The City of Brotherly Love did not live up to its nickname for the road team, as it was anything but loving to the Cubs this week. While the Phillies (and erstwhile Cub target Bryce Harper) walked off with three wins, none of those looked like the others as the Cubs found brand new demoralizing and depressing ways to lose road games in a year where they’ve done more than their fair share in that department.
First, there was the wasted six-inning, 14 K performance from José Quintana in which he gave up just one earned run. Then there was the Cole Hamels Reunion Tour, complete with the former Phillies ace helping his old team like it was 2015 to the tune of eight runs in just two innings on the mound.
Last but not least, you have the Harper show that never should have happened in the first place. Up 5-0 thanks to a seven-inning performance from Yu Darvish that included 10 strikeouts and no walks, the Cubs’ bullpen (and defense) imploded by allowing seven runs in two innings of relief. Yikes.
At this point in the season, it’s abundantly clear that the Cubs are not a good team on the road and it’s anyone’s guess as to why. However, this series pretty much cemented that there’s basically no kind of lead or situation where Cubs should have a lot of faith in locking down an easy win away from Wrigley Field.
Perhaps a trip to Williamsport via Pittsburgh, complete with a Little League game on Sunday night, will jolt the Cubs awake. If not, they can always look forward to six straight at Wrigley (including four straight during the day) to lick their now very raw wounds clean.
Take your pick of any of three Harper bombs, although the walk-off was certainly the most clutch. They were all struck with authority and probably stung a decent segment that wanted to see the slugging lefty in a Cubs uniform this year and beyond.
In the first game, Quintana struck out 14 and left with the ballgame knotted at two apiece. It was a pretty ho-hum game through the early innings with sacrifice flies accounting for the first run for each club. In the 5th, JT Realmuto hit an oppo bomb off Quintana on a changeup that caught too much of the plate. It was Quintana’s only mistake of the game, honestly.
Nicholas Castellanos continued his home run binge against slop-throwing Jason Vargas (who sorta has the Cubs’ number). His bomb to left tied things up and got the run right back. Alas, Realmuto struck again in the bottom of the 7th when he doubled in little known Andrew Knapp.
The most memorable play of game one, however, was a called third strike in the top of the 9th against Tony Kemp. While it may or may not have affected the outcome of the game, it’s one of the most egregious miscalls most have ever seen. And that’s saying something with the call for robo-umps getting stronger and stronger.
Game two of the series, well…it just plain stunk. I was there in person. I was sad. I may have suffered whiplash from watching balls whoosh by me out to left field from my seats on the third base line. Hamels just did not have it and it was hard to watch him get clobbered. I don’t know if any one hit really made a difference for the Phillies, but Harper hit two bombs and Realmuto hit a grand slam in the 3rd inning to put a nail in the Cub’s coffin at 10-0 early.
The lone bright spot for the Cubs was Kris Bryant’s longest home run of the year, hit in the same vicinity but just a little farther than Harper’s opposite field bomb to left-center.
There were plenty of key moments in the series’ finale, you probably just didn’t realize it as they were happening. You have Anthony Rizzo’s towering home run that barely made it into the stands in right-center field. That made things 1-0 and continued Rizzo’s success as “the greatest leadoff hitter ever.”
After a few RBI hits in the 4th inning that made things 4-0 Cubs, Kyle Schwarber decided to get in on the homer party, smashing his 100th career tater to center field. He became the fastest Cub ever to 100 ever, ahead of guys named Banks, Santo, Williams, Báez, and Bryant. Whether you think the guy is a good ballplayer or should have been traded to an American League team years ago, no one can deny that he can hit round white orbs very far, very often.
That’s where the fun ends and the misery begins. The Key Moment for the Phillies probably happened when Darvish was taken out of the game at 92 pitches. There’s been plenty of debate as to whether or not he should have been lifted, but with a five-run cushion and only six outs to get with a fresh bullpen, it shouldn’t have been an issue.
After finishing the 8th, Rowan Wick came back and got a quick out in the final frame. Then David Bote booted a Cesar Hernandez dribbler that should have made it two outs with no one on, Scott Kingery singled to center, and Brad Miller singled on a ball just out of Ian Happ’s reach at second base.
Pedro Strop, who is looking like a shell of his former great self, allowed a Roman Quinn single to right center, then hit Rhys Hoskins to bring up the well-coiffed $300 million man (and Derek Holland out of the pen to face him).
We all know what followed. At 158 feet high, it was one of the more majestic home runs you’ll ever see — except it wasn’t a Cub hitting it, so maybe it makes it a little less majestic. Harper’s walk-off moonshot put a poison cherry on top of a sour sundae of a series in Philly.
- Big Energy Nick continues his hot start with the Cubs. He was 5-for-12 in the series with another bomb.
- Quintana has started six times since the break, going 4-0. In 34.2 IP, he has 40 strikeouts and just six walks. His 14 K game against the Phillies was a thing of beauty and it was utterly wasted.
- Darvish has been even better than Q since the break. Amazingly enough, Darvish now leads the Cubs in innings pitched at 139 for the season. In seven starts since the break, Darvish has thrown 42 IP, given up just 29 hits and two walks, and has fanned 57 hitters. He has also only given up 11 earned runs in those seven starts.
- The Bullpen. They lost two games in this series and it’s tough for Maddon to go to anyone at this point without some kind of trepidation.
- Javy Báez. He’s sick, and not in a good way. He’s also only 1-for-15 in his last five games. Maybe he’s been under the weather and trying to gut it out, but the bottom line is the Cubs need him on the field both defensively and at the plate.
- Did Hamels come back too soon? Since his nice five inning performance in his first start off the IL on August 3, he has put up two clunkers. First, there was the three inning outing in Cincy where he gave up five (four earned). Then there was this forgettable reunion performance in Philly that lasted just two innings and saw the lanky southpaw give up eight earned.
The Cubs have to find a way to win some ballgames on the road. With a split in Cincinnati, it looked like maybe they could build on that. Unfortunately, it didn’t carry over to Philadelphia and makes this upcoming series in Pittsburgh/Williamsport all the more important. The Cubs are still tied for first place, so an extended winning streak could still be death knell for the equally mediocre Cards and Brewers.