Bryce Harper finishes off epic Cubs collapse with walk-off grand slam

Tim Stebbins

Of their 38 road losses this season, none may hurt more for the Cubs than Thursday's in Philadelphia.

Where does one even begin? Yu Darvish continued his torrid stretch post-All-Star break, Anthony Rizzo hit his first home run since July 27 and Kyle Schwarber hit his 100th career home run. And yet, what will stand out most is the Cubs bullpen collapsing in epic fashion in the ninth inning.

The Cubs entered Thursday's final frame with a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead. Rowan Wick – who was riding a streak of 22-straight scoreless appearances (between the majors and minors) – retired Jean Segura for a quick first out. At this point, the Cubs held a 99.6 percent win probability, according to ESPN.

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Then, all hell broke loose.

Following Segura's flyout, the Cubs allowed five-straight Phillies batters to reach base. While Philadelphia deserves credit, the inning was less of a rally and more of a meltdown by the Cubs.

David Bote booted a groundball on a short hop for an error, opening the door. Wick then allowed two groundball singles, one of which deflected off the glove of a diving Ian Happ. Embattled reliever Pedro Strop entered, only to allow an RBI single and then hit slugger Rhys Hoskins (on a 1-2 pitch, nonetheless) to load the bases.

Bryce Harper delivered the final blow, absolutely crushing a walk-off grand slam one batter later to give the Phillies a 7-5 lead. At its apex, Harper's slam reached 158 feet in the air, making it an absolute no-doubter to complete the Phillies' sweep of the Cubs.


Truly, the ninth inning was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances for the Cubs. Bote is a solid defender at second and third base, but he's not a natural shortstop. With Javier Báez getting scratched pregame due to an illness and Addison Russell being in Triple-A, the Cubs' hands were tied.

Bote was their best bet at shortstop, and his error occurred at a terrible time. If he made a miscue earlier in the game, it would've been magnified much less. Instead, it started a decisive rally for the opposition. And while Wick's final line doesn't look great (three hits, three runs/two earned runs in one inning), the Phillies weren't teeing off on him.

Ultimately, the injuries that have hit the Cubs bullpen over the last few weeks were felt more than anything else. Depending on availability, Cubs manager Joe Maddon likely would've pieced together the game's final two innings with some combination of Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, Kyle Ryan, Wick and Craig Kimbrel.

With Kintzler, Cishek and Kimbrel each on the 10-day injured list, Maddon had no choice but to trust Ryan and Wick to get the job done. Ryan wasn't great, allowing a double, walk and a run while only recording a single out. Thursday's outing was the second-straight in which he allowed an earned run, something he hadn't done in three months.

Many might wonder why Maddon didn't leave Darvish in the game, as the 33-year-old threw seven stellar innings, allowing no runs on four hits and no walks, striking out 10 batters. The answer, though, is simple:

So, Maddon was left with Tyler Chatwood, Derek Holland, David Phelps, Duane Underwood Jr., James Norwood and Strop in his bullpen. Chatwood hasn't pitched since Aug. 8, and considering Strop's struggles, perhaps the former would've been a better option.

Then again, the bullpen decisions wouldn't have been analyzed at a micro level if everything went in the Cubs' favor. Ryan and Wick have been pitching well; Thursday just wasn't their night.

The Cubs can take solace in the fact that the Cardinals lost to the Reds on Thursday. The two are officially tied for first place in the NL Central, but St. Louis has two games in hand. Essentially, the Cubs missed a chance to pull two games ahead of the Cardinals in the win column.

With that being said, it's obvious where Thursday's loss stands amongst the rest this season.

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Bryce Harper finishes off epic Cubs collapse with walk-off grand slam originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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