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Nein! Phillies vs. Cubs series preview

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Think the Phillies have problems? At least they haven’t lost nine in a row

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets
Jake Arrieta during another unsuccessful start
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Think the Phillies are having a rough go of it lately? Ten days ago, the Chicago Cubs had just pitched a no-hitter, were nine games over .500 and tied for first place in their division. Now, they’re on a nine-game losing streak, and sit 8.5 games off the division pace. For all the Phillies’ issues, they are an even 5-5 in their last ten games, even if most of those wins have been painful to endure.

Chicago Cubs

Record: 42-42 (Third place in National League Central)

The manager

David Ross is in his second year at the helm of the Cubs after leading them to the NL Central crown in 2020, which earned him a third place finish in Manager of the Year voting.

It wasn’t that long ago that Ross was still a player, having retired after the 2016 season. Despite a 15 year career, much of it spent with the Braves, I can’t remember a thing about him as a player. Maybe that’s what happens when you spend 15 years in the majors, but never hold down a regular job.

This is somewhat frustrating. Normally I can find something interesting to write about a manager, but Ross is just maddeningly nondescript. Of course if the Cubs continue to lose, there will be no shortage of people calling for his head.

The last time they met

The Cubs visited Philadelphia in August 2019 and were swept in a three-game set. You probably recall what happened in the series finale:

Sigh...remember when Harper hit home runs with people on base?

Anatomy of a nine-game losing streak

How many times in a row have the Cubs lost?

When you lose nine games in a row, you’re going to have all sorts of losses mixed in. There have been blowouts (14-4 to the Brewers) and walk-offs (3-2 to the Dodgers), and everything in between. Surprisingly, none of the games have gone into extra innings yet. One pitcher (Ryan Tepera) has twice been the losing pitcher, while two of the losses saw Heath Hembree earn a save for the opponent.

During the losing streak, they have the league’s worst team ERA at 6.19 and the league’s second worst OPS at .613. So aside from not hitting or pitching well, they’ve done okay.

Hey, old friend

Many Phillies fans have a negative opinion of Jake Arrieta, but I hold him in higher esteem than most. Sure, he didn’t live up to the expectations that come with signing a former Cy Young Award winner, but he battled through injuries, and generally gave the Phillies decent efforts when he took the mound. (Or maybe I’m just happy I got to write this headline once.)

If he hoped to revitalize his career by returning to Chicago, those hopes have been unfounded. He’s got a 5.57 ERA and has been worth negative 1.4 wins above replacement this season.

That said, would anyone be shocked if he throws six shutout innings on Tuesday?

No day games?

How the heck you gonna play a four-game series in Wrigley Field and none of the games are during the daytime? Maybe its’ in tribute to the fact that the Phillies were the opponent in the first ever night game the Cubs played at Wrigley. I suspect that isn’t the case since that game was eventually postponed due to rain.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: In Vince Velasquez’s signature performance, a solo home run was hit by Ryan Howard. GBrettFan was the first to remember that Howard was still around and occasionally hitting home runs at that point.

This series’ question: In that aforementioned Harper grand slam game, which current Phillie was the winning pitcher?

What to expect

  • The Cubs’ losing streak will come to an end during this series.
  • Despite what I said above, Arrieta actually won’t have a good start. The Phillies will have him out of the game by the end of the fourth inning. (And unfortunately, they’ll probably do that thing where they stop scoring after that .)
  • Zach Eflin will continue his run of strong starts and earn a win in the finale.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

Jason Heyward earned a big free agent mainly based on his defense, but he could at least hold his own offensively. Now, he’s a downright poor offensive player, and his defense isn’t even rated that well. And he’s still on the Cubs’ payroll for $22 million in each of the next two seasons. Ouch.