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Sweep Denied: Cubs 8, Phillies 3

The Cubs may have outplayed the Phillies today, but the Phillies are the ones who let them do it.

David Banks

The Phillies screwed themselves out of a sweep in today's messy 8-3 loss to the Cubs.

The game didn't start well. A.J. Burnett had a terrible first inning, which began with him walking Emilio Bonifacio. Burnett would allow four runs on two hits and three total walks before he could get three outs. All three walks would come around to score. (Burnett ended up walking a ghastly six on the day.) Burnett would continue to labor, but he pitched several scoreless innings and gave the Phillies a number of chances to make up the early deficit.

The Phillies weren't up for the challenge, though. They loaded the bases twice in the top of the third, once with just one out, and couldn't score. They had several more chances in the fourth inning -- with two on and one out, Utley hit a shot up the middle that was deflected by the pitcher. A run scored, and he nearly beat out the throw at first. Nearly wasn't good enough for Ryne Sandberg, who challenged the play and lost. Sandberg made history twice today -- that was the Phillies first ever instant replay challenge, and their first ever loss. Congratulations to Ryne Sandberg and his new entry into the annals of Phillies history. The fourth inning ended with one in a string of several unlucky Ryan Howard hits today. He lined hard to right and the ball was plucked right out of the air by Bonifacio. Bonifacio threw the ball to second to double off Jimmy Rollins. Womp womp.

The wheels really came off the wagon in the sixth inning. A Ben Revere error in center field led to the Cubs putting up four runs and tearing the game wide open. Revere wasn't the only one to blame -- none of the fielding was particularly crisp, and Burnett hit John Baker. Burnett allowed a single and a double before he was pulled for Brad Lincoln. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo singled off of Lincoln, scoring the fourth unearned run of the inning and wrapping up Burnett's line for the day.

The Phils made some noise in the ninth inning, loading the bases twice against Cubs righty Jose Veras, and scoring a second run on a forceout. Veras walked four in less than an inning of work, which is pretty impressive. But not the good kind of impressive. The kind that gets you replaced by Pedro Strop. With the bases loaded, Strop's first pitch to Ryan Howard was wild, scoring one more run. Then, Howard hit his third long fly ball of the day, and it was the third one to die before it could leave the yard, mercifully ending the game.

It was an 0-for-5 day for Howard, but an encouraging one. Several long fly balls, a BABIP-cursed liner to right, and best of all, no strikeouts. Domonic Brown continued to stay hot, going 2-for-4 and raising his average to .381. Chase Utley went 1-for-3 with a walk and a HBP. He also struck out once, just his second strikeout of the year. Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-5 and stole his first base of the year.

Game graph of sweep denial:

Source: FanGraphs

The Phillies' home opener tomorrow has been postponed due to the threat of rain, so the Phillies will face the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, which was originally an off day.