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Cubs 6, Phillies 2: A pitchers’ duel, then an extra-inning explosion

The Cubs won their third game in a row.

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Who are these guys?

For the third straight game, including the win over the Mets just before the All-Star break, the Cubs got solid pitching and timely hitting. This is the team I thought they could be, though who knows how long this will last, especially with the trade deadline looming a week from Tuesday.

The Cubs exploded for five runs in the 10th inning Saturday and won their third straight, 6-2 over the Phillies.

After a scoreless first, Nico Hoerner gave the Cubs the lead in the top of the second [VIDEO].

Hoerner still doesn’t hit with much power, but his SLG is now .430, which is edging toward “really good” range. In his last 28 games since June 20: .358/.398/.505 (39-for-109) with seven doubles and three home runs. Finally healthy, he’s starting to show why the Cubs made him a first-round draft pick.

Marcus Stroman made his third straight strong start. With a 1-0 lead heading to the seventh, David Ross let Stroman start the inning, but two straight hits off Stroman tied the game. Overall, though, a fine outing: Six-plus innings, five hits, one run, two walks, five strikeouts. And over his last three starts since returning from a shoulder issue: 1.26 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, 14 strikeouts in 14⅓ innings. This is the Stroman the Cubs thought they had signed — now, let’s hope he keeps it up the rest of the year.

The Cubs had a chance in the eighth inning when Patrick Wisdom led off with a double. Two outs later, Christopher Morel was hit by a pitch and Nelson Velázquez walked, loading the bases, but Willson Contreras popped out to end the threat.

But the Phillies couldn’t score either after that seventh-inning run. Credit to Steven Brault (who’s been really good since his recall), Mychal Givens and David Robertson for throwing three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk, and striking out four.

On to extras the game went, and before I show you the Cubs’ five-run inning, I need to talk about how bad CB Bucknor was behind the plate. This is not new, as Bucknor routinely misses calls, but this one got David Ross tossed:

So. Pitch 3, which was in the strike zone, was called a ball, but pitch 4, NOT in the zone, was called strike three on Wisdom. I am not good at lipreading but on the broadcast, you could clearly see Wisdom saying to Bucknor, “It’s the same pitch!” Which was essentially true. The ump scorecard on Bucknor won’t be available until later this morning, but ... that was just awful. And just so you don’t think I am being Cubs-centric here, Bucknor was bad for both teams, as shown here:

I cannot wait for the automated strike zone. And again, to be fair — that automated zone would have had Wisdom called out on strikes on pitch 3 in that sequence. I’d still rather have it than have someone as bad as Bucknor making ball-and-strike calls. You certainly can’t blame Ross for speaking his mind to Bucknor over the call to Wisdom.

Anyway, there’s one out now in the 10th and Hoerner, the placed runner, stole third. That turned out to be important, because otherwise this Frank Schwindel grounder wouldn’t have scored him [VIDEO].

That’s a great slide by Nico, and though Bucknor called him safe, you can see Nico step on the plate again after the slide just to make sure — to me, it wasn’t 100 percent clear whether Hoerner had touched the plate the first time.

So the Cubs had a 2-1 lead, but they weren’t even close to being done. David Bote doubled, with Schwindel taking third, and then Christopher Morel singled in Schwindel to make it 3-1 [VIDEO].

Two more runs scored on this play [VIDEO].

I thought they could have given Velázquez a hit on that ball; Alec Bohm couldn’t play it and on a close play at the plate, Morel scored when the throw got away, and now it’s 5-1 with Velázquez taking second.

Contreras plated the Cubs’ final run with this double [VIDEO].

Brandon Hughes was entrusted with the five-run lead. He did allow one run (unearned, due to the Manfred man rules). Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

And thus the Cubs won the series, a satisfying, well-played win. Again, in the grand scheme of things for 2022 this doesn’t matter much, as all it did was bring the Cubs back to 20 games under .500.

Also, the Cubs have now played 15 extra-inning games this year, most in MLB. Their record “Improved” to 4-11 — to me, that says if they had better relief pitchers, maybe they’d play better in these games and be closer to a .500 club. They’re not as far away from contention as you might think.

Yet, it still shows there’s talent on this team. Here are Ross’ postgame comments [VIDEO].

The Cubs will go for an improbable sweep Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. Drew Smyly will start for the Cubs and Bailey Falter gets the call for the Phillies. A reminder that this is a very early start: 11:05 a.m. CT, and TV coverage is on the streaming service Peacock. Today’s BCB game preview will post at 10 a.m. CT.