Taillon's slump continues, Cubs pounded by Phillies

Another lost weekend for the Cubs?

They just spent an unpleasant couple of days in Minnesota, getting outscored 27-4 in a pair of weekend afternoon games.

It was more of the same Saturday in Philadelphia, with the Cubs getting pounded 12-3.

Starting pitcher Jameson Taillon gave up a grand slam to Kyle Schwarber in the first inning and it was pretty much all downhill from there.

The good news was - what else - another home run by Christopher Morel, who now has seven homers in 10 games with the Cubs, after going deep 11 times for Triple A Iowa. Morel also doubled ahead of Dansby Swanson's 2-run homer to account for all the Cubs' scoring.

But the Cubs obviously have an issue with Taillon. They are 0-7 in games he starts this season. In his last four outings since coming off the injured list, Taillon has given up 17 earned runs in 12⅔ innings, bad enough for a 12.08 ERA.

He tried to explain what went wrong when facing reporters after the game.

"I don't know, because physically I feel great," Taillon said. "Just not making the right pitches at the right time. I'm kind of all over the place."

That first line isn't great news, because the way he's been getting lit up, it seems like the former New York Yankee could use a couple weeks on the injured list, followed by some rehab starts in the minors to try to figure out what's going wrong.

The velocity seemed to be fine. He averaged 94 miles per hour on both his four-seam and sinker. But out of 62 pitches, Phillies hitters swung and missed just twice.

"I'd say in years past, my four-seam's probably been better," Taillon said. "I feel like that's been a lot of my swing and miss to left-handers and I feel like right now I'm not using it effectively. When I throw it with the intent of going up in the zone, often times just a totally uncompetitive pitch. I would say that's a good place to start."

Two years ago with the Yankees, opponents hit .199 against the four-seam fastball and Taillon threw it close to 50% of the time. This season, opponents are hitting .357 and he's throwing it 24% of the time.

Against the Phillies, Taillon launched just 8 four-seams, using mostly the cutter and sinker. The cutter has been even less successful than the four-seam this season, with opponents hitting .406.

Taillon joined the Cubs as a free agent, signing a four-year, $68-million deal. The Cubs pitching department has done a nice job of developing some young talent the past few years. Did they make some suggestions to Taillon that just haven't worked? Hard to say.

"He's going through a tough time right now," manager David Ross said. "That's what we try to do, try to help him out, try to figure things out. He'll put the work in, we'll put the work in and try to be better."

Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks made his fifth rehab start for the Iowa Cubs on Saturday at Indianapolis. He completed 6 innings and threw 82 pitches, allowing 1 run, 5 hits and no walks, with 6 strikeouts.

With three solid starts in a row, it looks like Hendricks is ready to rejoin the Cubs. Should he take Taillon's spot in the rotation?

Cubs management has a few days to figure that out. They could keep Taillon where he is and let Hayden Wesneski roll in Iowa for the time being. Or bring back Wesneski and give Taillon time to figure things out somehow.

"I feel like the stuff's there," Taillon said. "It just comes down to making the right pitch to the right area and right now it feels like I'm either missing too far off the plate or too far over the middle of the plate, not finding that sweet spot on the corners when I need to do it.

"Definitely not getting the swing and miss, definitely not finishing guys, too many two-strike hits. I have to clean it up."

The Cubs can still win the series. They'll be hoping Justin Steele can bounce back Sunday from his worst start of the season. Cubs pitchers have allowed at least 1 first-inning runs seven games in a row.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Cubs' Christopher Morel celebrates after his home run off Philadelphia Phillies' Connor Brogdon during the eighth Saturday. Morel's homer was one of the few bright spots in the Cubs 12-3 loss. Associated Press
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