Final Score: Cubs 8, Phillies 3
The Phillies had to enter Wednesday night feeling pretty good about their chances to earn the series victory over the Cubs and set themselves up for a four-game sweep on Thursday.
But baseball is a weird game — so weird that sometimes, a team that has won four of its last five and has its Cy Young contending All-Star on the mound loses to a team on an 11-game losing streak, all with the help of three RBI hits whose exit velocities measured below 75 mph.
That’s what happened to the Phillies, as a rare forgettable start from Zack Wheeler and some not-so-rare shoddy defense culminated in a missed opportunity to draw to .500 for the first time since June 19.
Despite falling down 5-0 in the first couple innings, the Phillies actually made it a ballgame when Andrew McCutchen cranked yet another homer to cap off a three-run sixth and pull within two. However, Wheeler and Connor Brogdon teamed up to give all three of those runs right back in the bottom half of the frame, and the rest was smooth sailing in the Windy City.
The Phillies are 41-43 and 4 1/2 games back in the NL East. They’ll go for the series win Thursday behind Zach Eflin.
- Didi Gregorius’ defensive woes continued in the first inning, when Kris Bryant reached on a grounder that the Phillies’ shortstop bobbled just long enough for Bryant to beat the throw.
- The misplay would come back to bite in serious fashion. Four of the Cubs’ next five hitters singled, including three consecutive two-out RBI knocks from Jason Heyward, Nico Hoerner and Rafael Ortega that gave Zack Wheeler three unearned runs in the first frame.
- After a very brief rain delay that began with a 1-0 count on Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs’ first baseman lined a triple into the right field corner to score Joc Pederson. It may have been a double, and Pederson may not have been able to score, had the ball kicked out toward Bryce Harper after it rolled to fence, but it stuck at the base of the ivy to allow for the extra bases.
- Alec Bohm made this nice barehanded play in the fifth:
- Wheeler and Mills combined to retire 20 of the next 21 hitters, but things turned sour for the latter in the sixth. J.T. Realmuto picked up a bloop hit to right before Harper doubled him home, and the red hot Andrew McCutchen cranked his 15th homer of the year. McCutchen saw his rock-paper-scissors deficit to Dusty Wathan only widen, but it’s a loss he’ll gladly take, as it cut the Cubs’ lead to two runs and made the game suddenly interesting.
- Didi Gregorius followed him up with a walk and Alec Bohm reached on an error, but replay review showed he came off second base while trying to take the extra bag.
- Wheeler was pulled after putting two men on with two outs in the sixth, and Connor Brogdon couldn’t quite clean up the mess. He conceded an RBI single to Pederson and a two-run double to Patrick Wisdom, and the deficit was right back at five.
- Brandon Kintzler fired two perfect innings, a welcome sign for the Phillies’ bullpen.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
Zack Wheeler: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO, 97 pitches
It’s true that the defense didn’t help Wheeler out in the first inning. It’s also true that he didn’t have his best stuff or command early on, and he’s not totally absolved of the blame for the three unearned runs in the first or the two earned runs in the second. Despite settling in to fire three perfect innings afterward, Wheeler’s ERA jumped to 2.26. It’ll be interesting to see whether his rocky final start before the break will impact his chances of starting the All-Star Game in Jacob deGrom’s absence.
Alec Mills: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 95 pitches
Mills used a repertoire of slow, slower and slowest to keep the Phillies off balance for the first five innings, and he was backed by a solid defense to further his cause. He ran into some trouble in the sixth, ultimately leaving him one out away from a quality start, but he did more than enough to keep the Cubs in the game. His ERA dropped by 0.01 runs to 4.84.
Phillies Nuggets Player of the Game: Nearly the Cubs’ entire lineup
The Cubs got RBI hits from every spot in the lineup one-through-seven, and no hit had more sway on the game’s outcome than any other. No individual player was show-stealing, but all were solid, and the all-around effort gave the Cubs their first win in almost two weeks.
Ticket IQ Next Game
- Thursday, July 8 vs. Chicago Cubs at 8:05 p.m. ET
- Wrigley Field
- ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia
- 94 WIP
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