PHILADELPHIA – To call the Phillies playoff contenders seems a bit silly at this point.
The Phillies lost for the sixth time in seven games Tuesday night when the Chicago Cubs beat them 6-3 before 16,170 fans at Citizens Bank Park.
Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson’s effort Tuesday epitomized the Phillies season so far. It was impressive at times but in the end, it didn’t amount to much. Gibson was perfect through the first four innings, but then allowed two home runs and four runs in the fifth.
The math says the Phillies postseason hopes are still viable. Philadelphia (72-72) trails the first-place Atlanta Braves by 4.5 games in the National League East.
But right now, the Phillies look about as far from a playoff team as can be.
"It's frustrating," manager Joe Girardi said. "We're working every day. We still have an opportunity here. We just need to play better."
Gibson dominated a Cubs lineup that featured few familiar names through the first four innings. He struck out seven, including four in a row at one point.
It all changed in the fifth, which began with Philadelphia up 1-0. Willson Contreras led off with a single. Patrick Wisdom followed with a 447-foot, two-run home run to give Chicago a lead it never relinquished. Alfonso Rivas then lined his first big league home run into the right field stands.
Gibson said he threw the right pitch at the wrong time that inning.
"It seemed like either I was a step behind," he said, "or I didn't execute the right pitch."
Gibson came to the Phillies in a July trade with the Texas Rangers. The hope is that he can be a part of the rotation next season.
But he and the rest of the Phillies are limping toward the season’s finish line. In three September starts, he has 9.00 ERA. Gibson has allowed 15 earned runs, 20 hits and six walks in 15 innings pitched.
Meanwhile, the Phillies mustered little offense against a bunch of no-name Chicago pitchers.
Odubel Herrera led off the bottom of the first with a home run. Bryce Harper hit an RBI double and scored a run in the sixth. But that was it for the Phillies offense.
Cubs reliever Rowan Wick provided a fitting ending when he struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
The Phillies wasted an opportunity Tuesday night. The Braves lost. so did the wild-card contending Cincinnati Reds.
The Phillies hope to be in striking distance when they play three games in Atlanta against the Braves during the season's final week.
But the days are ticking off the calendar.
"Reality (of the season coming to an end), hopefully, at some point doesn't set in," Gibson said. "I think we're trying to keep ourselves in a position where we can go on a streak."
The Phillies better start that streak soon or it could not only be 10 years without a playoff berth but also a decade without a winning record.