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Cubs 2, Phillies 0: Sweep!

And, the story of how Phillies infielder Jean Segura broke MLB Gameday... again.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This was totally unexpected. Not only did the Cubs sweep the Phillies this week at Wrigley Field, completing it with a 2-0 shutout Thursday afternoon, but that also wraps up a sweep of the season series against the Phillies, since the Cubs swept them in Philadelphia in July. That’s the first season series sweep by the Cubs of at least six games over anyone since they took all seven games from the Mets during the regular season in 2015. (We won’t talk about that year’s NLCS here, though.)

The Cubs did it with solid pitching throughout — just six hits allowed by three pitchers — just enough timely hitting, and some real nice defense from Ian Happ.

The Cubs began right away in the first inning. Willson Contreras, catching for the first time since August 30 and in the leadoff spot for the first time since May 21, began the game with a double. Seiya Suzuki singled him to third, but Willson was tagged out at the plate on an infield dribbler by Happ.

Patrick Wisdom then doubled Suzuki home [VIDEO].

Another play at the plate on an attempted bunt by Nico Hoerner retired Happ, so the Cubs had to be content with a 1-0 lead.

With two out in the second inning, this wacky play happened with Jean Segura on first base and Nick Maton at bat [VIDEO].

You can see Segura pointing to the scoreboard, which showed a 3-1 count. — but it wasn’t. Here, let Jomboy explain better:

That’s a real heads-up play by Javier Assad, who appeared to be the only one on the field who understood the situation.

And it broke Gameday briefly:

No, Gameday, you cannot steal first base. Eventually they fixed it and had him “caught stealing second,” which is about the only way that can be scored.

If this seems familiar to you, read this BCB recap of the Cubs/Brewers game from April 19, 2013, in which Segura also broke Gameday by retreating to first base when he was entitled to second. It’s complicated, so read the whole description. Or just watch this [VIDEO].

Anyway, the inning ended and Assad seemed to get more confident after that. He allowed just five more baserunners and only one Phillie got past first base. That’s when Assad allowed a walk and bloop single leading off the sixth. Michael Rucker retired the next three hitters to bail Assad out of a jam, more nice work from Rucker.

Meanwhile, the Cubs had extended their lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth. With two out, Suzuki tripled to center when Brandon Marsh lost the ball in the sun, and Happ singled him in [VIDEO].

Rucker was relieved by Keegan Thompson in the seventh. Thompson briefly lost command and walked a pair in that inning, but struck out Rhys Hoskins to end it.

Then Happ helped Thompson out with a pair of really nice grabs in left field.

First, this sliding grab in the eighth off a sinking liner by J.T. Realmuto [VIDEO].

Then, Marsh led off the ninth with this drive down the left-field line [VIDEO].

That’s one of the best catches I’ve seen by any Cub all year. Happ has turned himself into a very good defensive left fielder (0.8 defensive bWAR) and he really showed it off in this game — those catches both likely saved Philly runs from scoring.

One out later, Thompson allowed a 30-foot dribbler by Nick Castellanos that went for a hit, but he then got another ground ball to end things [VIDEO].

That was a very impressive showing by Cubs pitching in this series. The Phillies came into this game ranked seventh in MLB in runs and sixth in home runs and the Cubs staff allowed them three runs and no home runs in the three games. Just for comparison, the Phillies had come to Chicago off a four-game series in Atlanta that they split and scored 20 runs and smashed four home runs, and the Braves have a much better pitching staff than the Cubs do.

Or do they? This Cubs staff has been really good over the last few weeks and it showed very well in this series against a good team, and this is how good that pitching has been:

The Phillies now have to hope that the Marlins can defeat the Brewers Thursday evening in Milwaukee. If the Brewers win they take over the third wild card spot.

Lastly, our old friend Kyle Schwarber went 1-for-9 with three walks and three strikeouts in this series and against the Cubs this year he was 2-for-20 (a double and a home run) with four walks and seven strikeouts.

The rest of the Cubs’ 2022 season will be against the Reds, three games at Wrigley Field and three in Cincinnati. A split of the six games would have the Cubs finish 73-89, avoiding 90 losses, and I think they can do better than 3-3.

The first of this weird six-game series will be Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Adrian Sampson will start for the Cubs and Graham Ashcraft gets the call for the Reds. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Reds market territories).