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Oops! Gotcha! Clutch like Piazza: Phillies vs. Cubs series preview

With both teams struggling, it might come down to which team can discover its clutchness

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies
Trea Turner has not come through in big spots
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

For the second time this season, the Phillies embarked on a six-game road trip that started off in promising fashion and ended poorly. They now return home where they’ve played much better this year, and they’ll be taking on an opponent in the midst of a losing streak. But unless the Phillies solve their issues - on both offense and defense - with runners on base, they’ll continue to lose games.

Chicago Cubs

Record: 19-24, Third place in National League Central (Five games back)

The manager

In his first season as a major league manager, David Ross finished in third place in 2020 Manager of the Year voting for leading the Cubs to the National League Central crown. But we should probably discount any accomplishments from that pandemic-shortened season, because in the two years since, Ross’ Cubs haven’t cleared the 75-win mark.

With the Cubs once again sitting below .500, there have been plenty of calls for Ross’ head:

And if you like analogies (and who doesn’t?), David Ross:Michael Fulner :: Joe Girardi:David Hale.

The last time they met

Desperately needing wins to earn a Wild Card spot, the Phillies traveled to Chicago in late September 2022 to face a Cubs team that was 19 games under .500. The Phillies scored a total of three runs in the series and lost all three games, marking the second time they suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs that season. Sometimes I wonder how the 2022 Phillies even made the playoffs, let alone won the National League pennant.

What’s the deal with the Cubs?

The Cubs lead the National League in on-base percentage, rank second in batting average, and are fifth in slugging percentage. Pitching wise, they’ve allowed the second fewest walks in the league and rank fifth in ERA. Sounds like they should be a good team, right?

Not if you go by the standings. where the Cubs are five games under .500 and enter this series having lost five games in a row.

As we’ve seen with the Phillies over the past few years, sometimes teams get into funks where things don’t go their way, and they seem incapable of winning baseball games. Maybe that is what’s happening here, and the Cubs will continue their losing ways this weekend. But I’m often wary when a team is vastly underperforming its Pythagorean record (24-19) and comes in on a losing streak. It feels like the Cubs are bound to start winning games at some point, and I really don’t want that some point to start on Friday.

Boo this man

Dansby Swanson joined the Cubs this offseason, and despite the change of location, Dansby remains an utterly stupid name.

More of Morel

In that three-game sweep last September, rookie Christopher Morel homered two times. That apparently wasn’t enough for him to make the Opening Day roster for the Cubs which seems like a mistake because all the guy apparently does is hit massive home runs.

Give it some clutch

Corey Seidman did an excellent job of breaking down the main reason why the Phillies aren’t winning baseball games.

The question to ask is whether this should be expected to continue going forward. It seems unlikely, since “clutchness” has been shown to even out in the long run. I think we’ll eventually see some of those solo home runs that the Phillies hit happen with runners on base, and unless the Phillies’ pitchers are innately unable to handle the reality of a pitch clock, I think we’ll see fewer runners come around to score on them.

Smarty’s tournament of randomness

The Folgers commercial easily got past Fran Dunphy to advance to the next round. That brings up our next matchup:

#5 Applejack

Many people have opinions on which My Little Pony is best. But the answer is obviously Applejack, as she’s the hardest working of the group and the only one who consistently uses common sense.

#12 The blue hats worn by the 1994 Phillies

In 1994, the Phillies tried to spice up their uniforms by introducing a blue hat variant that would be worn for home day games. However, after losing their first few games in the new lids, the players decided they were bad luck. (Listen to this for more info)

Who should advance to the next round? You decide!


Who should advance: Applejack or the blue hats?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    #5 Applejack
    (14 votes)
  • 70%
    #12 Blue hats
    (33 votes)
47 votes total Vote Now

Closing thought

Despite neither team winning many games lately, one of them is going to win this series. (Check the math if you don’t believe me.) Based on the talent on the rosters, it should be the Phillies, but I wish I had more confidence in that happening.

Happy Smarty-Days

Commercial fun with Mike Schmidt and Lee jeans

Some potential trade candidates for the Phillies

Weekend open thread