This much I know for sure after the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the Phillies Sunday afternoon: I'm very, very happy the Cubs don't have to play the Phillies again this year. The Phillies entered this series as the worst team record-wise in baseball and I'm reasonably certain that the record reflects the talent. Yet, they split this four-game set and overall took five of seven from the Cubs this year. Good riddance.
This much I am reasonably certain of after this game: The Cubs are going to have to fix their bullpen and the back end of the rotation before any postseason play begins.
I think I'm about done with the Dan Haren Experiment. Sure, he had a really good game against the Cardinals last Monday, but do you really want to risk sending him out there for a repeat outing against St. Louis at Wrigley Field? Me, either. Maybe Clayton Richard, who had a very nice relief appearance Sunday afternoon, could take that start -- except Richard's good pitching was marred by a very poorly-timed wild pitch, a pitch that allowed the decisive run to cross the plate in the seventh inning after a Cubs rally without the benefit of a hit tied the game in the top of the inning.
Still, I think the Cubs have to do something other than Haren. He really does appear done.
Chris Coghlan did his best to try to help the Cubs win this one. He hit two triples and a home run, and the second triple really was a homer, I think. Here's the play (too early for an embed code) -- it looked to me as if that fan hadn't been in the way, the trajectory of that ball would have had it land over the fence and in the seats. The replay-review crew took a very long time, six minutes and 17 seconds, looking over this play and decided to leave Coghlan at third base. That turned out to be important, because a home run would have tied the game. Instead, Coghlan wound up stranded.
I certainly can't blame that play alone. Bad pitching and quite a number of hard-hit balls that went right at Phillies fielders for outs were the primary culprits in this one, in addition to Haren allowing a two-run homer to Ryan Howard that you could have written the script for before Howard even came to the plate. It was the 31st homer Haren had allowed this year, giving him the dubious distinction of leading the major leagues in that category (tied with Rubby De La Rosa). Enough, I think.
The Cubs' game-tying rally in the seventh was nicely done, anyway, as they took advantage of two errors and a walk to score that run. The run scored when Cesar Hernandez booted Anthony Rizzo's ground ball and tried to flip it to first for the out. He not only failed to do that, but he and Rizzo collided, unavoidably, and Hernandez had to leave the game with a dislocated left thumb. Trust me on this one -- if you have not seen the play, don't watch it. The dislocation is pretty obvious, and it's pretty gruesome. Having had a dislocated finger before, eventually you get back full range of movement, but I'm guessing Hernandez' 2015 season is over.
Carl Edwards Jr. came in to throw the eighth and got two quick outs before a walk, a single and a double plated two Phillies runs and put the game out of reach. The Cubs did manage two hits off Phillies closer Ken Giles and got the tying run to the plate in the person of Rizzo with two out. Rizzo laced a ball that seemed headed to right field for a hit, but former Cub Andres Blanco, who replaced Hernandez, speared it to end the game.
Of note: Kris Bryant went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. The K established a new Cubs franchise record for strikeouts in a season. It was his 175th, eclipsing the mark set by Sammy Sosa in 1997. Bryant joins 57 other players who have struck out at least 175 times in a season. Bryant's current K pace would get him to just about 200, which would be the seventh-most in major-league history. As long as he keeps drawing walks (.367 OBP) and hitting home runs, the strikeouts don't really bother me.
The losses do. The bullpen work does, and Joe Maddon's going to have to get even more creative with the way he's handled his relievers. The Cubs have played 10 straight days and 26 of the last 27 and really do need Monday's off day. At this writing, the Pirates and Brewers are playing in the 11th inning (in case you wondered why this recap was delayed a bit, I was waiting until the 10th inning was completed before I published). Since the Cardinals won earlier Sunday, extending their lead over the Cubs to 6½ games, it would be nice to see a Milwaukee win, which would keep the Cubs three games behind the Pirates.
As poor as the series in Philadelphia turned out, the Cubs are 3-3 in Pittsburgh this year and 7-5 overall against the Pirates heading into this four-game series that's important to both teams. In Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader (12:35 CT), Jason Hammel will face Gerrit Cole. In Game 2 (6:05 CT), it'll be against J.A. Happ.
This is pennant-race baseball. If it's not toying with your emotions, you're not doing it right. Stick around here on the off day, as we'll have plenty to talk about in advance of the two big games Tuesday.