In a Series Loss for Phillies, Rookie Dylan Cozens Opens Some Eyes at Wrigley


CHICAGO - Lots of frustration during the Phillies' 3-7 road trip. Blown leads. Harmful infield shifts. A questionable interpretation of a ridiculous rule.

The series in San Francisco was ugly and the series at Wrigley was wildly disappointing after beginning with a Phillies win.

There's going to be a lot of negativity until the Phillies win a series again, which will be difficult with the next 22 games all coming against teams with winning records. It's natural and deserved right now.

But it's also worth looking at the positives we saw in Chicago. Aaron Nola turned in a quality start despite not having his best stuff. Zach Eflin dominated. Scott Kingery hit the ball hard all series, even though his results were mixed. Aaron Altherr cranked a three-run homer.

The most eye-opening development, though, was the pair of games Dylan Cozens had at Wrigley.

Called up from Triple A last week, Cozens made plays Wednesday and Thursday that could have won both games for the Phillies had things been ever-so-slightly different.

On Wednesday, his two-run, opposite-field home run off a 97-mph fastball from established reliever Brandon Morrow gave the Phillies a two-run lead in the ninth inning. He was all set to be the hero before Jason Heyward's walk-off salami.

On Thursday, Cozens made probably the best throw from a Phillies outfielder all season, nailing Albert Almora Jr. at the plate from 278 feet away on a 93-mph throw. It didn't end up counting because the umpires ruled that Andrew Knapp had blocked the plate.

Even though neither play resulted in a win for the Phils, it was a glimpse of what this uber-talented but imperfect outfielder is capable of.

"Definitely one of the better feelings I've ever had in my entire life," Cozens said of Wednesday's jack.

"Just a great feeling to put a good swing on a ball off a guy who has pretty good stuff. I feel comfortable out there for sure."

There is massive power in both Cozens' bat and his left arm. That has never been in question. The three big questions are whether he can get on base enough, cut down on the whiffs and hold his own against lefties. Those are three things that, to a lesser extent, hampered Nick Williams in the minors but Williams has been able to improve upon them at the major-league level.

Cozens might not be up here for good. He could be the odd man out and sent back to Triple A when Rhys Hoskins returns from the DL. To avoid that, he'll need to keep producing the way he did in these two games. The Phillies will live with the strikeouts if they're accompanied by a homer per week.

"He's incredibly talented," Gabe Kapler said after the series finale, a 4-3 loss to the Cubs (see first take). "We were talking on the bench about how good of an outfielder he is. And he had some good at-bats today, some really good at-bats. He battled and drew [two] walks and did a good job for us."

Cozens is a walking embodiment of baseball's three true outcomes. Each of his last seven plate appearances has resulted in a walk, strikeout or homer.

"An exciting moment for all of us to witness," Kapler said of the homer off Morrow. "I'm really happy for him to get the bat-head out like that. We were all really surprised he was able to go oppo on that ball. Impressive stroke off a very difficult pitcher to square up."

The Phillies haven't gotten nearly enough impressive strokes lately. They went 5 for 24 with runners in scoring position in Chicago, and they have the worst batting average, OBP and slugging percentage in the majors since May 20.

On the flip side, Phillies starting pitchers have MLB's second-lowest ERA (2.66) in the last 29 games.

If the losses mount during this difficult month of June, just keep in mind that the Phillies were not expected to make the playoffs this season. Their over-under win total in Vegas was 73.5. Even after this rough stretch, they are still on an 86-76 pace, which would be one win shy of last year's second wild-card winner.

"This was not our best road trip, obviously," Kapler said. "We've proven that we can go toe to toe with the best teams in the National League. That felt like a playoff atmosphere out there, and I think our guys fought to the very end and the way we played against the Cubs, although we didn't come out on the winning end of the series, I thought we played our butts off in a lot of ways."

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