PHILADELPHIA -- The Chicago Cubs dropped a 7-5 decision to the Philadelphia Phillies on Cody Asche’s two-run homer off Hector Rondon in the bottom of the ninth Saturday night. Here’s a quick look at the game.
How it happened: With the threat of rain possibly interrupting the proceedings mid-game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to bump starting pitcher Dan Haren to Sunday’s series finale and rely on his bullpen to give him nine innings. He couldn’t have asked for a better result -- until the pen imploded in the seventh.
Travis Wood gave the Cubs three efficient shutout innings (53 pitches, 39 strikes) before handing it over to Trevor Cahill, who put up three more zeros. But Anthony Rizzo booted a potential inning-ending groundout in the seventh, and the Phils scored five unearned runs off Justin Grimm to take a 5-1 lead. Cesar Hernandez provided the big hit of the inning -- a bases-clearing double off Zac Rosscup.
The Cubs rallied to tie it in the eighth on a two-run double by Chris Coghlan, an RBI double by Kris Bryant and a Miguel Montero sacrifice fly. But Asche drove a 95-mph fastball from Rondon just inside the right-field foul pole for his eighth home run of the season to end it.
Kyle Schwarber gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the third inning when he launched a first-pitch fastball from Jerad Eickhoff into the right-field seats. That’s 16 homers in 176 at-bats for Schwarber, who’s tied for fourth among MLB rookies behind Joc Pederson (24), Bryant (24) and Houston’s Carlos Correa (17) even though he didn’t begin playing regularly for the Cubs until July 17.
What it means: The National League Central continues to get more crowded at the top. Pittsburgh steamrolled Milwaukee on Saturday night to pull within 2 ½ games of first-place St. Louis, which dropped a doubleheader to Cincinnati earlier in the day. The Cubs blew a chance to pull within 4 ½ games, but they’re still closer to first place (at 5 ½ games out) than at any time since June 1.
The Cubs are 22-11 against the five NL East teams this season -- largely on the strength of a combined 13-1 mark versus Atlanta and the New York Mets. They’ve dropped four of six to the Phillies, who have the worst record in the majors.
After the Cubs conclude the Phillies series Sunday, the schedule will consist of 21 games against divisional opponents St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The only non-NL Central game is a makeup of a rained-out game against the Kansas City Royals.
What’s next: The Cubs send Haren (9-9, 3.73) to the mound against the Phillies’ Aaron Harang (5-15, 5.02).