Cubs open second half with 15-2 win against Phillies

Reminders of the approaching trade deadline didn’t seem to weigh on the Cubs on Friday at Citizens Bank Park.

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Chicago Cubs Christopher Morel, left, and Rafael Ortega celebrate after Morel’s RBI double and a throwing error by Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday.

Chicago Cubs Christopher Morel, left, and Rafael Ortega celebrate after Morel’s RBI double and a throwing error by Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday.

AP Photos

PHILADELPHIA — The Cubs didn’t come out of the All-Star break Friday like a group whose days together are numbered. A game of hacky sack broke out between pitchers in the clubhouse. Teammates exchanged tales of their time off. And then they beat the Phillies 15-2.

The reality is, the trade deadline Aug. 2 threatens to shake up the roster after a 35-57 first half. But the way manager David Ross sees it, talking about possible trades before they happen doesn’t do much good.

“There’s all kinds of rumors and speculation, but nobody really knows,” Ross said. “To go down that path, I think it’s unhealthy. If they have questions, they come to my office, obviously, I address them the best I can. But I learned last year, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to start talking through those -scenarios.”

The Cubs’ opponent held reminders of the old regime. Kyle Schwarber, who had spent his career with the Cubs before they non-tendered him in December 2020, hit a solo homer to score the first run of the game. Nick Castellanos, who became a fan favorite in his half-season with the Cubs in 2019, roamed right field.

It has been a couple years since the trade deadline meant a midseason boost from additions such as Castellanos for the Cubs. And Schwarber’s departure was a precursor to the next season’s massive selloff.

Ross, taking his own advice, said he realized last year that he doesn’t even want many updates from president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer as they work through trade scenarios.

“My main goal is to try to win baseball games,” Ross said. “I don’t want anything to impact that. I don’t want anything to affect my personality, some knowledge I might have.”

None of the reminders of the approaching deadline seemed to weigh on the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. Many of them hadn’t even played with Schwarber or Castellanos — that’s how much turnover the team has experienced.

After Schwarber put the Phillies ahead on the first pitch, Cubs starting pitcher Justin Steele worked out of a third-inning jam to keep his team’s deficit at one.

“It just teaches you that you can do it,” said Steele, who held the Phillies to one run through five innings despite not having his best stuff. “It gives me confidence moving forward.”

Catcher Willson Contreras, who has been a model compartmentalizer as speculation about his future with the Cubs has swirled all year, responded by tying the game in the fourth with a homer of his own.

The Cubs seized control with a fifth-inning rally. Alfonso Rivas drew a leadoff walk, and Christopher Morel sent him racing home with a double into left field.

Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins cut off the throw home in an attempt to catch Morel off second base. But his errant throw flew just out of Matt Vierling’s reach and into center field. Morel scored.

The Cubs then strung together a walk from Contreras, singles from Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ and doubles from Nico Hoerner and Patrick Wisdom to take a 7-1 lead.

Nelson Velazquez, with the first multi-homer game of his career; Happ, with another RBI single; and Suzuki, with a home run; put the finishing touches on the Cubs’ offensive effort in late innings.

“I feel like we were like a team, and that helped us a lot,” Velazquez said. “When we play like a team, we can do a lot of damage.”

Velazquez became the second Cub (Thad Bosley, 1985) since at least 1901 to homer twice off the bench. Happ and Suzuki led the team with four hits each, Happ tying a career high and Suzuki setting a personal best.

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