Phillies manager Rob Thomson hints at lineup change after another loss to Cubs

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Thomson hints at lineup change after Phillies' offense comes up small again originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies have come back from the All-Star break but their offense has not.

The team has lost two straight games to a Chicago Cubs team that is 20 games under .500 and poised to sell off talent at the trade deadline.

The Phils wasted a strong start from Zack Wheeler and some clutch bullpen work in the late innings and lost, 6-2, to the Cubs in 10 innings Saturday night. The loss came 24 hours after the Cubbies laid a 15-2 hurtin' on the Phillies in Friday night's series opener.

In 19 innings of baseball since returning from the break, the Phillies have generated just four runs.

They have one hit in 16 opportunities with a runner in scoring position.

Might it be time for Rob Thomson to juggle his lineup?

"We're going to talk about it," Thomson said after the game. "We've got some ideas. We'll look at it.

"We've got to get the bats going, for sure. We've had a little bit of a missed opportunity the first couple games here."

Saturday night's loss, in front of a big crowd of 38,542, left the Phillies at 49-45 and dropped them a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for control of the third and final NL wild-card spot.

Wheeler and Marcus Stroman hooked up in a tight pitchers' duel.

Wheeler pitched seven walk-free innings, allowed just three hits and struck out six. The only run he allowed came in the second inning when Nico Hoerner smacked a 1-1 slider into the left field seats. Wheeler tried to front-door the pitch but it caught too much plate.

Other than that, Wheeler was fantastic, especially in the sixth when he pitched over a one-out double. He struck out dangerous Willson Contreras looking at a heater to get out of the frame.

Stroman kept the Phillies off the board for the first six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, he gave up a first-pitch, leadoff double to Darick Hall and a one-out, game-tying single to J.T. Realmuto.

After the hit by Realmuto, Stroman was lifted for lefty Steven Brault as Bryson Stott came to the plate. Stott walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. The Phillies, however, failed to capitalize on the golden opportunity as Brault struck out Didi Gregorius then got Alec Bohm to hit into a first-pitch, 5-3 double play.

An inning later, in the bottom of the eighth, the Phils left the potential go-ahead run on third base when Nick Castellanos struck out. The struggling right fielder heard loud boos after the strikeout.

Castellanos went hitless in four at-bats. He is hitting .245 with a .656 OPS. One has to wonder how much longer Thomson can remain patient with Castellanos in the No. 3 hole.

"I've hit lows in my career," Castellanos said after the game. "I go home and get ready to play baseball tomorrow."

Castellanos is in the first year of a five-year, $100-million contract. That kind of deal comes with expectations. Castellanos was asked if there was pressure playing in Philadelphia.

"It's just different," he said. "It's very similar to my first year in Cincinnati. You go to a new organization, with new faces, new philosophy, new city, new energy. It's nothing I can't adapt to."

Would coming out of the three-hole take some pressure off him and maybe speed that adaptation?

"That's a question for Rob," Castellanos said. "I'll hit wherever. I like hitting three. I'm not somebody who thinks that where I hit in the lineup has anything to do with how I perform."

The Phils got some excellent bullpen work from Connor Brogdon and Seranthony Dominguez in getting the game to extra innings.

Things fell apart for the Phils in the top of the 10th and the Cubs pushed across five runs.

Hoerner started the inning on second base, stole third with one out and scored the go-ahead run on a high chopper to third baseman Bohm. The Cubs continued to pour it on with a pair of hits against Jose Alvarado. Bohm also committed a costly fielding error.

The Phils will look to salvage a game in the series with Bailey Falter on the mound Sunday afternoon.

Who knows, Thomson might have a new-look lineup.

"We haven't swung the bats, plain and simple," Rhys Hoskins said. "We haven't gotten a lot going at the top of the lineup, just getting guys on base like we have been. We've got to get guys on base if we want to score runs in bunches.

"Obviously, it hasn't gone the way we'd hoped out of the gate but it's two games. We're not going to panic. We've got a chance to salvage a series going into the Braves (series Monday night.)"

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