Even a little offense against Jon Lester could have gone a long way for the Phillies Monday night.
The inability to touch Lester for eight innings rendered their ninth-inning rally meaningless. The Phils had five hits and two home runs in the ninth, but it wasn't enough for an enormous comeback in a 6-4 loss to the Cubs.
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Representing the tying run, Ryan Howard grounded out to end the game.
Freddy Galvis snapped a streak of 24 hitless at-bats with a three-run blast to right field in the ninth off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm. The next batter, Tommy Joseph, hit his fifth homer of the season to dead-center off Cubs closer Hector Rondon.
But it was too little, too late for the skidding Phillies, who have lost 13 of 17 to fall to 28-30. The Cubs are a majors-best 40-16 and have won 11 of 13.
Starting pitching report
Adam Morgan minimized the damage in what could have been a disastrous first inning and ended up giving the Phillies a quality start, allowing three runs in six innings and retiring the final seven Cubs he faced.
The lefty threw 30 pitches in the first inning and allowed four hits, including two doubles, but somehow surrendered just one run. He stranded the bases loaded by striking out Javier Baez and Addison Russell, with the final swing and miss coming on a high, 94-mph full-count fastball. It was the seventh-hardest pitch of Morgan's career.
But again, too many of Morgan's pitches stayed up in the zone. The Cubs had four extra-base hits, and Lester, one of the weakest-hitting pitchers in baseball, struck two balls well against him.
The biggest blow to Morgan was Jason Heyward's two-out, two-run homer in the fourth. Morgan has allowed 24 extra-base hits in 41 2/3 innings this season. No other NL pitcher has allowed as many extra-base hits in fewer than 59 2/3 innings.
Morgan is 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA in eight starts this season. But with Alec Asher and Mark Appel on the DL at Triple A and Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson experiencing recent struggles, it looks like Morgan will hold onto his rotation spot for at least one more turn.
Morgan did himself a favor by not walking a batter. He struck out five. You could do a lot worse against the Cubs.
Lester was his typical dominant self against the Phils. The effort improved him to 6-0 with a 1.46 ERA in eight career starts vs. the Phillies.
Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless inning.
Elvis Araujo allowed two runs in the seventh.
Brett Oberholtzer continued to struggle, allowing a run in the eighth. His ERA is 6.75.
Rondon saved his 11th game.
At the plate
The Phillies narrowly missed two home runs before Galvis and Joseph put them on the board in the ninth. Joseph drilled a ball to left field that Jorge Soler leapt to catch at the wall in the first inning. In the sixth, Cesar Hernandez put a charge into what had a chance to be his second home run to dead-center in the last four nights, but Dexter Fowler caught it just in front of the 401-foot sign.
Leading off, Fowler went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs and a hit by pitch for the Cubs. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo also had three-hit nights. Heyward hit his third homer of the season and drove a ball about 370 feet to the warning track in left-center in his next at-bat.
In the field
Lester has well-documented issues throwing to first base and they came into play in the second inning, when Peter Bourjos bunted directly at him. It would have been a routine play for 99 percent of pitchers, but Lester sidestepped it and allowed catcher David Ross to make the attempt. It wasn't even close — Bourjos was safe with a bunt single. But for whatever reason, the Phils didn't try to capitalize on that by bunting more.
Jimmy Paredes made a pair of poor plays in right field. In the first inning, he bobbled a ball hit off the wall by Bryant, which at the time allowed Fowler to score and Bryant to reach third base. Upon review, it was ruled a ground-rule double.
Paredes' second miscue was more costly. He misread a line drive off the bat of Lester, an .048 hitter entering that plate appearance, allowing it to get by him for a double. Lester came around to score on Heyward's homer.
The Phillies brought Paredes to town for his bat, not his glove. He certainly doesn't look as comfortable in the corner outfield as Bourjos or Tyler Goeddel.
Paredes also looked uncomfortable catching two flyballs to his side in the eighth.
Soler left the game after his second at-bat with a left hamstring injury, enabling Villanova product Matt Szczur to get three plate appearances in front of friends and family.
Fowler was examined by Cubs trainers after being hit by a pitch on the hand by Bailey. He stayed in the game, but don't be surprised if the Cubs are cautious with him the next few days.
Drama at first
Pete Mackanin said prior to Monday's game that he's nearing a long-term decision regarding Howard (see story). The likely scenario is that if Mackanin doesn't see more from Howard, starting Tuesday vs. Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, he will officially announce Joseph as the starting first baseman.
The series against the Cubs continues Tuesday night at 7:05 when Jerad Eickhoff (2-8, 3.93) opposes Hendricks (4-4, 2.84).