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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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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