CHICAGO -- With the London Series in the rearview mirror, the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field on Tuesday to kick off a six-game homestand against the Phillies and Guardians.
It also began a stretch of 13 games in 13 days leading into the All-Star break, a two-week period the club acknowledges the importance of as the calendar gets set to flip to July.
“The next two weeks to me, 13 games, are going to be really important,” manager David Ross said before Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
After the homestand this week, the Cubs will end the first half with a seven-game road trip to Milwaukee and New York.
“We play some really good teams; we've got the Phillies here,” Ross said. “Obviously, Milwaukee is ahead of us in division. We’re going to need to play good all the way up through the Yankees and hopefully go into the All-Star break with a little bit of momentum.
“Hopefully, we can carry this through these next 13 games. That’d be really nice.”
The opener against the Phillies was a unique challenge, with a quick turnaround from the London Series after Monday’s off-day.
The Cubs’ offense tallied six hits, including just three in the first seven innings, and struck out an uncharacteristic 12 times. Starter Jameson Taillon struggled, allowing five runs on seven hits and one walk in five innings.
“I feel like I’ve just been repetitive, probably,” Taillon said. “But it just felt like another one of those nights. Close to having a good night; didn’t end up having a good night.”
Kyle Schwarber hit Taillon’s first pitch into the right-field corner for a leadoff double and scored moments after on a Trea Turner RBI single. Taillon got two quick outs in the second before Brandon Marsh hit a solo home run.
Marsh struck again in the fifth, following Bryson Stott’s leadoff bunt single with a two-run homer to give Philadelphia a 4-0 lead. Taillon nearly escaped a two-on jam to keep the score there, but Nick Castellanos hit a bloop single to make it 5-0.
“Fifth inning got a little hairy there,” Taillon said. “Leadoff, nice bunt. A couple bad pitches. Marsh had a good night. I thought as a whole, they just fouled off a lot of good pitches and kind of waited me out and did damage on pitches that they should have done damage on.”
The Cubs are three games back of the Brewers and 3 1/2 back of the first-place Reds in the National League Central. Three weeks ago, their situation was starting to look perilous, and discourse was beginning to shift to the Trade Deadline.
When the Angels swept them in Anaheim, the Cubs dropped 10 games under .500 (26-36) and 7 1/2 games back in the NL Central, both season highs. Since the sweep, though, they’ve gone 11-4.
With the schedule’s challenges -- from London to 13 straight games without a day off -- Chicago has talked as a unit about needing to keep pushing forward during this stretch.
“I think we have the right guys in this clubhouse that we understand that reality of we were pretty tired,” Cody Bellinger said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got the guys in this clubhouse to turn it around and put this behind us and keep moving forward.
“These games are as important as all the other ones. Obviously, the schedule is just a little different. But we know as a unit, or as a team, that these next games are important, for sure.”
The Cubs have a good opportunity in front of them to keep the momentum they’ve built over the past few weeks going in order to finish the first half strong and make a push coming out of the break.
“Every game is important,” Taillon said. “But you know, in July there's always the Trade Deadline, and it’s a good time in the middle of the summer to get hot and make some movement towards the top of the division and stuff. So it would definitely be a nice time to continue to play well and carry that into the All-Star break and feel good about it.
“We've played with some really good teams; we've shown we can beat some good teams. Hopefully we just keep that up and ride that.”