The All-Star break came at a bad time for the Philadelphia Phillies — just as they were getting hot.
The Phillies swept a three-game series on the road against the Miami Marlins and will now look to maintain that momentum when they host the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Even without injured reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper, not to mention Jean Segura, the Phillies have remained in playoff contention.
They have stayed afloat thanks largely to All-Star representative Kyle Schwarber, who has 29 home runs this season. Schwarber has nine homers since Harper went on the injured list with a fractured left thumb.
“It’s definitely not the perfect first half,” said Schwarber, who faces his former team this weekend. “I guess I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like to be hitting .200-whatever it is (.208). Yeah, the other numbers are there, the power, the RBIs, whatever. But there’s still more aspects to the game.
“We’ve had a lot of things thrown at us throughout this year, and the way we’ve responded, it’s what good teams do. I’m very happy with where I’m at in Philly.”
Since firing manager Joe Girardi, the Phillies have gone 27-14 under interim skipper Rob Thomson.
The Phillies will hand the ball to Kyle Gibson (5-3, 4.35 ERA) on Friday. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.
Gibson was stellar in his most recent start, when he allowed four hits and one run in six innings against the Miami Marlins last Friday.
“You understand that these games, if you give up more than three (runs), it makes it tough on the offense,” Gibson said. “I try not to think about that because I have to face Sandy (Alcantara), but you’re trying to limit the damage and keep away from big numbers.”
The Cubs defeated the New York Mets 3-2 in their final game before the All-Star break. It came after the Cubs dropped nine consecutive contests, including the last five at home.
“Lost way too many in a row, whether you want to talk about close games or not,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Winning is the ultimate goal.”
While the Cubs have struggled mightily this season with a 35-57 record, they have been buoyed by All-Star Willson Contreras.
The catcher is headed for free agency if the Cubs don’t trade him by the deadline on Aug. 2, with a deal expected.
“The moments that I’ve had in Chicago — life and everything that I’ve experienced there — are just amazing,” said Contreras, who has 13 home runs and an .821 OPS. “No matter what the future holds, no matter what the outcome is, I will always feel that I will always be able to come back to Chicago and play there or even live there. Who doesn’t love Chicago, right?”
Justin Steele (3-6, 4.15) is scheduled to start for the Cubs. Steele, who has never faced the Phillies, tossed six innings and allowed six hits and four runs (three earned) July 13 against the Baltimore Orioles in his most recent outing.
–Field Level Media