The Philadelphia Phillies were swept in their weekend series at Wrigley Field by the host Chicago Cubs.
For the first time since the opening week of the season, the Phillies have lost three consecutive games following this afternoon’s 7-2 defeat at the hands of the host Chicago Cubs.
This marked the first series sweep of the Phillies by the Cubs at the Friendly Confines since late July of 1995, a startlingly long two decades.
But getting swept out of Wrigley Field is not the extent of the real losing skid for the Fightin’ Phils. They went 1-5 on this week’s road trip. Over the last two weeks, the club has lost nine of their last 13 games.
The losing has dropped the Phillies (26-24) from a euphoric yet brief tie for first place in the NL East on May 14th into 3rd place, 3 1/2 games out and just a half-game ahead of Miami for 4th place in the division.
It is feeling very much like the fall from grace predicted by many has indeed begun. Offensive production remains the main culprit. With today’s two-run effort, the Phillies have now scored just two runs or fewer in four of their last five, and in 19 of their 50 games this season.
The Cubs (34-14) solidified their position as the best team in baseball with this series, now leading the NL Central by a half-dozen games.
This afternoon they beat up Phils’ starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez, who looked much more suspect than prospect on this day.
Velasquez allowed seven earned runs on nine hits in just 4.2 innings, walking two and striking out six batters. A pair of home runs helped Chicago build a 7-0 lead on him through five innings.
Leading 1-0, Miguel Montero led off the bottom of the 2nd with a solo shot, his 2nd of the year, to make it a 2-0 game.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Velasquez retired the first two batters – and then came apart. Kris Bryant singled on a hard-hit ball at Freddy Galvis, and then Velasquez walked Anthony Rizzo on five pitches.
With two runners on, up to the plate strode 2nd baseman Ben Zobrist, our Mike Azzalina’s pick at the start of the series as his “Opposition Roadblock“. Zobrist demonstrated why, drilling a three-run homer to push the lead out to 5-0.
In the home 5th, RBI singles from Bryant and Montero gave the Cubs an insurmountable 7-0 lead. I say insurmountable because the Phils were not only being shutout to that point, but they had scored as many as eight runs only twice all year.
The Phillies would get on the scoreboard before it was over thanks to a pair of solo home runs, one by Tyler Goeddel with two out in the top of the 7th, the other by Tommy Joseph to lead off the top of the 9th.
Goeddel’s blast was the 2nd of his season and career, and came off Cubs’ starting pitcher John Lackey. The right-hander went seven innings, walking four but allowing just four hits.
Joseph’s 3rd homer of the season gave some credibility to the move by manager Pete Mackanin to start him rather than Ryan Howard against the right-handed pitcher. It is more than likely a move that will become more and more regular.
After the game, Mackanin did everything but name Joseph the full-time starter, which would finally shove ‘The Big Piece’ to a bench role.
As has been the case all series, the Phillies bullpen was shutdown after the starter had been hit around. Brett Oberholtzer, David Hernandez, Colton Murray, and Hector Neris combined to shut out the Cubs over the final 3.1 innings, allowing just one hit.
The Phillies now return home for their longest homestand of the season, a 10-gamer which begins with a Monday night game on Memorial Day against the division-leading Washington Nationals.