Cubs fall to Phils, lose ground in NL Central

Cubs fall to Phils, lose ground in NL Central

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard squashed the Cubs' bid for some momentum heading into their showdown against the Pirates by hitting a two-run homer and Aaron Altherr tripled and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh to spark the Phillies to a 7-4 victory Sunday and split the four-game series.

"I'm just thankful we're not in the same division against the Phillies," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team finished 2-5 against Philadelphia.

The Cubs fell four games behind the Pirates in the National League Central Division and the Wild Card standings. Chicago and Pittsburgh meet Tuesday at PNC Park for the start of a four-game series. The Cubs also trail the Cardinals by 6 1/2 games for first place in the Central.

"It's nice to beat a team like the Cubs," said Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, whose team has the worst record in baseball. "We beat them five out of seven."

Mackanin on win over Cubs

Howard connected in the third off Dan Haren to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead, but the Cubs chipped away, closing to 4-3 on Chris Coghlan's solo homer in the fifth before taking advantage of two errors in the seventh to tie it at 4. Addison Russell reached on an error by shortstop Freddy Galvis to start the seventh, and three batters later, scored on a fielding error by second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who bobbled Anthony Rizzo's grounder, then collided with him at first base. Hernandez had to leave the game with a dislocated left thumb.

Altherr tripled with one out in the seventh, and then scored on a wild pitch by Clayton Richard for the game-winner. Galvis added a two-run double in the eighth.

Galvis' two-run double

The Cubs now are 31-14 in their last 45 games since the Phillies completed a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field on July 27. The 31 wins are the best in the National League in that span.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Howard goes deep: Howard has not had the season the Phillies wanted, but he had a nice day Sunday. He had a game-tying sacrifice fly in the first inning and two-run home run to right field in the third to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead. It was Howard's first home run since Aug. 25. More >

Howard's sac fly

Hit machine: Coghlan had quite a day. He tripled to left in the first, hitting a ball off the top of the padded outfield wall, then tripled to right in the third. Coghlan cleared the right-field wall with one out in the fifth for his 16th home run. He added a single in the ninth. Coghlan is the first Cubs player with two triples and a home run in a game since Roy Smalley did so on June 20, 1950. The Cubs are 24-7 when Coghlan is batting third.

"I've never seen him hit the ball that hard before, five consecutive at-bats," Maddon said of Coghlan. More >

Coghlan's triple

Altherr shows power, speed: The Phillies are still trying to get a read on rookie outfielder Altherr, but he has shown flashes in 23 games. He tripled in the seventh inning against Richard then scored on a wild pitch to give the Phillies a 5-4 lead. Altherr went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and walk. He has 12 extra-base hits in 87 plate appearances.

Altherr's triple

"I know I've had quite a few, but I don't really try to focus on trying to get extra-base hits," Altherr said. "I just try to put the barrel on the ball, and wherever it goes is where it goes."

Altherr scores on wild pitch

Kid stuff: Kris Bryant hit an RBI single in the first for his 92nd RBI, which leads the Cubs and all Major League rookies. Bryant has sole possession of the Cubs' rookie RBI mark; the old mark was 86, shared by Billy Williams (1961) and Geovany Soto (2008) and is one home run away from tying Williams' rookie record of 25 home runs in 1961.

Bryant's RBI single

QUOTABLE
"In certain situations I've told him that I will pinch-hit for him. I reconsidered my position." -- Mackanin, on pinch-hitting for Howard against lefties. Mackanin said recently he would not pinch-hit for Howard, who has a .418 OPS against lefties this season.

"The goal is to win as many games as we can down the stretch. We have 10 games against [Pittsburgh and St. Louis]. That's enough games to make up ground. Do we have it in us? Yeah, we do. Are we going to? Only time will tell. I think if we have that mindset, it's possible to win the division, 100 percent. At the very least, you want to move up one, and when you get past the Pirates, you want to move up past the Cardinals. We've got to beat these other teams that we have to play at the end of the year, too." -- Coghlan on the tight race.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Phillies closer Ken Giles picked up his 13th save with a scoreless ninth, extending his season-high scoreless streak to 13 innings. Giles is 13-for-13 in save opportunities since he replaced Jonathan Papelbon as closer.

Giles earns the save

REPLAY REVIEW
With two outs in the third, Coghlan hit his second triple off the right-field wall. At least, it was initially ruled a triple, but the umpires reviewed the play to determine whether there was fan interference. After a lengthy review, the call stood.

Coghlan's second triple

WHAT'S NEXT
Cubs: After an off-day Monday, the Cubs will open a four games in three days series against the Pirates on Tuesday. Jason Hammel and Jon Lester will start in Tuesday's day-night doubleheader at PNC Park. Hammel is coming off a win over the Cardinals in which he gave up three runs over six innings. He's 1-1 in two starts against the Pirates this season. Lester is 1-1 in his last five starts, and did not get a decision in his last outing against the Cardinals despite giving up one run over seven innings. Chicago is 7-5 vs. Pittsburgh so far. The first game will start at 12:35 p.m. CT and the second game is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.

Phillies: The Phillies open a three-game series Monday night at Citizens Bank Park against former closer Jonathan Papelbon and the Nationals. Right-hander Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.56 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 3.32 ERA) on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.