Asche's walk-off blast leads Phils past Cubs
PHILADELPHIA -- Pinch-hitter Cody Asche hit a walk-off two-run home run with two outs in the ninth to power the Phillies to a 7-5 victory Saturday night over the Cubs, who lost for only the fourth time in their last 13 games.
Hector Rondon retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth, then walked Erik Kratz. Asche launched the first pitch he saw from Rondon into the right-field seats. It was his second career walk-off home run. The other happened exactly a year ago with a walk-off homer against the Marlins..
"That's absurd," Asche said. "That's just unbelievably crazy."
The Cubs hold an 8 1/2-game lead over the Giants for the second National League Wild Card spot, are three games behind the Pirates for the top spot, and are 5 1/2 games back of the division-leading Cardinals. Rookie Kyle Schwarber hit his 16th home run with two outs in the third to put Chicago ahead 1-0, but that was the Cubs' only hit over the first six innings against Jerad Eickhoff.
The Phillies took advantage of an error by Anthony Rizzo and Justin Grimm's wildness to put together a five-run seventh, highlighted by Cesar Hernandez's three-run double. But the Cubs rallied to tie the game in a four-run eighth, sparked by a two-run double by Chris Coghlan, an RBI double by Kris Bryant, and a sac fly by Miguel Montero.
"[Grimm] couldn't have had better stuff than he had tonight -- it's impossible," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I know he's going to be very upset. I have all the confidence in the world. He's got to be good for us to get to where we want to be. It's just unfortunate it didn't play tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kid stuff: Schwarber struck out looking on a curve in the first inning against Eickhoff but connected on the first pitch he saw in the third. On Friday, in the second game of a doubleheader, Schwarber twice hit the first pitch in consecutive at-bats for home runs. The rookie began the night ranked third in the NL with 14 home runs since the All-Star break.
Eickhoff's latest audition: The Phillies are looking for somebody to step up as a candidate for the 2016 rotation, and Eickhoff made another case for himself. He allowed three hits, one run, three walks and struck out a career-high eight in seven innings. He has a 3.90 ERA in five starts.
"He was outstanding tonight," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He looked determined to me. It looked like he was out there to establish himself." More >
Howard sparks rally: The Phillies had two outs and nobody on base in the seventh when a walk and error put runners on first and second. Ryan Howard, who snapped a 0-for-35 slump Friday, stepped up and hit a double to right field to tie the game. It was his first RBI since Aug. 25. Grimm then walked pinch-hitters Brian Bogusevic to load the bases, and then Darnell Sweeney to force home the go-ahead run. But Hernandez twisted the dagger with a double to center field to clear the bases to make it 5-1.
"It was great to see Howie come through big like that," Mackanin said.
Start me up: Because of rain in the forecast, the Cubs switched starting pitchers and had Travis Wood go in place of Dan Haren, who will start Sunday. Chicago didn't want Haren's outing interrupted by bad weather. Plus, the Cubs had already planned on a "staff day" Sunday in the series finale. Wood began the season in the rotation but switched to the bullpen after going 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in seven outings. On Saturday, he went three-plus innings, giving up three hits and striking out five.
"Wood and [Trevor Cahill] did a wonderful job getting us to the point you want to be, and then the guys you feel really reliable about. It just didn't play for us tonight," Maddon said. More >
"As you all know, I've been saying that Cody Asche is the best hitter on the team. I think I've made that clear in the past." -- Mackanin's opening remarks in his postgame news conference.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Howard has 643 career extra-base hits, which moves him into a fourth-place tie with Hall of Famer Chuck Klein on the franchise's all-time list.
In the Phillies' fourth, Odubel Herrera was called safe at second on a stolen base, but apparently didn't believe it and started to head off the field. The Cubs challenged whether he was safe, and after a replay review, the call was overturned, and Herrera was out.
With the game tied at 5 in the Chicago eighth, Bryant tried to score on Javier Baez's ground ball to Hernandez, who threw home. The Cubs challenged that catcher Kratz had illegally blocked the plate, and Bryant was safe, but after replay review, the call was confirmed.
"I don't want to get into that because I get in trouble every time," Maddon said of the rule. "If that's not blocking the plate, I don't know what is. There's a lot of ambiguities attached to it."
Cubs: Haren is coming off his best outing since joining the Cubs, in which he scattered seven hits over seven scoreless innings against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. This will be his fourth start against the Phillies this season and third at Citizens Bank Park; he's 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. CT.
Phillies: Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang pitches the series finale against the Cubs at 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday. He had a 2.02 ERA through the end of May, but has a 7.79 ERA in 14 starts since then.
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