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Slacking in the Sixth: Cubs 5, Phillies 4

A very ugly 6th inning doomed the Phils on Wednesday night.

Philadelphia Phillies v Chicago Cubs Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

This was exactly the type of baseball game that you would expect an up-and-coming team to lose against a defending World Series champion. And so, the Phillies didn’t stray too far from the script Wednesday night against the Cubs, falling 5-4 in a contest that was incredibly tight and suddenly all came apart at the seams for the Phillies in a troubling bottom half of the 6th inning.

But it’s the first inning that has troubled the Cubs in 2017, and this one would be no different. Jake Arrieta allowed two runs in the first, including an RBI double off the bat of Odubel Herrera played in a questionable manner by Ben Zobrist in right field. In fact, the Cubs had a 10.73 team ERA in the first inning heading into play tonight, which means they’re digging themselves a hole pretty much every night.

That hole meant actual run support for Jerad Eickhoff heading into the bottom half of the first inning, something he hasn’t seen a lot in his Major League life. Hell, you could call it a storyline in saying it was surprising that Eickhoff had a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom half of the 6th inning.

And then, just about everything went wrong. Jason Heyward singled to left to make it a 3-2 game, and despite Eickhoff putting together a decent outing, Pete Mackanin opted to turn things over to the bullpen. And, seeing how things have gone so far this season, it’s hard to feel all warm and fuzzy knowing you need 10 outs from this bullpen.

Eickhoff was at 97 pitches with runners on first and second and two outs as Mackanin summoned Joely Rodriguez to face Miguel Montero. It wouldn’t seem like such an odd decision in normal circumstances, but with a bullpen that has been stretched so incredibly thin in the last two weeks or so, it might have been one of those times you’d rather just see the starter try to work himself out of the jam he created.

Alas, that was not to be the case. Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to counter with Willson Contreras from the right side against the lefty Rodriguez, immediately negating the advantage Mackanin wanted. A passed ball allowed by Andrew Knapp didn’t help things, moving Zobrist to third and Heyward to second. Contreras then delivered a double down the left field line, scoring two and putting the Cubs in front 4-3 as Eickhoff could only watch helplessly from the dugout.

That was the end of Rodriguez’s night, as Edubray Ramos entered to continue the pure, unmitigated pain that is the Phillies bullpen right now. Villanova’s own Matt Szczur chopped a ball up the middle that Freddy Galvis gloved to keep in the infield. Contreras blew right past any stop sign at third base and chugged straight for home. Inexplicably, Galvis held on to the ball, pumped once, pumped twice, maybe even a third time, before deciding to throw home.

Perhaps he was almost amazed that Contreras was running and thought he had more time, or perhaps he just didn’t even believe that a catcher was trying to score from second on an infield hit, but whatever the case, Galvis pelted the ball into the mound, saw it take a few bounces, and gave Knapp almost no chance to get a tag down on Contreras, giving the Cubs a 5-3 lead. Throw in another base hit and a wild pitch from Ramos before getting out of the inning, and it was a 6th frame that was pretty much a house of horrors for the Phillies.

Eickhoff ended up getting tagged for four earned runs over his 5 23 innings, but his night wasn’t a complete loss. He struck out five and walked two and looked a bit sharper than he did in his last outing.

The Phillies did make some noise late, with a Maikel Franco RBI single in the 8th to cut the lead to one, but Wade Davis shut the door in the 9th inning for his 7th save of the season. The Phillies have now lost exactly half of their games by one run. And for the past few nights, they have had a chance to see what the difference is between a championship team with a pretty strong bullpen and a young team that still has a lot of growing up to do.