Two specific events happened in the Cubs' 3-2 loss to the Phillies that turned this one in favor of the home team.
The first was Kris Bryant's misjudgment of Freddy Galvis' long fly ball in the first inning. It might not have been an easy play, but Bryant has caught balls like this before. Galvis wound up on second base with a double and scored on a single by Maikel Franco.
The other one was more egregious, in my view. With the score 2-1 Phillies in the seventh, Carlos Ruiz singled with one out. Then he stole second base.
My jaw dropped. I mean, this is a 37-year-old catcher who had only one steal attempt this year (unsuccessful) before this game. Miguel Montero has been really bad at throwing out runners trying to steal this year: just two in 23 attempts. The Phillies obviously scouted him well.
If Ruiz doesn't steal that base, the pitch that got away when Jimmy Paredes struck out wouldn't have mattered. Paredes wouldn't have taken first base, as it would have been occupied. Maybe Ruiz advances, maybe he doesn't, but he isn't likely to score on the single by Odubel Herrera that easily scored him from third, where he did advance on the wild pitch.
If Ruiz doesn't score that run, the Cubs' eighth-inning run off reliever Hector Neris would have tied the game.
Lots of if's, yes, I know. But this game was winnable, especially when the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out in that eighth inning. They managed just the one run on a sacrifice fly by Dexter Fowler.
Oh, and that Phillies run? The hit by Herrera? That was off Clayton Richard, who was brought in specifically to throw to the lefthanded-hitting Herrera. This ... just isn't working. Richard isn't a LOOGY, and he's been pretty bad all year. I hope the Cubs can come up with a LOOGY solution soon. Thanks to Richard for being a good bullpen piece and spot starter when the Cubs needed those in 2015. This year? Not so much.
Give credit to Jerad Eickhoff, who had Cubs hitters off balance for seven innings. They managed just two singles and two walks off Eickhoff, who struck out eight. Kyle Hendricks wasn't bad in five innings -- he allowed four hits and two runs, the second run on a long home run by Ryan Howard. He certainly could have gone longer, having thrown just 81 pitches, but Joe Maddon wanted to try to generate some offense in the sixth inning. Maddon sent Albert Almora up to bat for Hendricks, and Almora, in his big-league debut, grounded out. It wouldn't surprise me to see Almora in the lineup for the series finale.
The Cubs did get the tying and lead runs on base in the ninth inning on singles by Anthony Rizzo and Tommy La Stella, but David Ross grounded out to end the game. Maddon sent Travis Wood in to run for TLS. At the time the only bench player remaining was Tim Federowicz. I wonder what would have happened if the Cubs had tied the game or taken the lead. I suppose Federowicz could have been sent to left field while Bryant moved to third base. This again speaks to the idea that the Cubs can't carry three catchers indefinitely. On the other hand, Montero hasn't played well. Could he still be suffering from aftereffects of the back problems that sent him to the disabled list in April?
Credit where credit is due: the Phillies' first-inning rally could have been bigger except for this fantastic catch by Addison Russell:
And in the seventh, this nice grab by Ben Zobrist might have prevented more runs:
The Cubs dropped to 7-8 in one-run games, but:
#Cubs this season:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 8, 2016
20-3 in games decided by 5+ runs
7-8 in one-run games
(The 20-3 is far more meaningful)
And one more note about the team's terrific start:
Last 2 times #Cubs used only 5 Starters through 56 games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2016
2016 Arrieta Lester Lackey Hammel Hendricks
2003 Wood Prior Zambrano Clement Estes
FWIW, the 2003 Cubs had just two other pitchers start games: Juan Cruz (six) and Sergio Mitre (two), and one of Mitre's starts was the day after the division clincher.
The good thing about baseball is that you never have to wait too long to come back from a tough loss, and in this case the wait's shorter than most. The Cubs will play an afternoon game to wrap this series, and try to take two of three. Game time is 12:05 CT; John Lackey faces Vince Velasquez. The game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CT.