PHILADELPHIA — After a triple play in the fifth inning of Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies helped torpedo the Chicago Cubs‘ road trip, manager Joe Maddon didn’t mince words. His meaning was clear, despite not mentioning this week’s opponents: two last-place teams.
“Three-and-three is always nice, but you much prefer better than that on this trip,” Maddon said from visiting manager’s office at Citizens Bank Park. “You’re expecting to be better than that. We were in position to be better than that. We just didn’t do it. It should have been better.”
For all practical purposes, the Cubs should have been 5-1 on the trip, having only been soundly beaten on Friday. They gave a game away late in Cincinnati on Thursday, then took a 3-0 lead on Sunday only to hit into that triple play, which was followed by five runs from the Phillies in the bottom of that same inning.
Game, set and match.
“I made an aggressive read, guy made a nice catch. Obviously when you’re committed, it’s three outs,” Anthony Rizzo said of the fateful play in the fifth inning. “I read it wrong, but I think it was down for sure.”
With Rizzo on second base and Tommy La Stella on first, Javier Baez hit a low line drive toward left fielder Rhys Hoskins, who caught the ball as his glove got dragged behind him. It created a tough lane to see exactly what happened, which was complicated by Hoskins dropping the ball as he got up to throw it. But third-base umpire Jerry Layne called it a catch without hesitation. Easy throws to second and then first meant the Cubs had hit into a triple play, their first since 2014.
“I wasn’t sure,” La Stella said. “I thought it hit the ground, then kind of popped up, and I lost it. I kind of got caught in the middle.”
“I should have totally stayed back on it, knowing the speed of the runner,” Bryant said. “I feel terrible about it.”
The Cubs continue to show a fragile side to their game as seemingly very little has to go wrong for them to give up a potential victory. It’s probably a sign they still aren’t quite where they want to be, despite the (precarious) hold on first place in the National League Central.
“I think we’re OK,” Bryant said. “We’re still breathing, we’re still here, playing baseball. We’re in a playoff race. It’s fun. Not a great road trip, but we’re not going to hang our heads. If we do that, stuff snowballs.”
Bryant also said Sunday wasn’t exactly a “fun game,” as he also hit into a line-drive double play. So if you’re keeping score at home, it’s three runs in the first inning, nothing the rest of the way, a line-drive triple play and a line-drive double play. Combined with a perfect storm of things that went wrong on Thursday, the result was a .500 trip.
“We played hard,” Rizzo said. “Went 3-3 on the road trip. We’re not going to sit here and pout about it. We just have to move on to tomorrow.”
Perhaps it’s good news that it took some unusual moments to beat them this week, but that’s little consolation. The Cubs are now down to three series outside their division the rest of the season, and only one in the division comes against the Cincinnati Reds. In other words, they’re going to have to beat the teams that are chasing them to secure their third straight postseason appearance and second consecutive division title.
No one said it would be easy. Thursday and especially Sunday are evidence of that.
“Triple play, first guy [in the next inning] gets on, turned the [game],” Rizzo said. “It was rough. It was a rough one.”