Just what the doctor ordered for Phillies in Saturday's laugher over Cubs


After a week of lousy starts and impotent offense, the Phillies put together exactly the sort of afternoon they needed, jumping out to a huge early lead and shutting the Cubs down in a 12-3 win.

Aaron Nola retired the side 1-2-3 in the first inning with a 93-94 mph fastball, one of his best of the season, then watched as his teammates scored six times off of Jameson Taillon in the bottom half. It was never a game after that.

The big blow was Kyle Schwarber's no-doubt, 435-foot grand slam to right field after J.T. Realmuto popped out to short with the bases loaded and nobody out.

"It's huge, it gives everybody some energy," manager Rob Thomson said. "He had some great at-bats today, a couple of walks, big grand slam in the first. We just kept adding on. I thought we had great at-bats all day long. It was really a good team win in every phase."

Alec Bohm followed Schwarber by reaching first on an error and scored on Kody Clemens' two-run shot two batters later. Clemens has been making the most of his playing time lately, hitting .333 over his last nine starts with four home runs and eight RBI.

The Phils chased Taillon in the third inning with two walks and a single, tacking on two more runs on an Edmundo Sosa RBI infield hit and Bryson Stott sacrifice fly.

They did so in front of a sellout crowd of 42,508. The Phillies have drawn huge crowds early this season, ranking second in the majors in average attendance at home behind only the Dodgers. The Phils have drawn 13,001 more fans per game this season than last season, more than double the next-largest year-over-year gain for any team (Blue Jays at 6,294).

"It's great to play here," Thomson said. "Even when they're booing, it's great to play here, the fan support. They let you know when you're playing poorly and they let you know when you're playing well, and that's OK."

Nola is rounding into form. The Phillies are 5-2 in his last seven starts, a span during which he's averaged just under seven innings. He struck out 10 on Saturday, five looking, and finished hitters off with four different pitches: his four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball and cutter.

He's completed at least six innings eight times, tied for third-most in the majors behind only San Francisco's Logan Webb and Minnesota's Joe Ryan. The Phils particularly needed that length Saturday after their starting pitchers Monday, Wednesday and Friday combined to record 10 outs.

"That was vintage there," Thomson said. "Velo was good, commanded the baseball, first-pitch strikes, swings and misses, all his pitches were good, he got ahead and just attacked. 

"He's saved us a couple of times. We had an almost full bullpen today, but that really makes us stronger tomorrow."

The win snapped a five-game skid for the Phillies, who are 21-24 and have not alternated a win with a loss in three weeks. It's been all winning streaks or losing streaks dating back to April 29-30 in Houston.

Thomson used a different lineup as Trea Turner sat for the first time this season. Turner fought the decision a bit, Thomson said, but he accepted it and spent the early part of the day working with hitting coach Kevin Long. Turner has just a .592 OPS over his last 25 games. He will be back in the lineup Sunday.

Bryce Harper reached base in each of his first four plate appearances with an RBI double, a single and two walks. Sosa had three hits. Six different Phillies drove in a run, six reached base multiple times and eight scored at least once.

"I mean, heck, there are going to be stretches during the course of this year when we're going to have multiple games like today," Schwarber said, "and I'm sure there's going to be times throughout this year where we might not put up any runs or as many as we'd want to. We hope not, but it's just baseball.

"We want to keep our foot on the petal and give our pitchers as much room as they need."

Taillon and Taijuan Walker signed similar four-year contracts over the offseason -- Taillon's was for $68 million while Walker's was worth $72 million. As bad as Walker has been, Taillon has been even worse with an 8.10 ERA and a .313 opponents' batting average. 

Walker, who will pitch Sunday at 1:35 p.m. on three days' rest, looks to find a rhythm in the series finale. The Cubs will start left-hander Justin Steele, who is 6-1 with a 2.44 ERA.

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