Down to their last out, the Phillies pulled off their most impressive win of the season Monday night, beating the first-place Chicago Cubs, 5-4, in 10 innings at Wrigley Field.
For the second straight game, catcher J.T. Realmuto delivered a huge home run. In Sunday’s win over the Colorado Rockies, he connected for a game-tying, two-run homer as a pinch hitter, and Monday, he came through with a two-out solo shot in the top of the 10th that put the Phillies ahead to stay.
“Realmuto led our team,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He really took control of the game from every aspect. He was on point with his pitch calling and receiving, and obviously the home run was enormous.”
It all made for a happy homecoming for Jake Arrieta, who delivered six solid innings in his first career start against the Cubs. In a super cool moment, Arrieta also received a standing ovation and tipped his helmet before his first plate appearance in his former home ballpark.
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It looked like it was going to be another stinging defeat for the Phillies. Up by 3-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, Kapler told Seranthony Dominguez to go back out for a second inning. It made perfect sense. Dominguez had been dominating in the seventh, sitting down the top three hitters in the Cubs’ order on nine pitches.
“That was as brilliant as I’ve seen him,” Kapler said.
The sharpness was gone, however, when Dominguez went back for a second inning for the first time this season.
Dominguez walked Victor Caratini and Jason Heyward to open the eighth inning, then surrendered a one-out triple to Daniel Descalso that just eluded the glove of left fielder Andrew McCutchen. Two runs scored on the triple, and shortstop Jean Segura’s throw to third base hit Descalso’s right foot and bounced into the stands. Descalso walked home with the go-ahead run.
Maikel Franco gave the Phillies some ninth-inning hope with a one-out double and McCutchen kept the game alive with a two-out walk after what just as easily could have been ruled a swinging, game-ending strikeout on a 2-2 pitch.
Instead, Segura, hitless in his first four at-bats, got a chance to make amends for his eighth-inning error and to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He did so with a bloop single to right field on a 1-1 change-up from Cubs reliever Brad Brach that allowed Franco to score the tying run.
Segura has batted .348 (16-for-46) with two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, and eight runs scored during his hitting streak.
That set the scene for Realmuto’s game-winning home run in the 10th. The Phillies won their fourth straight for just the second time this season and maintained a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL East over Atlanta. Chicago lost for just the seventh time in 22 home games this season.
If you were making a list of reasons that the Phillies pulled off the victory, the list would be long. It would include a great throw from Bryce Harper to nail Anthony Rizzo at home plate in the fifth inning, a terrific game-ending double play started by first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and a huge two-run triple by Cesar Hernandez off Yu Darvish in the sixth inning.
J.T. Realmuto’s home run will be on the highlight reel, but Matt Breen’s game story and Kapler’s postgame quotes point out that the Phillies’ star catcher contributed a lot more than that in Monday night’s win at Wrigley Field.
Slumping Odubel Herrera was back in the starting lineup Monday night against the Cubs, but it seems more than likely that Scott Kingery will get the start Tuesday night against lefty Carlos Quintana. Kapler talked about Herrera’s struggles before Monday’s game.
Reliever Victor Arano continues to have elbow pain as he attempts to return from the injured list, so he will go see an orthopedic specialist next week in Los Angeles. Vince Velasquez (sore forearm) threw a bullpen session Monday and will throw another Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Could he be headed to the bullpen?
After dominating at low-A Lakewood and high-A Clearwater last season, Ramon Rosso is doing the same at double-A Reading this season. The 22-year-old right-hander the Phillies acquired for nothing is 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA.
During a trip to Reading, Marc Narducci caught up with former Phillie Cody Asche, who is trying to get back to the big leagues while playing with Boston’s double-A affiliate Portland team. Asche said he still loves the game.
Tonight: Zach Eflin vs. Jose Quintana, 7:07 p.m.
Tomorrow: Cole Hamels’ first career start against Phillies comes against Cole Irvin, 8:05 p.m.
Thursday: Aces up — Aaron Nola vs. Jon Lester in series finale at Wrigley Field, 2:20 p.m.
Friday: Jerad Eickhoff pitches series opener at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Saturday: Jake Arrieta vs. Brewers, 4:10 p.m.
The Phillies will face three straight left-handed starters to close out their series vs. the Cubs, starting with Tuesday night’s game against Jose Quintana. They will face former Phillie Cole Hamels on Wednesday and Cubs ace Jon Lester in the series finale Thursday.
The Phillies are only 4-6 against lefty starters so far this season, but their splits against them are not bad. The Phillies are hitting .250 with a .317 on-base percentage, a .436 slugging percentage and a .753 OPS against lefty starters. Only their on-base percentage was higher against right-handed starters.
Bryce Harper’s career numbers have always been significantly better against right-handed pitching, but this season, he is hitting .292 with a .393 on-base percentage and .997 OPS against lefties, all numbers well above his career averages.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: Former Philadelphian, now retired in Florida, I watch every Phillies game This year’s team is very exciting and hopefully will be in the playoffs. One thing really bothers me about this team is the high percentage of strikeouts. It seems like they always take the first-pitch strike (usually very hittable), put themselves in a hole and then many times strike out on a pitch out of the strike zone.
— Carlo A., via email
Answer: Your observation about taking the first pitch is correct, but there is a method to the Phillies’ passive approach. Before Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, they were second in baseball in pitches per plate appearance at 4.02 per game. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers saw more. The Phillies are also third in baseball in walks per game, trailing only the Cubs and Boston.
The thinking is that walks lead to a lot of good things, with runs scored being at the top of the list. They also drive up the opposing starter’s pitch count, and even though a lot of things have changed about the game, it is still a good thing to get into the other team’s bullpen as quickly as possible.
If the Phillies could change anything right now, it would be their home-run total. They are 12th in runs per game, but only 23rd in home runs per game. I think with the additions of McCutchen, Harper and Realmuto, they expected that number to be higher at this point.
As for strikeouts, the Phillies’ K rate is 11th in baseball and some of the best teams in the game strike out at a higher rate.