CHICAGO – The Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies have played some wild and wildly entertaining games at Wrigley Field over the years, especially when the wind has blown out.
Much of the talk the past week was about the 23-22 Phillies victory 40 years ago.
Thursday’s 9-7 win for the Phillies was fractionally as nutty as the 1979 game, but it was still a fun watch over almost four hours.
The Cubs and starting pitcher Jon Lester fell behind, 7-0, in the fourth inning, but Cubs batters kept coming back, with pitcher Tyler Chatwood coming off the bench in the ninth inning as a pinch hitter to smack an RBI double to the wall in left field.
But in the end, the Cubs couldn’t overcome the slow start.
“Jonny had a tough day, and that caused us to do all these weird things just to try to get back in it,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team split the four-game series and fell to 29-19.
“When the wind’s blowing out like that, I’ve done it before. You do not give up. Three runs is a one-run lead as far as I’m concerned.
“When you’re playing West Texas baseball, man, you don’t give up.”
The Cubs put across three in the fourth before the Phillies added another in the fifth. A two-run homer by Kyle Schwarber and a solo blast by Anthony Rizzo in the seventh made it an 8-6 game.
“I don’t think once we were down, I didn’t think there was any negative thoughts going around in the dugout or anything like that,” said Schwarber, who has seven homers to Rizzo’s 13. “Knowing that we were a couple swings away, getting some guys on, a couple of swings, go from there.”
Maddon mentioned a larger issue: Lester’s struggles. He endured his second straight poor start, lasting only four innings and giving up seven hits and seven runs (four earned). In his previous start, at Washington, Lester gave up 10 hits and five runs in 41/3 innings.
“Standing on the mound feels wrong right now,” said Lester, whose record fell to 3-3 and whose ERA rose from 2.09 to 2.68. “Something doesn’t feel right. We’ll figure it out. I’ve been here before. Just not making good pitches.”
To be fair, Lester isn’t alone when it comes to the starting pitching. The Cubs are 4-5 over their past nine games, with two quality starts. Their starting pitchers have an ERA of 5.16 in those nine games.
That aside, Thursday’s game featured such machinations as Maddon moving catcher Willson Contreras to right field during an eighth-inning double switch and Rizzo bunting for a single against the shift on a 3-1 pitch to lead off the ninth inning. Contreras walked before Jason Heyward struck out, and Rizzo wound up scoring on Chatwood’s pinch double, but that’s as close as the Cubs could get.
“That’s great,” Schwarber said of Rizzo’s bunt. Schwarber has been the Cubs’ unconventional leadoff man of late. “Shoot, you got to get on base. It’s a smart play and a free knock, too. If I was up there, I’d try to do it 10 out of 10 times.”
Schwarber also liked Chatwood’s approach.
“It was fun,” he said. “He just needed to get a little bit more launch angle on that swing, and it might have been tied up.
“It was funny, because I was standing next to [infielder Daniel] Descalso, and we were like, ‘What happens if he’s up there with the bases loaded? What’s he going to do? Nobody out. What’s he going to do, stand there and strike out, or is he going to swing?’ I’m like, ‘Let him swing.’ ”