Every season, certain matchups stand out as potential previews of what might come during the playoffs. This week’s series against the Phillies may have been such a series. In fact, were the playoffs to start today (they don’t!), the Cubs and Phillies would square off in the NLDS.
While it’s probably a safe bet that both teams will to upgrade their rosters in advance of such a tilt, this series nevertheless provided an intriguing glance at a compelling playoff pairing. The Cubs came tantalizingly close to taking the series outright, squandering a 9th inning lead Monday and narrowly failing to complete what would have been a remarkable comeback from a 7-0 deficit Thursday afternoon.
Despite the disappointing bookends, the Cubs should walk away feeling okay about the results of this series. They’re currently in the midst of one of the most grueling stretches of their season, having already faced a number of ace pitchers and tough lineups over 16 games without an off day. Good teams often get through such stretches by staying afloat and avoiding major slides, like the one the Cubs had to start the season, as opposed to dominating their opponents.
The Cubs have managed to do just that so far, and now six games stand between the Cubs and some rest.
- Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (box score)
- Cubs 3, Phillies 2 (box score)
- Cubs 8, Phillies 4 (box score)
- Phillies 9, Cubs 7 (box score)
There was no shortage of drama in this series as every single game featured some high-stakes moments. Games two and three went in the Cubs’ favor, so they’re as good a place to hunt for highlights as any.
On Tuesday, Javy Báez put to rest any concerns about his heel injury becoming a lingering problem by hitting a pinch-hit walk-off single to complete the comeback in a game they had trailed 2-1 entering the 9th inning.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 22, 2019
The Cubs were on the comeback trail again the next night, trailing 3-0 before a three run home run by Anthony Rizzo tied the game in the 3rd inning. Albert Almora Jr. broke that tie and gave the Cubs a lead that would stand up with his first career grand slam in the 5th inning.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 23, 2019
Of course, one of the most memorable moments of the game came in the Cubs’ first loss. Former Cub Jake Arrieta returned to the mound at Wrigley Field for the first time since joining the Phillies and received a rousing ovation from an appreciative home crowd.
Standing ovation for @JArrieta34 at Wrigley Field. 👏👏👏
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) May 21, 2019
- Yu Darvish was en route to his best start as a Cub before the Phillies so rudely derailed him. Darvish was pitching a shutout through five innings, but ended up surrendering three runs. It was still an encouraging start for a pitcher who definitely needed one.
- Rizzo hit two home runs and drove in seven over the course of the series. He had been in a bit of a mini slump, but seems to have snapped out of it beginning with his Sunday home run in Washington and continuing through this series.
- Kyle Ryan has taken a significant step back after a solid start. A pair of earned runs over 2.0 innings in three games has ballooned his ERA to 5.06.
- Addison Russell has not exactly been a plus contributor at the plate since returning to the Cubs from his suspension for domestic violence. He recorded only two hits in 13 at-bats this series, capped off by a particularly noncompetitive 9th inning at-bat Thursday with the tying runs in scoring position.
A four-game series is rarely a tie in spirit even if it is in practice. Very often, one team will walk away feeling like they should have gotten more or that they were fortunate not to have suffered something worse than a split. This series represents the outlier, as both teams will probably walk away content with the things they did well.
The Cubs still have to get through two more series, including one against the perennial powerhouse Astros in Houston, before they can put this difficult stretch to an end. In the meantime, a split against fellow division-leader Philadelphia will suit them just fine.