severino’s pop up in the middle of the infield. It should have been Hoskins’ ball.

“I think that’s probably the inexperience of Jean at third,” Girardi said. “He’s used to being at shortstop and taking charge. It hurt us tonight.

“Hector was a little off. I know he’s frustrated about it. But through all that, we still had a chance. We blew a pop up.”

Hoskins called for the ball. In retrospect, he said he believed he should have yelled louder.

“I heard something from my right and typically those guys take priority over the first baseman,” Hoskins said. “I just need to be louder. I probably called it a little too early.”

In the 10th, Quinn should have conceded the hit to Hays and played the ball on one hop.

“The effort is great,” Girardi said. “But it turns into two runs where you have a chance to only give up one. That’s kind of frustrating.”

Deolis Guerra gave up the inside-the-parker.

Harper witnessed the ball get by Quinn from right field.

“You love the hustle,” Harper said. “You love the effort. You never want to take that away from Q because he plays a great centerfield. But we have to be a little bit smarter. I had to learn that as well when I was playing right field coming up. I’d wanted to get every ball for my pitchers. But that’s a spot, with a guy on second, where you have to keep the ball in front of you and hopefully keep that double play in order so they hopefully score just one run.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda and we might have been tied going into the 11th. Like I said, I love the effort from Q. But that’s definitely a ball we’ve got to keep in front and I think he knows that.”

Twelve games — or 20 percent — into the 60-game sprint, the Phillies are 5-7.

They have two more with the Orioles in this series. The O’s are 8-7 after losing 108 games last season.

“We’ve got to win games,” Harper said. “This is win or go home, pretty much. With a 60-game schedule, we can’t make mistakes. We’ve got to count on the guys we know we can count on. It’s tough to go into the inning with a lead and lose a ballgame.”

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