Coming off a disappointing 2-5 road trip, the Philadelphia Phillies (60-58, 4th Place NL East) looked to turn things around at home against the Chicago Cubs (64-54, 1st Place NL Central).
The did that with a bang before the first game was even played as Hitting Coach John Mallee was let go, to be replaced by a familiar face, Charlie Manuel for the rest of the season. You can read more about this here from my colleague Seamus Killeen.
I had predicted a change at that position here.
but I certainly did not see the replacement coming. I believe it was a smart move by the front office to not only help the team, but to win back some of the phans falling off the bandwagon.
Back on the field this improbable sweep of the now tied for first place Cubs (officially behind the St Louis Cardinals by 0.0004861, but St Louis has two games in hand) ebbed like a good symphonic movement or an epic 1969 era “Dark Star” starting slowly, and then building to a mind blowing crescendo.
Game 1: Good Pitching and Timely Hitting Overcomes 14ks.
The offense showed why it needed some help, even in a win.
To begin with, Cubs starter LHP
Meanwhile the Phils relied on their pitchers to give them a chance to win this one starting with Jason Vargas (6-6, 4.03). He would give the first run right back in the 4th, also on a sac fly, but would only give up one more run in the 6th on a solo HR by Nicholas Castellanos (16). That set his line at 6In, 5H, 2R – both earned, 3BB, 1K, 1HR, 87P – 57 for strikes. A good QS just when the team needed it.
In the 7th the offense did it’s part starting with PH Andrew Knapp lacing a single to LF. After a pop up and a k, it looked like it was going to be another flustrating inning, until the man of the match, Realmuto doubled in Knapp. The two outs helped the “speedy” Knapp get a good jump to score from first.
That and an insurance run in the 8th, helped Blake Parker (2-2, 4.26) get the W for one inning of work, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 1K. LHP Kyle Ryan (3-2, 2.98) could only get one out, but gave up the fall behind run for the L. Mike Morin got a H(3), and Hector Neris was a bit shaky with a HBP to start the inning, and then a 2 out BB, but still earned his 21st S.
Game 2: It’s Hitting Season
In the first game with Manuel on the bench since six years ago to the day, the Bats said Welcome Back Charlie!
One of the multitude of story lines was the return of LHP Cole Hamels (6-4, 3.49) for the first time since leaving the Phillies. It looked to be a pitcher’s duel against the newest homegrown Phillies Ace, Aaron Nola (6-4, 3.69).
Surprisingly it did not turn out that way as Hamels would not get an out in the 3rd inning, as he easily had the worst of his 144 starts at Citizens Bank Park. He would give up eight runs, all well earned, on 9H, 2BB, 2K, 1HR, escalating his ERA at CBP from 3.26 to 3.33.
That one HR came in the first as Bryce Harper (23) put an 0-1 FB over the LCF wall, scoring Rhys Hoskins, who led off the game with a single.
The Phils followed that up with another 2 spot, as Nola helped himself to a two RBI single. It was big because they had 2nd and 3rd with no outs, before Adam Haseley struck out, setting up another possible phail opportunity with the pitcher coming up.
They iced the game the next inning, scoring six times. A 2b, followed by three singles, the last two knocking in a run each sent Cole to the showers.
His replacement RHP Alec Mills did not fare much better, walking the bases loaded and then after finally getting the first out of the ining:
It was Realmuto’s 17th HR, and his second GS of the season.
Meanwhile Nola was cruising and put up 3 SDIs in a row, and did not give up a run until the 7th inning on 3B Kris Bryant‘s 24th HR. It was the only run he would give up on 3H, 1BB, 7K, 105P – 74 for strikes.
Harper had added his 24th HR in the 6th, and nobody else would score for the 11-1 final.
Game 3: Come-Back Walk-Off Pandemonium
This game started out looking like the Cubs were going to get revenge for the night before with a five run lead by the end of the fifth inning off of Drew Smyly (2-6, 7.09) while Cub starter RHP Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.21) was baffling the Phils with a mid 90’s four seamer and an out inducing cutter in the high 80’s, and also a good splitter, slider and hook.
The runs off of Smyly came on a 1B Anthony Rizzo HR (22) with 1 out in 3rd. Then three runs crossed the plate in the 4th abetted by some bad fielding by the Powder Blues.
What seemed like the final dagger was LF Kyle Schwarber‘s HR (24) which was the 100th of his career in the 5th.
As it turned out that would be the last time Chicago would score.
It seemed bad for the home side as Darvish put up 0 after 0, going 7 innings, 4H, 0BB, 10K, 92P – 66 for strikes.
After Smyly was pulled in the 6th for a PH, 5In, 7H, 5R – all earned – 2BB, 6K, 2HR, 87P – 56 for strikes, the bullpen would shut down the Cubs, Juan Nicasio for two innings, giving up just one H, and Ranger Suarez (4-1, 4.03) did the same, though he also walked two.
Ranger would benefit from what happened next.
Fortunately for the Phillies today’s baseball seems to dictate that a pitcher not go more than 7 innings, no matter how befuddling he has been to the other team, so the Phightin’s got their shot against the Cubs Pen.
The Phils got one run closer in the 8th on an RBI single by Corey Dickerson to help set up the come-back in the final frame.
Cubs RHP Rowan Wick who gave up the 1st run in the 8th, gave up back to back one out singles, the second of which by PH Brad Miller scored Cesar Hernandez, who had reached on an error. RHP Pedro Strop (2-5, 5.46) then came on and the suddenly hot Roman Quinn greeted him with another RBI single to make it 5-3.
Strop then plunked Hoskins and was replaced by LHP Derek Holland to face Harper with the bases loaded, a two run lead, and one out.
Six pitches later Pandemonium ensued:
So much so I had to go TV and radio Hilites, but I also love this lower key but interesting different perspective.
As noted above Suarez got the W for his efforts, and Strop the L. Holland earned the BS (2) in a tough spot.
Enough has been said about Harper so this week I want to focus on Realmuto who some were chalking up as a disappointment, but especially defensively has been all you could ask for and more.
He has thrown out 32 base runners. way ahead of Milwaukee Brewers Yasmani Grandal at 20. He has also picked it up offensively lately as his OPS has risen from .736 to .800 in August, and among catchers he is 2nd in RBIs with 64, one behind New York Yankees Gary Sanchez, and tied for 7th in MLB with 17 HRs. He is also first in innings played, 20 ahead of Grandal.
Not sure what more you could ask of the guy.
It is not an easy schedule going forward for the team with only 18 more home games and 23 on the road, only 10 home games in September. The San Diego Padres (56-64, 4th Place NL West) home series, detailed below, followed by two at Boston Red Sox next week will say a lot about whether the momentum started in this Cubs sweep is for real.
Padres (56-64) @ Phillies (63-58) Fri, Aug 16 • 7:05 PM EDT At Citizens Bank Park TV: NBC 10, FSSD
Chris Paddack RHP 7-5, 3.26 ERA, 115 SO
Vince Velasquez 4-7, 4.30 ERA, 91 SO
Sat, Aug 17 • 7:05 PM EDTTV: NBCSP, FSSD
Dinelson Lamet RHP 1-2, 3.86 ERA, 49 SO
Zach Eflin 7-11, 4.49 ERA, 99 SO
Sun, Aug 18 • 1:05 PM EDT TV: NBCSP, FSSD
Joey Lucchesi LHP 7-7, 4.25 ERA, 125 SO
Jason Vargas LHP 6-6, 4.03 ERA, 88 SO