Steele solid, but slumping Cubs fall to Phillies 2-1

Justin Steele did his job Sunday.

Unfortunately for the Cubs' ace, few teammates followed suit and the Philadelphia Phillies claimed a 2-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park on the strength of a pinch-hit home run by Bryson Stott in the seventh inning.

The Cubs have dropped seven of eight, are 6-16 in their last 22 games and are 20-26 overall.

"I don't feel like we're far off, but we have to be better," Cubs manager David Ross said.

Especially at the plate because right now only Christopher Morel is swinging a confident, powerful bat. Morel, who homered with two out in the ninth Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, is 17-for-46 (.370) with 8 HRs, 14 RBIs and 15 runs scored since being called up from Triple-A Iowa.

Meanwhile, Dansby Swanson is 6-for-34 (.176) with 1 home run and 3 RBIs in his last nine games. Ian Happ is 5-for-28 (.179) with 4 walks, no home runs and 1 RBI in his last eight games. Patrick Wisdom is 8-for-45 (.178) with 9 walks, 25 strikeouts, 2 home runs and 3 RBIs in his last 16 games. He pinch hit and popped out after Trey Mancini drew a two-out walk in the ninth.

Seiya Suzuki had a solid eight-game stretch from May 10-19, but he was 1-for-7 in the last two games and struck out with runners on first and second to end the Cubs' true lone threat Sunday.

Center fielder Cody Bellinger is on the injured list.

Add it all up and it's easy to see why the Cubs have scored 3 or fewer runs in five of their last eight games.

The Cubs also did themselves no favors on the basepaths Sunday, with Mike Tauchman getting thrown out at first in the second inning by catcher J.T. Realmuto after straying too far off the bag on a pitch in the dirt. Tauchman reached by drawing a one-out walk.

"You have to take some risks sometimes," Ross said. "I wouldn't say that's what cost us the game. But definitely could be better in that area."

Swanson was picked off by starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the fourth.

Speaking of Walker, this is a guy the Cubs should have teed off on. He came in with a 6.53 ERA and allowed 3 or more runs in four of his last five starts, including Wednesday when he failed to get out of the first inning against the Giants.

The Cubs' only hits off Walker came in the fourth - singles by Swanson and Suzuki.

Steele bounced back from a rough start against the Astros by giving up just 4 hits, walking one and hitting one in 6 innings. He got some help from his defense in the sixth inning as RF Suzuki threw out Nick Castellanos, who tagged up and tried advancing to third on a fly out.

Steele's ERA fell to 2.20, seventh-best in the majors.

The game remained scoreless until the seventh, when Ross brought in Adbert Alzolay. The normally reliable reliever got Alec Bohm to pop out to start the frame, but inexplicably gave Edmundo Sosa a pitch to hit on an 0-2 count, and Sosa promptly ripped a line-drive double to left. Alzolay (1-3) also got ahead of Stott 0-2, then threw a slider in the dirt for a ball. The next pitch was a juicy four-seam fastball on the inside corner that Stott turned on and deposited into the right-field stands.

Craig Kimbrel got his 399th save, moving within one of becoming the eighth pitcher with 400.

Beginning Tuesday, the Cubs will begin a nine-game home stand against the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays.

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