Cubs win, Cubs win

MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Marlon Byrd shows his frustration after popping up with two on and two outs in the sixth inning.
MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Marlon Byrd shows his frustration after popping up with two on and two outs in the sixth inning.
Posted: June 17, 2014

THE PREVIOUS TIME the Chicago Cubs won a series in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins, now the Phillies' all-time hit king, had 20 games of major league experience. Larry Bowa was capping his first week as the club's manager. Omar Daal was starting games, Jose Mesa closing them.

It was all the way back during the home-opening series of the 2001 campaign, a nugget of information perhaps telling regarding both the Phillies' immense success since but also the struggles of 2014. Yesterday afternoon's game, a 3-0 Cubs' victory that gave Chicago claim to the three-game series, marked already the ninth time this season, just 67 games old, the Phillies were held without a run. It was the seventh game in which they were shut out at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

In this one, Philadelphia mustered a mere three hits and three walks. Ben Revere's single to rightfield with one out in the sixth inning was the first of the afternoon against lefthander Travis Wood, who tossed eight shutout innings.

Afterward, the Phillies (29-38) packed their bags for a seven-game road trip and the start of a stretch in which they play 32 of the next 35 games against teams with better than .500 records, a 6-week span that will likely heavily influence the club's plans leading into the July 31 trade deadline.

First up is a three-game series in Atlanta that starts tonight. A four-game set at St. Louis follows.

"I think every game is critical. You're trying to fight back to .500," Marlon Byrd said when asked if the impending stretch feels like "a critical point" in the season. "You don't look at it as 'a critical point.' We've got to start winning games. It doesn't get easier. I think we're about to face two of the best pitching staffs in baseball, so of course it doesn't get easier. We've got to battle."

The Phillies swept the lowly Padres earlier in the week, but certainly could've taken better advantage of their opponent during the weekend series. At 28-39, the Cubs own the National League's worst record. Despite wins Friday and yesterday, their road record of 13-25 remains the worst in baseball. Yesterday's was Chicago's first road series triumph in 16 tries, a streak that dated to September.

Wood (7-5), an All-Star last season, entered yesterday with a 4.95 ERA. Back on April 4, in his first start of the season, the Phillies tagged him with four runs in 6 1/3 innings en route to victory.

Wood was much more effective yesterday, his longest outing of the spring. But according to Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, the Phillies didn't capitalize on a lot of pitches thrown high in the strike zone. Wood threw some "hittable balls," the skipper said, but the Phillies evidently didn't make enough adjustments at the plate.

"He pitched up in the zone and got away with it," said Sandberg, now 4-5 when managing against his former club. "We couldn't get up on top of him. Those are balls that if you get on top you can drive them, and he got away with pitching up."

The Phillies' three hits, all singles, came via the bats of Revere, pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez and Rollins, who a day earlier surpassed Mike Schmidt's record for the most hits in franchise history. Ryan Howard was given the day off with the lefthander on the mound.

"I thought [Wood] did a decent job of mixing his pitches," Chase Utley said. "We had some pitches to hit, some we hit hard right at guys, some we didn't put good swings on. We've got to put this game behind us and focus on [today]."

A.J. Burnett (4-6) certainly pitched well enough to earn a win. The veteran righthander surrendered three runs, one in each of the first, third and sixth innings, and provided eight innings of work. He recorded four strikeouts, putting him in sole possession of 50th place all-time with 2,254. He is 12 punchouts from matching former Philadelphia Athletics lefthander Lefty Grove.

But as it turned out, Anthony Rizzo's first-pitch home run in the first inning signified the game's deciding run.

"The sinker didn't get in early and then a couple hooks that were not as short as I wanted them to," Burnett said. "Take those couple pitches away and it's a different ballgame."

Asked if the team's offensive woes during a quality start frustrated him, Burnett said, "I can't worry about that."

"Our guys aren't going out there trying to get out," he added. "[Wood] came out and he made good pitches against us all game. It's not frustrating on my part because I've got a job to do. The two curveballs and the sinker in [to Rizzo] is more frustrating than that."

Regarding the seemingly difficult stretch that looms, Burnett said all the Phillies can do is simply focus on tonight's game.

"You can't look too far down the road," he said. "This game's too tough. One at a time."


On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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