Trea does it again; Phillies down Cubs 6-4

Philadelphia Phillies’ Trea Turner, right, scores on the pass ball as San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jordan Hicks, left, tries to make the tag during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Let the birthday celebration continue! After being the Phillies’ hero on his birthday in Sunday’s series finale versus the Miami Marlins, Trea Turner stepped up in a big way in the series opener in Chicago against the Cubs. Starting pitcher Michael Mercado recorded his first major league start and his first major league victory, his battery mate added a few tallies to the runs column, and Nick Castellanos embraced the ivy. Let’s see how we got there.

Rookie makes his mark

Mercado had his major league debut just last week – a one-inning relief appearance in Detroit. He looked solid, striking out one, but the real test came Tuesday night inside the friendly confines. If it truly was a test, then the rookie passed with flying colors. The Phillies No. 30 ranked prospect showed a poise not common for a young man getting his first chance to start a game for his new club. A poise to battle through some first inning adversity and settle in for a five-inning, two-hit performance.

After securing the first out of the game, Mercado walked Michael Busch. Two batters later, Seiya Suzuki would single to put a man in scoring position. After falling behind 2-0 to Ian Happ, things looked like they might get away from the six-foot-four rookie. Mercado was able to settle himself, saying post-game he just wanted to “throw it in the zone and see what happens.” Well, what happened was he battled back to strike out Happ and get out of the early jam.

From there, it was basically smooth sailing for the next four frames. In the third, he surrendered a walk and the Cubs second hit of the night – a RBI-double off the bat of Cody Bellinger. Belli represented the last baserunner for Chicago until the ninth inning.

The next sixteen Cub hitters that strolled to the plate after that, all made outs. “I think after that first inning, I was able to settle in a little easier,” Mercado said. “But that’s normal with any start no matter if it’s here, Triple-A or any time in my career.

He finished with 78 pitches, surrendering just the one run on two hits, two walks, and struck out four. He did enough to stick around in the rotation until Taijuan Walker is ready to go once again.

Trea Turner
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner catches a fly ball from Arizona Diamondbacks’ Lourdes Gurriel Jr. during the eighth inning in Game 7 of the baseball NL Championship Series in Philadelphia Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Birthday Week

Like every one I knew in college, Turner apparently likes to get a little more celebration out of his birthday. As if his heroics on the day itself weren’t enough, the Phillies shortstop brought some of that birthday juice with him to Wrigley Field. In the third, Turner deposited a ball in the left field seats for a solo shot to extend the Phillies lead to 3-0. In the fifth, he outdid himself – rocketing a two-run shot over the left field seats, providing a souvenir for a Chicagoan waiting in line for the Wrigley Roortops on Waveland Ave.

In fact, Trea may have dipped into his celebration a little early. Over the past week, the 31-year old is slashing .407/.429/.741 with five extra-base hits and six RBIs. Players stepped up in a big way when Turner went down with a hamstring issue earlier this season, and he seems to be returning the favor.

He finished yesterday’s contest going 3-for-5 with the two long balls and four runs pushed across.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos, left, and Bryson Stott, right, celebrate after scoring against the Detroit Tigers on a single by Brandon Marsh during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Other Phillies notes

Nick Castellanos made an impressive play in the first inning on a ball hit over his right shoulder – forcing him to travel in the exact opposite direction from where he is strongest as a defender. His time spent in Chicago probably prepared him a bit to deal with the ivy, but teammate Johan Rojas was there to help him out a bit.

Even though he’s not in the lineup currently – the leadership of Kyle Schwarber cannot be overstated. The former Cub made sure his rookie starting pitcher was front and center when it was time to shake hands with teammates after the final out was recorded (another impressive, off-balance catch from Castellanos). This team has a supportive culture, and to see it play out on camera just reinforces what you’ve always heard.

After losing seven straight against the Cubs, the Phillies are now on a six-game heater against the team from the North Side – including four straight victories in the hallowed halls of Wrigley Field. They will look to continue that streak tonight as two aces are set to do battle. Zack Wheeler (9-4, 2.73 ERA) toes the rubber opposite rookie phenom Shota Imanaga (7-2, 3.07 ERA). Game starts at 8:05 PM Eastern.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Szagola