AJ Burnett and the Phillies (3-3) could not climb out of an early hole, eventually losing to the Cubs (2-4) by a score of 8-3. Burnett struggled early. The offense couldn't hit with runners in scoring position. That along with defensive lapses by Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins proved to be the difference in today's loss.
The Game: The Cubs haven't done much of anything all season offensively until the game's first inning. AJ Burnett struggled to find the strike zone early and it led to the Cubs taking an early lead. Burnett started the game by walking Emilio Bonafacio. Ryan Kalish followed with a triple to center, scoring Bonafacio, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead. A walk to Anthony Rizzo put runners on first and third with none out. Former Phillie Nate Schierholtz got himself an RBI with a sac fly to score Kalish. 2-0 Chicago. Rizzo moved to second on the play as well. Burnett, still unable to throw strikes consistently, walked Luis Valbuena. Starlin Castro ripped a double to left, scoring Anthony Rizzo to make it 3-0. Ryan Sweeney added another run with a sac fly of his own, scoring Valbuena. 4-0 Cubs at the end of the first.
The Phillies loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but were unable to bring home a run. They did get on the board in the fifth though. Ben Revere led off with a single and stole second. Jimmy Rollins followed with a single, but Revere was held at third on a terrific throw by Cubs center fielder, Ryan Sweeney. Rollins swiped second then Chase Utley was up next and he hit a grounder off of the pitcher, Villanueva. Shortstop Starlin Castro threw to first quickly and Utley was ruled out on a very close play. Replay review was inconclusive, so Utley was out but Ben Revere scored on the play, making it 4-1. Still threatening with Rollins on second and one out, Ryan Howard hit the ball very hard but lined out right into the shift. Rollins was doubled off at second, ending the inning with the Phils only getting one run.
After getting out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth, AJ Burnett looked to be done for the day with Brad Lincoln warming in the pen. That wasn't the case though as Sandberg opted to go with AJ in the sixth. Starlin Castro grounded out but Ryan Sweeney reached third base on an error in center field by Ben Revere. Burnett hit John Baker with a pitch to put runners on first and third with one out. Mike Olt struck out swinging next, but Emilio Bonafacio hit an infield single that could have ended the inning but Jimmy Rollins bobbled the ball on the force at second. That play scored Sweeney to make it 5-1 Cubs. Ryne Sandberg came to talk to Burnett and decided to leave him in. It ended up being a costly decision as Ryan Kalish ripped a double in the gap in left center. It scored Baker and Bonafacio, making it a 7-1 game. That would be all for Burnett. Brad Lincoln entered the game for the first time this season and immediately gave up an RBI single to Mike Rizzo. 8-1 Cubs.
Burnett was finished after 5.2 innings. He gave up eight runs on five hits, but only four of the runs were earned. He also walked six Cubs batters.
The Phillies managed to get some runs in the ninth off of Cubs pitcher Jose Veras. Carlos Ruiz struck out to start the inning. Following the strikeout, Veras walked Cody Asche and Tony Gwynn Jr. A wild pitched advanced runners to second and third. Veras then walked Ben Revere to load the bases. Up next was Jimmy Rollins. He grounded into a force out at third, scoring Asche. 8-2 Cubs. That was it for Jose Veras. Pedro Strop came in and threw a wild pitch right away, allowing Ben Revere to score. 8-3 Cubs. Ryan Howard lined out to left to end the game.
Notable Offensive Statistics:
Ben Revere: 1-4, 2R, BB
Jimmy Rollins: 2-5, RBI
Domonic Brown: 2-4
Chase Utley: 1-3, RBI, BB
Impact: Burnett may have stayed in the game too long, but a costly error by Ben Revere and a bobble by Rollins on a force play is what eventually allowed the Cubs blow the game open. Defense wasn't really an issue for the Phillies at all so far, but their lapses today were big. The Phillies hit the ball hard on many occasions, but they were all right at the Cubs fielders. They did have plenty of opportunities to make things close on various occasions, but stranded men on base instead. They were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Brad Lincoln and Jeff Manship combined for 2.1 scoreless innings.
Up Next: The Phillies head home with a 3-3 record on their first road trip of the season. They will play their home opener at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday at 4:05PM against the Brewers. It was originally scheduled for Monday, but an impending weather threat caused the game to be postponed until Tuesday. Kyle Kendrick (0-0, 1.29 ERA) will take the mound for the Phils while the Brewers will go with Kyle Lohse (0-1, 3.86). That game will be aired on NBC 10 and The Comcast Network.
Brandon Apter is a Philliedelphia Managing Editor. Follow him on Twitter @ApterShock