Phillies go for sweep against road-weary Cubs

The Philadelphia Phillies will be looking for a three-game series sweep against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Thursday.

The Phillies fired hitting coach John Mallee before this series and replaced him with former World Series-winning manager Charlie Manuel.

On Wednesday, the Phillies ripped 13 hits, and all nine starters had at least one hit. Bryce Harper homered twice, and J.T. Realmuto smacked a grand slam, the fourth of his career.

"We definitely feel like we're going to have to carry the load," Realmuto told reporters. "Our pitching staff is going to get the job done. They're going to do well. We feel like as an offense that we can do better."

The Phillies registered their 10th game this season with at least 10 runs scored. But there have been far too many where runs have also been scarce.

Despite the inconsistent attack, manager Gabe Kapler believes that this offense is capable of pushing the team into the postseason.

"The strength of our team right now is our offense," Kapler said. "It hasn't been where it's needed to be thus far this season. But we certainly have the talent and guys with the track record as well as a bench that's deeper now than it has been."

The Phillies have won consecutive games for the first time since July 28 and 30.

They'll hand the ball to Drew Smyly, who is 2-6 with a 6.96 earned run average overall this season -- 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA in four starts with the Phillies. Last Friday on the road against the San Francisco Giants, Smyly struggled and gave up seven hits and six runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings in a 9-6 loss.

Smyly has never faced the Cubs in his six-year career.

The Cubs' offense scuffled on Wednesday as they managed only four hits and one run. The lone run came on Kris Bryant's 24th homer of the season.

Chicago is certainly able to put together a winning streak with the talent up and down its roster, both offensively and with its pitching staff.

"When your team has gone to the playoffs four years in a row, it's hard to accuse them of a lack of hunger," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "What I have seen this year is teams have caught up. That's what I've talked about. It's not the same sashay that we've had maybe a couple years ago to get there. It's tougher. Other teams have gotten better.

"And we've got a pretty big target working on us now."

The Cubs will send Yu Darvish to the mound to salvage a game in this series. Darvish, who's 4-6 with a 4.43 ERA, allowed four runs in six innings last Friday against the Cincinnati Reds in a 5-2 loss. Darvish gave up three home runs, though he did strike out nine without a walk.

In Darvish's last seven starts totaling 41 2/3 innings, he has recorded 53 strikeouts.

"He's good," Maddon said. "He's got World Series experience. He's got really good stuff."

Outfielder Jason Heyward was scratched before Wednesday's game with left knee soreness and his availability is unclear for Thursday. Second baseman Tony Kemp replaced Heyward as the Cubs' leadoff hitter.

--Field Level Media
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