The Phillies’ rollercoaster is descending, and by the looks of this series, it could be a pretty far drop.
The Phillies opened the second half with a bang. On the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, Kyle Schwarber took Justin Steele deep to give the Phils an early 1-0 lead.
But from there, things went downhill. The Cubs scored 15 straight runs between the fourth and ninth innings, and the Phillies were forced to pitch Garrett Stubbs in the ninth inning. Kyle Gibson got the start for the Phils and only lasted 4.1 innings. His command was off, and he was overthrowing his fastball for most of the game. Jeurys Familia came in with one out in the fifth and things began to unravel.
Darick Hall blasted a 449-foot home run to dead centerfield off Erich Uelmen, who was making his major-league debut. But unfortunately, the Phillies could not scratch up any more runs after Schwarber’s leadoff home run.
Ultimately, the Phillies were topped by the Cubs 15-2 in game one of this three-game set.
Former Mets starters Zack Wheler and Marcus Stroman faced off in game two. Wheeler did not have his best stuff, but he still fought through seven innings and allowed just one run—a home run hit by Nico Hoerner.
Darick Hall led off the seventh inning with a double, and J.T. Realmuto singled him in. The Phillies were unable to capitalize after Bryson Stott walked to advance Realmuto to second, sending the game into extras.
Jose Alvarado started the tenth inning for the Phils. He got Patrick Wisdom to strike out looking, but each of the next four batters reached base. With the Cubs up by four, Alvarado was relieved by Andrew Bellatti, who ended the inning after allowing Wilson Contreras to double in a run.
Alec Bohm had an RBI groundout in the bottom half of the tenth, but the Phillies could not come back in the tenth. The 6-2 loss set the Cubs up for a potential sweep in game three, which ended up happening after a close game on Sunday.
Ahead of game three, Bailey Falter was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley to start for the Phillies. He allowed four runs in five innings of work and allowed three home runs. Two of them were hit by Cubs’ backup catcher Yan Gomes.
Bryson Stott broke up Drew Smyly’s no-hitter in the bottom of the fifth, and Alec Bohm followed with an RBI single, putting the Phillies on the board.
Another RBI single—this one hit by Rhys Hoskins—put the Phillies within two. Two innings later, Garrett Stubbs took Cubs’ reliever Chris Martin yard to make in a one-run contest heading into the ninth. And although the Phillies had two on and one out against David Robertson in the bottom of the ninth, they were unable to bring the run home. The Cubs’ 4-3 victory marked the first time the Phils were swept by the Cubs at home since 2000.
Pitchers struggling with command
When the Phillies are playing well, their pitching is always spectacular. Their starters are efficient and go deep into games, and the bullpen shuts the door. When this is all happening, the Phillies’ pitchers are pitching around the zone and getting quick and easy outs.
But free passes are a rarity when the Phils are finding success.
And right now, this is an issue.
The Phillies walked six batters in game one, and Kyle Gibson was struggling to properly locate his heater; this got him behind in counts and made it easy for the Cubs’ offense to anticipate what was coming.
Zack Wheeler didn’t walk anyone on Saturday, but he had more three-ball counts than usual. Brad Hand walked a batter in the eighth inning, putting reliever Connor Brogdon in a tough situation to work through.
Bailey Falter and Nick Nelson walked a total of three batters on Sunday. These numbers do not seem like a lot, but remember how aggressive the Cubs are. Many teams with better discipline would have let more pitches go, resulting in more free passes given by Phillies pitchers.
Shaking up the top of the order
The Phillies are hitting just .208 since the all-star break, and a good portion of the outs being recorded are from the top of the lineup. Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber have just five total hits in the last three games. And the offensive scuffles, especially Castellanos’, have not gone unnoticed by fans.
Castellanos was booed in all three games during this three-game set, and Kyle Schwarber’s average is closing to dipping under the Mendoza line once again.
So what did Phils’ interim skipper Rob Thomson do? He shook things up a little.
Matt Vierling was moved up the leadoff spot for game three, and Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins moved down to spots two and three, respectfully. Nick Castellanos, the one struggling the most of the three, was dropped from the three-hole to the five-hole.
So far, it has not gone overly well. It has only been one game, but Castellanos, Hoskins, Schwarber, and Vierling had just three hits in 16 total at-bats.
The Phillies begin a three-game series against the Braves on Monday night.