After three comeback victories in their last four games, the Cubs will try to extend their winning streak to eight on Saturday as they host the Phillies, who have blown late leads in their last three games.
Chicago (85-50) has the best record in baseball and has outscored its opponents by 194 runs, but not everything has come easy for the North Siders this season. The Cubs have won a major league-high 39 of those games by coming from behind.
They had no need for comebacks in the first three victories of their current seven-game run, but they’ve used some late-inning rallies to win three of the last four. Chicago trailed Pittsburgh 8-7 in the eighth inning Tuesday before exploding for seven runs in a 14-9 victory, and although it didn’t qualify as a comeback, the Cubs scored the game’s only two runs in the seventh of Wednesday’s win over the Pirates.
The eighth inning was kind to the Cubs again on Thursday. They trailed the Phillies (73-62) by three heading into that frame in the series opener, then scored five times en route to a 6-4 win.
If that wasn’t enough, they pulled off another comeback on Friday. Chicago was losing 2-0 halfway through, but scored once in the fifth, once in the sixth and took the lead for good with Alfonso Soriano’s homer in the seventh, sealing a 3-2 victory.
The Cubs improved to a major league-best 51-19 at home.
“We’re playing good because we feel very confident at home and everybody is healthy,” said Soriano, batting .455 (10-for-22) in his last five games.
While Chicago has been busy winning in dramatic fashion lately, Philadelphia has been losing the same way. The Phillies’ bullpen blew a one-run lead in the eighth inning on Friday in a 6-3 loss to New York, allowing the Mets to leapfrog Philadelphia for first place in the NL East.
After losing the series opener courtesy of Aramis Ramirez’s grand slam in the eighth, the bullpen was saddled with its third straight loss on Friday. The Phillies’ relief corps had an NL-best 3.05 ERA before posting a 12.27 ERA in the past three games, allowing four home runs.
“They have been working quite a bit,” manager Charlie Manuel said of his relievers.
Philadelphia’s bullpen isn’t entirely to blame. The Phillies averaged 3.2 runs during the first three weeks of August, and after a five-game winning streak during which they scored 35, they’ve scored nine times in three games.
They’ll try to hit their way out of their latest slump against Ted Lilly (13-7, 4.23 ERA), but that won’t be easy.
Lilly has a 3.25 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break, and improved to 4-1 in that stretch with a strong effort in Pittsburgh on Monday. The left-hander lasted seven innings, allowing three runs and striking out seven in a 12-3 win, though he didn’t feel he had his best stuff.
“I felt OK,” Lilly told the team’s official Web site. “I felt like I got away with a few.”
Lilly gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 7-1 loss at Philadelphia on April 12.
He’ll be opposed by Brett Myers (7-10, 4.49), who has been a revelation since rejoining the Phillies’ rotation after a month in the minor leagues. Since his return on July 23, Myers is 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA.
He followed a shutout of Washington on Aug. 20 by tossing seven scoreless innings against Los Angeles on Monday, striking out eight in a 5-0 win.
“I’m pitching now,” Myers said. “You have to have that feeling of how to pitch.”
Myers is 6-2 with a 2.67 ERA in eight career starts against Chicago, though the Cubs’ Derrek Lee is hitting .480 (12-for-25) with three homers against him.