Cubs fall to Phillies despite Morel's historic play
Eric Hartline - USA Today Sports

Cubs fall to Phillies despite Morel's historic play

by - Senior Writer -

PHILADELPHIA - If you thought the Chicago Cubs' (20-26) last road trip was frustrating, this one takes the cake as the Cubs closed out their nine-game trip with a 2-7 record. Not only did the team struggle to score runs again, but you also had several blowout games as their pitching let them down more than you would like to see.

Sunday was not on the pitching as the Cubs hoped to close out their road trip with a win against the Philadelphia Phillies (22-24) at Citizens Bank Park. If you are a struggling team or pitcher, you want to see the Cubs right now as they are acting as a get-right club. You have seen the Cardinals take off since beating the Cubs, the Houston offense seems to be back on track, and now you have the Phillies, who struggled for the longest time, perhaps using this series to get their confidence back.

What looked like a David vs. Goliath matchup in terms of starting pitching, you had the Cubs sending their stopper Justin Steele to the mound against Taijuan Walker. Steele was coming off his worst start of the season against the Astros, which resulted in his lone loss of the season, while Walker has yet to figure things out as a Phillie. Steele did his part on the mound as the Cubs left-hander gave the Cubs six scoreless innings of six strikeout balls to lower his ERA to 2.20.

The problem was having Walker match Steele pitch for pitch as he gave the Phillies 5 1/3 scoreless frames for one of his better starts in the season. What became a battle of the bullpens late was a seventh-inning Bryson Scott homer off of Adbert Alzolay that proved to be the difference as the Phillies squeaked by the Cubs 2-1 to claim the weekend set.

Both starters were dialed in from the start, but Steele had to escape some minor trouble in the second to keep things scoreless. The same can be said about Walker in the fourth as he held the Cubs hitless through three before Dansby Swanson ended that with a leadoff single to begin the fourth. Swanson would then get picked off on the bases, which proved costly, with Seiya Suzuki picking another single later in the inning.

The score remained deadlocked 0-0, entering the sixth before the Cub's patient approach started to pay dividends. Nico Hoerner walked to put the go-ahead run on with one out, followed by a Swanson walk. Throw in a throwing error on top of that, and this was the best opportunity the Cubs had up to this point, only to see them come away empty yet again. Steele worked around a leadoff double and a walk in the bottom half of the sixth and got through the sixth before handing things off to the bullpen.

When you look at the landscape of the Cubs pen in recent weeks, virtually everyone not named Alzolay has struggled in some regard. Today was the day for Alzolay to struggle as the right-hander ran into trouble early. A one-out double from Edmundo Sosa put the go-ahead runner in scoring position. One batter later saw the big blow of the afternoon as Scott got into one and delivered the go-ahead and game-winning two-run shot to put the Phillies in front 2-0. Trea Turner added a two-out double later in the inning, but Alzolay escaped without further damage.

Despite Brandon Hughes and Jeremiah Estrada pitching a scoreless eighth, the Cubs went to the ninth, trailing 2-0, with Craig Kimbrel ready to go. After a horrendous 2022 campaign, Kimbrel has gotten his mojo back this season as skipper Rob Thompson has put him back into the closer role.

Kimbrel couldn't have asked for a better start to his outing by striking out the first two he faced and had the Cubs down to the final out. As the fans have seen all too often this season, this Cubs team will not quit and leave it to Christopher Morel to start another rally as he took Kimbrel deep to make things 2-1.

For Morel, this was his eighth homer in 11 games with the Cubs which sets a franchise record for the most homers in an 11-game stretch. Add that to his minor league total, and he leads all professional hitters with 19 bombs, as the sudden power surge of Morel is impressive. Following that homer, you had a Trey Mancini walk to keep the inning going, only to have Patrick Wisdom pop out to end the game with the Phillies winning 2-1.

Anytime you get three hits, wins will not be easy to come by, as Swanson, Suzuki, and Morel grabbed those hits.

The Cubs will get a much-needed off day on Monday before returning home to face the Mets, Reds, and Rays to close out the month of May.

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