After tough loss, Cubs admit they didn’t play their ‘smartest baseball’
The Cubs came into this homestand at Wrigley Field on a momentum high, having won 11 of their last 14 games to claw their way firmly back into the National League Central race.
After dropping the first two games to the Phillies on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Cubs trailed 3-1 heading into the 4th inning Thursday night when they mounted a rally.
Cody Bellinger drew a 1-out walk and rookie catcher Miguel Amaya followed with a single, pushing Bellinger to third base. After a Jared Young strikeout, Nick Madrigal — the Cubs’ hottest hitter of late — stepped to the plate.
Madrigal — who entered the game hitting .356 since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on June 9 — attempted to lay down a bunt on the first pitch and was subsequently retired to end the inning and the threat.
In the following inning with the Cubs still chasing 2 runs, they again threatened to draw closer to the Phillies. Mike Tauchman led off the 5th inning with a fly ball to the left-center gap that bounced off Kyle Schwarber’s glove for a two-base error.
After Nico Hoerner singled, Christopher Morel stepped to the plate. He, too, attempted to lay down a bunt but was unable to get the ball past the pitcher and wound up thrown out at first base while Hoerner advanced to second and Tauchman was forced to stay at third.
Ian Happ followed with a lineout and then Dansby Swanson struck out and just like that, the Cubs’ rally was sniffed out again. They wound up losing the game by the same 3-1 score.
After the game, David Ross confirmed neither bunt came from the dugout and instead served as a learning experience for his players.
“Mo — how good he’s been for us and what a great player he is — I think he’s still learning a little bit what’s expected of him,” Ross said. “He thinks he’s trying to help the team there, doing anything he can to get runs in. We want him to swing the bat in that situation, obviously.
“He’s a guy at the top of our list in home runs. He’s a game-changing bat. Just one of those things — I think he thought he was doing the right thing. Now he knows what’s expected of him — 3-hole hitter, we want him to bang. But you can see why we love the kid so much and the way his mind works and how much he cares about winning. He’s still learning.
“Nick just forgot how many outs there were. We gotta be better in that way. Gave away a game and the 2 innings we had there was not our smartest baseball. We’ll be better for it.”
Morel explained that he saw the infield back and thought he could push a bunt and catch the Phillies by surprise to plate a run and bring Happ to the plate with another runner (Hoerner) still in scoring position.
“[Ross] explained to me after the bunt situation happened, if I understood the game situation and the spot in the lineup I was in, which was the 3-hole hitter and with no outs,” Morel said in Spanish. “I explained to him that I just wanted to help the team, knowing that the infield was back with space at second base.
“Pushing that bunt towards second base, I thought we could score and then there was a lefty coming up to face the pitcher.”
The end result was a deflating loss for the Cubs to cap off a tough sweep at the hands of the Phillies.
With 13 games in 13 days before the All-Star Break starting with the Phillies series, the Cubs identified this stretch as a pivotal point in their season — especially as the front office determines a path at the trade deadline.
Kyle Hendricks — who allowed 3 runs in 7 strong innings Thursday night — admitted it was a tough loss to swallow but believes the Cubs need to stay the course.
“We just gotta move on,” Hendricks said. “We still got a stretch coming. We want to finish this thing out, get to the break in a good spot.
“We want to keep playing good, fundamental baseball. We just gotta flush this and get ready for Cleveland and really play good these next three days.”