CHICAGO - And this is why you need to close out those one-run leads in the ninth inning when you have a chance to take two in a row from the hard-hitting Chicago Cubs in their electric home-field environs of Wrigley Field …
Because sooner or later, the Cubs are going to break out the lumber and lay a beating on you.
That's just what happened to the Phillies on Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours after they suffered a painful walk-off loss to the Cubs, the Phils were pounded by a score of 8-4 (see observations). The Phils are now tasked with the difficult challenge of beating Jon Lester in Thursday's series finale to get out of Chicago with a split. Then it's on to face another lumber company in Milwaukee, the same one that outscored the Phils, 22-6, in the final three games of a four-game series last week in Philadelphia.
The Cubs didn't need to wait until the ninth inning to beat the Phillies on Wednesday night and they didn't do it against the bullpen. They teed off on rookie lefty Cole Irvin for 856 feet worth of home runs in the third and fifth innings. Anthony Rizzo belted a mammoth three-run shot in the third and Albert Almora Jr. crushed a first-pitch grand slam in the fifth.
Later in the game, the Cubs got a 449-foot homer from Javiez Baez against Enyel De Los Santos. All of the Cubbies' runs came on homers.
"The wind was blowing out," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "We saw what it looked like in batting practice. The ball was rocketing out of the ballpark."
The Phils were only able to rocket one ball out of the yard, but Andrew McCutchen's solo shot in the eighth was too little too late.
The big subplot in this game was Cole Hamels. The lefty made his first-ever start against his former club. The Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Hamels, blew up his pitch count and got him out of the game after four innings. But the Phillies needed to do more against Hamels. They left two men in scoring position in the first inning and the bases loaded in the fourth.
"The difference in the game was we really did a good job of building Hamels' pitch count, but they were able to deliver the knockout blows," Kapler said. "They scored all of their runs on two swings [against Irvin]. We just weren't able to deliver that one knockout blow, that uppercut. They were able to do that."
Irvin is a command lefty who can't afford to miss spots up and over the plate. He tried to go down and away with a 3-0 fastball against Rizzo in the third and the Cubs' slugger crushed the heart-of-the-plate pitch off the scoreboard to tie the game.
Irvin pitched around Willson Contreras in the fifth to get to Almora. The walk to Contreras loaded the bases and brought pitching coach Chris Young to the mound. The plan was to go at Almora with changeups, but not, as Irvin said, with changeups that were "middle-in and belt high." Irvin's first pitch to Almora was right there and the Cubs' centerfielder crushed it for four runs.
"Unfortunately, I just didn't make my pitch there and didn't make my pitch to Rizzo, either," Irvin said. "They hurt me for it. I didn't even get through five innings so I'm really disappointed."
The big question now is: Will Irvin get another start next week against the Cardinals at home? His performance in his first two big-league starts would suggest that he deserves a look beyond a difficult outing in his third big-league start. But the Phillies can easily go in a different direction because Vince Velasquez is just about ready to come off the disabled list. That issue was talked about extensively before the game (see story).
After the game, Kapler wasn't ready to make any decisions.
"I think that's something that we want to spend some time thinking about," he said. "After a loss like this and after we just kind of got punched, I think the main thing is that we go back and digest and look at what happened in the game and really evaluate it with a little distance between what happened. That's usually how I approach those things."
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