By MATT CARLSON | Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Struggling to end an 11-year playoff drought, the slumping Phillies lost their fifth straight game Thursday as the Chicago Cubs swept the season series from Philadelphia with a 2-0 victory.
Philadelphia remained a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for the final National League wild card when the Brewers lost 4-2 at home to Miami in the opener of a four-game series.
Seeking their first postseason berth since 2011, the Phillies have dropped the first three games of a season-ending 10-game trip and 10 of 13 overall since peaking at a season-best 80-62. Philadelphia has scored three runs or fewer in nine of those 13 games.
“We've got to swing the bats a little bit better than we did, especially with runners in scoring position," interim manager Rob Thomson said. “But yeah, we've got to turn around here pretty quick. We're getting good pitching. We've just got to string some hits together and we'll be fine.”
The Phillies were 22-29 on June 3 when Thomson replaced Joe Girardi as manager.
Philadelphia holds the tiebreaker against Milwaukee, winning the season series 4-2. The Phillies go to major league-worst Washington for four games, then close with three at AL-best Houston. The Brewers finish with three games at home against Arizona.
Bryce Harper had three of six hits for the Phillies, who are 1 for their last 21 with runners in scoring position. J.T. Realmuto went 0 for 4 and struck out twice in his 1,000th game.
Philadelphia had not been swept in a season series of five or more games since Milwaukee went 7-0 in 2015.
“We're still in it," said Harper, the reigning NL MVP. “We have seven games left. We've got a road ahead of us, but we've got to keep playing, got to keep going, not having a mindset about losing and thinking about that.”
Harper said the team assembled by President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was postseason caliber.
“We’ve got a great team here,” Harper said. ”We've got a lot of great players. Dombrowksi put this team together to win games and get into the playoffs. You know, we need to do that.”
Cubs rookie Javier Assad (2-2) allowed five hits in five innings as he rebounded from pair of rough outings when he allowed eight runs in six innings. Keegan Thompson gave up one hit over three innings for his second big league save and first this year.
Patrick Wisdom doubled twice and drove in a run and Seiya Suzuki was 2 for 3 as the Cubs completed a three-game sweep in which they limited the Phillies to three runs. Chicago has won eight of nine overall and swept the first-place Mets in New York two weeks ago.
“It's fun to play well. It's fun to win,” said Ian Happ, who drove in Chicago's second run. “But those are the little things that motivate you as you kind of come down the stretch and being able to compete against good teams that are in playoff position.”
Ranger Suárez (10-6) gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings. He had been 4-0 in 12 starts since a June 29 loss to Atlanta.
Three of Chicago's first four batters reached. Wisdom’s first double drove in a run in what would have been a bigger rally had Willson Contreras not been out at home on Happ’s chopper to Suárez.
Suzuki tripled with two outs in the fifth when center fielder Brandon Marsh lost his deep fly in the sun and the ball dropped in front of him, inches from his glove. Suzuki scored on Happ’s single.
Happ made a nifty sliding catch of Marsh's fly at the left side wall for the first out of the ninth.
Suzuki played his first game after returning from paternity leave in Japan.
After singling in the second, Jean Segura was tagged out by Assad to end the inning when he wandered off first after losing track of the count to batter Nick Maton. The count was 3-1, but Wrigley’s antique center-field scoreboard showed ball four. Segura pointed to the scoreboard, to no avail.
Phillies: OF Nick Castellanos was held out the starting lineup for a rest day, but pinch hit in the ninth and got an infield single. He returned Tuesday after missing three weeks with right oblique strain.
Phillies: LHP Bailey Falter (5-4, 4.21 ERA) and RHP Noah Syndergaard (9-10, 4.12) will start in a day-night doubleheader Friday. Both were sent to the team’s hotel in Washington in advance.
Cubs: Adrian Sampson (3-5, 3.23) faces Cincinnati’s Graham Ashcraft (5-4, 4-18) on Friday as Chicago opens its final home series.
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