PHILADELPHIA – If this qualifies as a scoring slump, the Cubs will take it. All the way to October.
For the fifth time in nine games, the Cubs were held to two runs or fewer, losing 3-2 on Tuesday night to the Phillies and second-year starter Jerad Eickhoff.
They still managed to win two of those five low-scoring games, and threatened to come back in this one before Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez took over a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, escaped with only one scoring (thanks to a Jason Heyward inning-ending double play) and then earned a six-out save.
“It’s going to happen. It’s baseball,” Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said of the low-wattage scoring night for an often high-octane lineup. “We put a lot of guys on, and they were battling the whole way. That’s all you can ask.”
The Cubs still rank second in the National League with 305 runs, averaging more than five runs a game. And they’ve won 11 of their past 14 games.
Hendricks, who struck out six in five innings, “could have pitched seven, eight or nine tonight,” said Maddon, who lifted him for pinch-hitter Albert Almora in the sixth, anticipating a low-scoring game. “He was throwing great.”
But Eickhoff was dazzling on this night, striking out eight and allowing just two hits and one fifth-inning run that scored on a double play in a start that belied his 2-8 record and nearly 4.00 ERA entering the game.
“You look at his numbers and you wonder how,” Maddon said. “I know he’s young. But with good health he’s going to be very good.”
Almora, in his big-league debut, grounded out to third on the second pitch he saw in that pinch at-bat.
“It was a special moment,” he said, adding, “I was ready to go. Once I stepped in that box, it’s a baseball game, no matter where I’m at. First pitch was up and in, and I was ready to hit the next one. I was off a little bit on my timing, and hit it hard but right at the guy. Tomorrow’s a new day, and I’m happy.”
Said Maddon: “He was very calm. He was ready to go. He wasn’t overwhelmed by anything. It was only one at-bat but I liked it.”
Struggling Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, who just three days earlier was targeted by a bottle-throwing Phillies fan, walked and homered off Hendricks.
His ninth homer of the season, a solo shot in the fourth, was the 366th of his career, tying Lance Berkman for 80th on the majors’ all-time list.