KB's return sparks Cubs as Hendricks cruises
Bryant doubles, scores on Schwarber's 2-run triple in 3rd inning
PHILADELPHIA -- For the first time since late July, the Cubs' lineup looked more complete with the return of Kristopher Bryant.
Bryant, back after missing more than a month because of a sore left shoulder, doubled in the third inning to help set up Kyle Schwarber's two-run triple, and Ian Happ added a solo home run in the Cubs' 7-1 victory on Saturday night over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Javier Baez added an RBI single in the ninth to raise his National League-leading total to 99 RBIs, but Bryant's return was key for the Cubs.
"It's huge," pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "Just inserting one guy like that, he's a special guy. It completely changes the lineup. To see him do what he did out of the gate is awesome. He's obviously a huge part of this team. It's good to have him back."
Manager Joe Maddon certainly liked writing Bryant's name down on the lineup card.
"You see [Daniel Murphy] hits, then you see Baez hits, then [Anthony Rizzo] hits then [Benjamin Zobrist] with Bryant on deck," Maddon said. "That's how I process it. You look at the names on the back and you watch guys moving around out there, it's a good feeling. He had a nice day for his first day back. I liked his defense. He caught the ball well and didn't rush a throw. He had an impressive day."
So did Hendricks, who picked up the win and got a little payback. He lost to the Phillies and Zach Eflin on June 5 at Wrigley, giving up five runs over five innings. Eflin was sharp in that game, holding the Cubs to one run over 7 2/3 innings. Saturday was a different story for both pitchers. Eflin was lifted after serving up four runs (three earned) over five innings. Hendricks gave up one run over six innings.
"This is as locked in as I've felt for the most part," Hendricks said. "I'm making good pitches and putting together good sequences. Everything starts with fastball command for me. It's just been getting better and better. Today, it was good from the start. My curveball has been coming along better and better and I'm using it more."
It helped that he escaped a jam in the fourth when the Phillies had two on and one out, getting Maikel Franco to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Cubs starting pitchers have been on a good roll. They now have a 2.36 ERA in the last 16 games after posting a 4.55 ERA in the prior 15 starts.
"It's all kind of coming together now and it's really fun," Hendricks said. "We know this last month will be big for us. The [Cardinals and Brewers] are not stopping, they're coming hard. We have to keep playing good baseball and not look too far ahead."
Every game this month is important to the Phillies, who fell to three games behind Atlanta in the NL East race. The Cubs, who boast the best record in the NL, have won nine of their last 11 games and have a 4 1/2-game lead over St. Louis and five-game edge over Milwaukee.
"I just think we've been a team that performs well in August and September when it really matters," Bryant said. "It seems like we get better when the rest of the league is feeling a little tired or hitting a low point in their season. I guess it's showing right now."
Bryant went 2-for-4, striking out twice. He doubled with two outs in the third after Rizzo had singled. Both runners scored on Schwarber's triple off the center-field wall to open a 4-0 lead.
"I was really happy to actually get some ground balls," Bryant said. "That was the biggest thing I didn't get in Triple-A. I had five or six [ground balls] today, which was nice. I got everything. Most importantly, I felt good.
"As the game went on, it felt completely normal," he said. "It's fun to be out there again competing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Opportunity knocks: Murphy doubled to lead off the game for the Cubs and scored on a throwing error by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who fielded Baez's infield single, then overthrew first. One out later, Baez tallied on Zobrist's double to take a 2-0 lead. The Cubs are 9-1 with Murphy in the starting lineup.
"It's not any coincidence that Danny got in town and we're just having better at-bats," Maddon said. "He does set a great tone at the top."
Turn the page: Happ was happy to see September after batting .172 with one home run and six RBIs in August. Happ added some insurance when he smacked his 14th home run with one out in the Chicago seventh, launching a 3-2 slider from Edubray Ramos to right. The Cubs need Happ and Schwarber to pick it up, especially when they face right-handed pitchers.
"They're the guys who have to hurt righties," Maddon said. "If we can get Schwarber and Happ to start hurting righties, it makes all the difference in the world."
With one more RBI and home run, Baez will become the fifth Cubs player to record a 30-homer, 100-RBI season before or in their age 25 season, joining Ernie Banks, Bryant, Rizzo and Ron Santo.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Phillies left-hander Austin Davis had an interesting encounter with third-base umpire Joe West in the eighth inning. After Davis pulled a scouting report from his back pocket and reviewed it before he faced Addison Russell, West approached him, asked for the sheet of paper and confiscated it. More >>
HE SAID IT
"Everything today was a positive for me." -- Bryant, on his first game back
Jonathan Lester (14-5, 3.67 ERA) will start the rubber match for the Cubs on Sunday, facing right-hander Aaron Nola (15-3, 2.10). Lester did not get a decision in his last outing against the Mets but is on a good roll. He has a 2.04 ERA in his last three starts and helped himself vs. the Mets with a two-run single off Noah Syndergaard. Lester is 7-0 with a 1.64 ERA in nine career starts against the Phillies. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. CT from Citizens Bank Park.