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Phillies win 9th straight on the road

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CHICAGO — J.T. Realmuto tried to make an impossible play Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

Cubs third baseman Nick Madrigal chopped a ball up the first-base line with one out in the ninth inning in the Phillies’ 3-1 victory. Realmuto and Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel pursued, but Realmuto got there first. He barehanded the ball, only to realize he was too close to the bag to throw overhand. He underhanded it to Phillies first baseman Kody Clemens.

Realmuto fell forward. His helmet fell off his head.

“It kind of reminded me of Chooch in the no-hitter in the postseason, right?” Bryce Harper said, referring to Carlos Ruiz’s play for the final out in Roy Halladay’s masterpiece in Game 1 of the 2010 National League Division Series. “Right when he hit it and he made the throw, I said, ‘Oh, that looked like Chooch.’ Bigger moment, right? But it just goes to show how athletic J.T. is.”

Bigger moment in the postseason, sure. But teams need to make big plays like Realmuto’s throughout a 162-game season for a chance at those bigger postseason moments. In this case, his play prevented the tying run from coming to the plate. Kimbrel struck out Mike Tauchman to end the game.

The Phillies are 18-5 since June 3. They have won nine consecutive games on the road. It is their longest winning streak on the road since May 11-20, 1984.

“We’re just trying to play good baseball,” Harper said. “Whatever happens in each series, just try to go to the next one. Each game, just try to go to the next one. We’ve got so many great players on this team, so many superstar players. If one guy isn’t performing, the other guy will be.”

The Phillies rotation has led the way this month, posting a 2.21 ERA in the past 23 games. Taijuan Walker allowed one run in six innings on Thursday. He did not have his best stuff, but he worked out of a few jams.

Walker has a 1.69 ERA in his last eight starts. He has a 0.84 ERA in his last five.

“I want to pick up my teammates,” he said. “They’ve picked me up.”

Kyle Schwarber started the game by ripping a first-pitch fastball from Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks for a line-drive home run to right field. It was Schwarber’s fifth leadoff homer this month. It was his 21st homer of the season.

Historically, Schwarber puts up good numbers in June. He is batting .230 with eight homers, 16 RBIs and an .872 OPS this month. The Phillies need him to keep going, but they need others to get going. Harper has not homered since May 25, extending a career-long homerless streak to 127 plate appearances. But Harper still hit a 1-1 changeup up the middle for a two-out single in the third that scored two runs to give the Phillies the lead.

It seems like it has been a frustrating month for Harper, but he said it hasn’t been.

“It might look like that, but I think more for me is just being on the field, being able to be out there,” he said. “Good or bad, I’m still not supposed to be back yet. I’m thankful for the many opportunities. We’re playing great baseball right now and anytime I can help this club win … We’re a really good team. I’m really happy with the way we’re playing right now.”

But the Phillies do not feel like they are playing their best yet. They are not firing on all cylinders.

“We’re just finding ways to win,” Realmuto said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re not swinging the bats as well as we can. We talk about it. We all know our expectations. We all have high expectations for ourselves. 

“Say me and Schwarber are scuffling. We’ll say sometimes in the dugout, ‘Wait until we get going.’ As long as our pitching is doing as well as it is, if they keep that up, once our offense gets going a little bit, hopefully we’ll separate a little more and not have to play such tight games.”

In the meantime, they need to keep making big plays, like the one Realmuto made in the ninth. Statcast said Realmuto traveled 67 feet to field the ball. Madrigal got from home to first in 4.4 seconds, traveling at 29.8 feet per second.

Elite sprint speed is 30 feet per second.

“Not too many times you say ‘wow’ in the middle of a play,” Kimbrel said.

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