The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.
The Chicago Cubs came into Citizens Bank Park this week as a true juggernaut, with the best record in Major League Baseball at more than 20 games over the .500 mark.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have been reeling. After an unexpectedly strong start, the Phils cooled to the point of having entered this series having lost 11 of their previous 15 games.
But while the matchup may seem like a mismatch on paper, the Cubbies were reminded last night that over the course of the 162-game MLB season, even the best teams are going to lose 60-70 games.
The Phillies parlayed a strong starting pitching performance from Jerad Eickhoff, a couple of big hits, some aggressive base running, a heroic performance from their closer, and a tremendous key defensive play to hold off the Cubs by a 3-2 score last night at Citizens Bank Park.
The result was especially satisfying for yours truly and my bride, who were on-hand for the stirring victory ‘live’ and in-person for the first time this season.
Not only did I get to enjoy a big win for the Fightins, but also enjoyed a delicious barbecued pulled pork from Bull’s BBQ out on Ashburn Alley, a delicacy for which I had waited some eight months. But I digress.
Eickhoff (3-8) allowed just two hits over seven innings, with eight strikeouts and two walks. He threw 61 strikes over his 98 pitches, and was generally in control the entire start.
The lineup built him a 3-1 lead by the time he left, scoring single runs in the 1st, 4th, and 7th innings.
“I got a good pitch to hit, he hung me a breaking ball and I was able to hit it out” ~ Howard
Between top and bottom of the 4th inning, I took a break to head to the rest room and made a concession stop for a couple of waters. Great timing. As I stood in a short concession line, Ryan Howard lined his 9th home run of the season to make it a 2-0 game.
It was sweet music to the ears to hear that roar of the crowd, knowing something big had happened, even if I had to look up at the closed circuit television to actually see the blast.
“I wasn’t thinking about the week or the past 10 days,” Howard said per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and Evan Webeck. “I was just thinking about that moment. I got a good pitch to hit, he hung me a breaking ball and I was able to hit it out.“
Eickhoff got himself into a bit of trouble in the top of the 5th, with the first two runners reaching base. But a double play got him mostly out of that little jam, though one run scored on the play to cut the Phillies lead in half at 2-1.
The Phils got that one back in the bottom of the 7th thanks largely to the other old veteran. Carlos Ruiz lined a one-out single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a mishandled strikeout, and scampered home on an RBI single by Odubel Herrera.
With Eickhoff at 98 pitches and the Phillies ahead, manager Pete Mackanin made his usual move to setup man Hector Neris. Unfortunately, Neris has not been quite as automatic as he was earlier in the season.
Mackanin had seen enough, and made a rare move to his closer, Jeanmar Gomez, in the 8th inning. Gomez would deliver with a six-out Save, but not before some drama.
While waiting outside the ballpark near the Robin Roberts statue pre-game, my wife and I had met Szczur’s aunt, who told us that the family was all Phillies fans, but wearing Cubs ‘Szczur’ jerseys in support of the player.
With one out, Jayson Heyward slapped a ball up the middle. Andres Blanco, who had come in for Hernandez at 2nd base as part of a double-switch when Gomez was brought in, dove. He fielded the ball and flipped from his belly to Galvis, beginning a double play that got the team out of that jam still holding the lead.
In the 9th, the Cubs put two men aboard against Gomez. But the righty got David Ross to ground weakly to short for the final out and his NL-leading 19th Save of the season.
“Wow,” Mackanin said per the MLB writers following the game. “That was just a little loss for the Cubs, but it was a huge morale booster for us.“