Phillies finding ways to win while Cubs continue to struggle

The Philadelphia Phillies own the best record in baseball but will certainly face challenges over the next few weeks.

The Phillies continue to be down three everyday starters as they open a three-game series against the host Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

Philadelphia is 26 games above .500 and will look to maintain that pace despite first baseman Bryce Harper, designated hitter Kyle Schwarber and catcher J.T. Realmuto all sidelined.

Harper (left hamstring strain) and Schwarber (left groin strain) went on the 10-day injured list Friday, while Realmuto underwent right knee surgery on June 12.

Harper and Schwarber may be able to return prior to the All-Star break, while Realmuto is pointing toward being back by late July.

The Phillies heard the chatter about how the offense was going to experience a downturn without the trio. Then they found themselves trailing by four runs against the visiting Miami Marlins on Sunday before roaring back to post a 7-6 victory.

Trea Turner’s two-run single — his third hit of the day — drove in the decisive runs in the seventh inning.

“I felt really good in that last at-bat,” Turner said. “I finally got a pitch in the middle of the zone — and I talked about it yesterday, not missing those pitches — and that was the difference.”

Nick Castellanos also stood out by going 4-for-5 with three RBIs.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson termed it a big win and said “the clubhouse needed” the victory.

That was a product of Philadelphia being short-handed and without some of their key thumpers.

“Just because there’s all the talk, right?” Thomson said. “‘The three guys are out, how are you going to score runs?’ All that stuff. But we’re going to score runs. These guys are capable.”

Meanwhile, the Cubs have dropped six of their past eight games and find themselves in last place in the National League Central.

Chicago dropped a 7-1 decision to host Milwaukee on Sunday to fall 11 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers.

“Frustrating place to be for the group,” outfielder Ian Happ said. “We’re obviously not close to where we want to be, just over the halfway point. There’s a lot of baseball left. We have to find a way to string a couple series together here.”

The Brewers exploded for a seven-run fourth inning for all the runs they would need against a Chicago offense that finished with two hits and just one at-bat with runners in scoring position.

“It’s one run,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said of his offensive attack. “It’s hard to see a scenario where that’s going to win us a game. Offensively, no matter who we’re facing, we’re going to have to be better. That’s kind of what I take away from it.”

Chicago right-hander Hayden Wesneski (2-4, 3.60 ERA) will take the ball for the opener. It will be his fifth start of the season and his 22nd appearance.

Wesneski has served up eight homers in just 45 innings.

Wesneski, 26, received a no-decision against the San Francisco Giants in his last turn on Wednesday when he gave up three runs and two hits over four innings. Both hits were homers. He struck out seven and walked one.

He is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Phillies. Castellanos is 2-for-4 against Wesneski.

Right-hander Michael Mercado (0-0, 0.00) is slated to start for Philadelphia.

He made his major league debut against the Detroit Tigers on June 24 and worked one perfect inning of relief.

Mercado, 25, was 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts) at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being recalled.

–Field Level Media