PCA's big night not enough as Cubs fall to Phillies
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

PCA's big night not enough as Cubs fall to Phillies

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO — Whenever you talk about the Philadelphia Phillies (57-29), it's their offense that comes to mind, as the Phillies have one of the best offenses in the game. What many forget is that the Phillies' pitching staff may be better than their offense and has played an even larger role in why this team is the best in the National League.

Entering Wednesday's game against the Chicago Cubs (39-48) with a 2.95 ERA, the Cubs had a tall task in front of them as Zach Wheeler took the ball against Shota Imanaga in front of a packed Wrigley Field crowd. Leave it to the Cubs to put up a fight against Wheeler after looking lifeless on Tuesday, but that fight wasn't enough, as a pair of late runs off of Tyson Miller was the difference in the Phillies 5-3 win.

You knew at some point that Imanaga would start to allow some homers, as his style of pitching up in the zone isn't the way most pitchers do things. He has been bitten by the long ball a lot more recently, and with two more homers on Wednesday, he continued to serve up the long ball, as all three of his runs allowed came off homers.

Outside of that, Imanaga was about as good as you hoped he could be as he allowed six hits across six innings while also striking out eight. He now has 14 starts of allowing three earned runs or less which is tops among rookie pitchers.

“He’s been very, very modest,” Happ said about Imanaga. “He’s been fantastic. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, but definitely as far as rookies go, what he’s been able to do in his first 16 starts in the big leagues has been super impressive.

“From our vantage point, he’s been the guy for us all year. I would be honored for him to represent the Chicago Cubs at the All-Star Game.”

Wheeler was equally as good as Imanaga, and some would argue that he wasn't as sharp as he could be. He also went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out seven.

Imanaga was on top of his game early as six of his eighth strikeouts came in the first three innings, including three in the second. That effort alone helped the Cubs offense open the scoring as Ian Happ led the bottom of the second off with a double. Two batters later saw the Cubs push home the game's first run as Pete Crow-Armstrong cashed in for his first of two doubles as the Cubs picked up a rare two-out hit to take a 1-0 lead.

It was a lead that didn't last long as Imanaga was touched up by Rafael Marchan for a solo shot as the Phillies drew even 1-1. Like in the second inning, it was the Happ, PCA combo getting things done as Happ led the bottom of the fourth off with a walk, but was still standing on first with two outs. Leave it to PCA to change that as he connected for his second RBI double off of Wheeler to put the Cubs back in front 2-1, but it was also his second two-out RBI hit of the night, which is even more impressive.

Given how well Imanaga was pitching through five innings, you had to think two runs may be enough, but this is the Phillies, and their offense can put up runs quickly. Take the top of the sixth, for example, as a Trea Turner single was followed by another homer as Alec Bohm put the Phillies in front 3-2 two batters into the sixth. Imanga was able to hold them to those three runs, but he was finished after the sixth as he turned things over to Porter Hodge and the Cubs pen.

The same can be said about Wheeler, who settled in nicely after allowing a pair of RBI doubles to PCA, getting through six innings, and putting the ball in the hands of a bullpen that could be even better than their starting staff.

That includes Matt Strahm, who took over in the seventh and ran into some two-out trouble. The Dodger duo did the damage with two outs as the Michael Busch single was followed by another two-out RBI double with this one coming off the bat of Cody Bellinger, and all of a sudden, the Cubs were back to even 3-3.

Hoping to keep things right where they were, Craig Counsell went with arguably his best reliever since May in Miller. With a 1.50 ERA since joining the Cubs, Miller has been even better than expected, but after allowing a pair of singles to start the eighth, things weren't looking good. Miller did manage to put himself in a position to escape without trouble, but a passed ball from Miguel Amaya took the double play out of the mix and moved both runners into scoring position.

That proved highly costly as an Edmundo Sosa sacrifice fly broke the tie and brought home the winning run before a Whit Merrifield single made things 5-3 late, with the best of the best entering the game for the Phillies. Even with Christopher Morel and David Bote picking up hits in the final two innings, the Cubs were unable to do anything with it as Jose Alverado locked down his 12th save for the 5-3 Phillies victory.

Bellinger, Busch, and PCA all had great nights at the plate, combining for six hits and three RBIs. The Cubs had nine total hits in the game, but unless this team hits homers, they won't win many games. The Cubs will look to avoid the sweep on Thursday as they turn to Jameson Taillon against Carlos Sanchez.

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