Remember a few weeks ago? When the Cubs were getting outstanding starting pitching, but the bullpen kept blowing leads?
It’s apparently “Opposite Week” for the current series against the Phillies. Two Cubs starters have gotten pounded and left the game early. Then the bullpen entered and shut things down, but the Cubs were too far behind to make up the deficit.
All of that resulted in their second straight loss to the Phillies, 8-5 at Wrigley Field Wednesday evening.
Drew Smyly could have been out of the first inning on just 10 pitches, but he fumbled Nick Castellanos’ comebacker and was charged with an error.
Smyly didn’t allow any runs in the inning, but had to throw 12 more pitches (a walk to Bryce Harper, a strikeout of J.T. Realmuto) before ending the frame. Did that throw him off his game a bit? It definitely changed the sequencing, as the Phillies just pounded Smyly in the second inning for five runs, including home runs by Edmundo Sosa and Castellanos.
That was basically the ballgame, though the Cubs did wind up matching that five-run total. The Cubs had to play catch-up the rest of the way.
That began with Jared Young’s first MLB home run in the third [VIDEO].
The Phillies added two more off Smyly in the fourth before David Ross had mercy and lifted him for Hayden Wesneski.
The Cubs got one of those back in the bottom of the inning on this solo homer by Dansby Swanson [VIDEO].
Still, the Cubs are down 5. Wesneski allowed a solo homer to Josh Harrison in the fifth to make it 8-2.
The Cubs tried to make a game of it in the bottom of the fifth. Nick Madrigal led off with an infield hit. Mike Tauchman singled him to third and Nico Hoerner walked to load the bases.
With runners on second and third, there was still a chance for more in that inning. But Swanson hit into a tag play at the plate and Cody Bellinger popped up to end the threat.
Wesneski threw well. He did allow the aforementioned solo homer, but finished his outing with 4⅓ innings, two hits and one run, and four strikeouts. While all this was going on, Cubs bats went silent. Just one Cub reached base from the sixth through the eighth, a two-out double by Madrigal in the sixth.
Michael Rucker threw a 1-2-3 ninth. That means over the last two games against the Phillies, the Cubs bullpen has thrown 9⅓ innings, allowed four hits, three walks and one run and struck out seven. That’s really good! If only the starters could hold up their end. Once again, this helped save the higher-leverage relievers for more important work. Hopefully, there will be a reason to use those guys soon.
The Cubs made a last-ditch effort to get back in the game in the bottom of the ninth. Miguel Amaya and Madrigal singled to begin the inning. (Credit where due: Madrigal had a nice evening, with three hits.) The runners both advanced on a passed ball, then Amaya scored on this wild pitch [VIDEO].
That made it 8-5 with a runner on third and one out, but Hoerner flied to center and Morel grounded out to end the game.
Even with this loss, the Cubs remain just 4½ games out of first place, and only three behind the first-place Reds (“first-place Reds” still sounds weird, right?) in the loss column. Some teams have reached the halfway mark (81 games) of their schedule but the Cubs are still a bit short of that — 78 games in — and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
The Cubs will try to avoid the sweep Thursday evening at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Taijuan Walker will go for Philadelphia. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Phillies market territories).