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Phillies fall to the Cubs again after Aaron Nola's woeful fifth inning

Alex Coffey, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

CHICAGO — In the top of the third inning on Wednesday night, Kyle Schwarber took off from second base to third base, setting himself up to score on a sacrifice fly. He jokingly tipped his cap to the dugout, and touched home plate when Bryce Harper popped up to left field, to give his team an early 1-0 lead.

It was a smart baseball move, and had the potential to set a more positive tone for the Phillies in what was a must-win game against the Cubs, a team with a record well below .500. But instead, they reverted to their old ways, losing, 4-2, because they failed to score with runners in scoring position and because Aaron Nola gave up four runs in the fifth inning.

The Phillies have now lost all five games they’ve played against the Cubs this season. They’ve lost their last four games, and nine of their last 12, and if the Brewers hold their lead over the Cardinals, the Phillies’ lead in the NL wild card standings will dwindle to just a half a game.

Aaron Nola cruises — then stumbles

Initially, it looked like Aaron Nola, who entered the game with a 2.08 ERA, was headed towards another good September start. He cruised through his first four innings of work, allowing just one hit on 53 pitches, and 37 strikes, but he hit a wall in the fifth inning.

Nola started the inning by allowing a single to Nico Hoerner, and from there, allowed another single, a forceout that scored Hoerner, a hit by pitch, and a three-run home run to Christopher Morel, who is quickly establishing himself as a Phillie killer.

Nola bounced back in the sixth inning after striking out two hitters and inducing a groundout, but the damage had been done. He slammed his glove down in frustration when he reached the dugout.

Nola finished his night at six innings pitched, allowing five hits, four earned runs, no walks and one home run with eight strikeouts and one hit batsman.

Offense squanders their chances

 

The Phillies had their opportunities to score on Wednesday night. They knocked in 11 hits and drew two walks. But they also didn’t drive in the runners they did get on base, going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

Their best chances to do damage against the Cubs came in the top of the fourth, in the top of the seventh and in the top of the eighth. In the top of the fourth, Alec Bohm, Nick Castellanos and Jean Segura all hit singles to load the bases with one out. But Bryson Stott popped out, and Schwarber grounded out to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh, Schwarber hit a double and Rhys Hoskins hit a single to put runners on first and third. Harper drove Schwarber home with a groundout to cut the Phillies deficit from 4-1 to 4-2, but J.T. Realmuto lined out and Bohm struck out after that.

In the top of the eighth, Castellanos and Segura both hit singles to put runners on first and second with one out. But Matt Vierling, pinch hitting for Stott, struck out and Schwarber did too.

This is a team that has prided itself on its ability to fight, no matter what situation, and a three-run or two-run deficit should not seem insurmountable. But the Phillies’ offense has looked lifeless this series.

Castellanos with another good night

If you’re looking for some positive Phillies news, Nick Castellanos went 3-for-4 on Wednesday night in his second game back since he was activated off of the 10-day injured list.

©2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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