The Phillies’ annual slump in September continued to gain momentum on Tuesday night with another loss to a team with a loss record.
And if the Phillies aren’t careful, they could have a losing record as early as Wednesday night.
The Phils fell to 72-72 in a 6-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park and in so doing wasted a chance to win a game in the NL East race as Atlanta lost the first up against Colorado.
The Phils remain 4 ½ games behind the Braves but have only 18 games left. The Braves have 19 left.
Even if the Braves play poorly the rest of the course, it will be difficult for the Phillies to catch them. For example, the Braves could go just 9-10 the rest of the way and the Phils would have to go 13-5 just to match them.
The Phils remain in the wild card race, but are three games behind and are trailing three teams.
Tuesday night’s loss brought the Phillies down to 4-8 this month and they’ve lost six of their last seven games, including four to the Rockies and Cubs, two teams that had 26 games under .500 on Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We are working everyday to try to understand and do well guys. It’s frustrating right now, but we still have an opportunity. We just need to play better.
Over the past four September (2018-2021), the Phils are a 37-61 abyss.
Tuesday night’s game started off promisingly with an Odubel Herrera and Kyle Gibson homerun knocking out the Cubs’ top 12 hitters, including seven on strikeouts.
Gibson imploded in the fifth inning and the offense didn’t do enough after Herrera’s home run in the first inning.
Gibson gave Willson Contreras a first single in the fifth, followed by a two-run homer to Patrick Wisdom. Alfonso Rivas followed with a practice line in the right field seats and suddenly the Phillies were down 3-1. Four batters later, the Cubs made it 4-1 on a brace produced by Rafael Ortega.
“He just made some mistakes with his fast pitch,” Girardi said.
“It was a frustrating run because I don’t know if I’ve shot any better shots since I’ve been here than in those first four innings,” said Gibson. “I just haven’t made any shots in this round.”
The Phils came back with two in the bottom of the sixth to reduce the Cubs’ lead to 4-3. Jean Segura started with a brace, chasing starter Adrian Sampson, and Bryce Harper followed with an RBI brace. Harper then came to score on a one-take single from Didi Gregorius. The rally stalled when pinch hitter Freddy Galvis made a double play, the Phils’ fourth of the night.
The Cubs escaped with a pair of two-out runs against reliever Sam Coonrod in the seventh. Coonrod allowed three doubles up the set. Frank Schwindle’s double bagging put the Cubs up, 5-3, and he came on a 0-2 slider hanging over the plate. The Phillies gave up a pair of home runs 0-2 losing to Colorado on Sunday.
Gibson joined the Texas Phillies under a trade deadline deal. His first five starts were all quality starts (six innings or more, three earned runs or less) and the Phillies have gone 4-1 in those games. He’s struggled in his last three games, allowing 15 earned runs in 15 innings and the Phils have lost all three.
There isn’t much time – for Gibson or the Phillies – to turn the tide.
“Guys understand the magnitude of every game,” Gibson said. “These are big games in situations that we know we can win, so it creates frustration at the end of the night when we don’t. Anytime you’re late in a race there is only a limited number of games to catch up on, so we have to take care of business. “
Ranger Suarez throws for the Phillies on Wednesday night.
“We have to play a specific game, get it right and find a way to win,” Girardi said. “We are focusing on the playoffs. It’s just a game. “
The Phils haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, and they haven’t had a winning season since then. They’ll need to go at least 10-8 in their last 18 games just to have a winning season.