CHICAGO – The Cubs felt pretty good in the sixth inning. They had a five-run lead, and Jeff Samardzija was cruising.
Everything fell apart from there.
Samardzija lost control of the game in a hurry, helping the Philadelphia Phillies rally for a 6-5 victory Friday in Ryne Sandberg’s return to Wrigley Field.
“It got away from me a little bit,” Samardzija said.
Michael Young had four hits for Philadelphia, including a tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning. Chase Utley added a key two-run triple.
“It’s a good one to get. Sure, down 5-0 out of the chute,” Sandberg said. “The guys battled back. Good energy after that. Anytime you rally to come back like that it goes well with the guys. But yeah, extra special.”
The Phillies improved to 9-6 since Sandberg was promoted to interim manager when Charlie Manuel was fired on Aug. 16. The Hall of Fame second baseman spent most of his playing career with the Cubs and was cheered all day long in his first trip to Chicago since he was elevated to the top spot in Philadelphia.
Anthony Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz homered for the Cubs, who went 3 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. Starlin Castro had two doubles and two RBIs in Chicago’s fourth loss in five games.
“We can’t get a big hit to seal the deal,” manager Dale Sveum said. “To add on runs is what you preach. We just couldn’t add on.”
Roger Bernadina used his speed to set up Young’s winning hit. He was hit by a pitch from Kevin Gregg (2-4) with one out, swiped second and raced home when Young’s blooper landed in front of Schierholtz in right field.
“Fortunately it found a patch of grass out there,” Young said. “I’ve faced him a lot over the years and he’s got good stuff. The only thing I was really trying to do was keep my approach relatively simple.”
B.J. Rosenberg (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win and Jonathan Papelbon got three outs for his 23rd save. Utley made a great diving stop and throw on Schierholtz’s grounder to second to end the game.
The Cubs built a 5-0 lead against Roy Halladay, putting Samardzija in position for his third consecutive victory. The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his previous two starts.
Samardzija retired 11 in a row and was working on a two-hitter before Kevin Frandsen led off the sixth with a sinking liner that got past center fielder Junior Lake’s diving attempt and rolled to the wall for a pinch-hit triple. That seemed to wake up the Phillies, who got right back in the game with a four-run rally.
Young drove in Frandsen with a base hit to right, and Utley’s big swing trimmed Chicago’s lead to 5-3. Utley came home on Domonic Brown’s groundout.
“A couple of key hits and kept runners on base which kept the pressure on me and (they) found too much of the plate,” Samardzija said.
He finally got out of the inning when Darin Ruf grounded into a double play, but he was unable to hold onto the lead. Frandsen lined an 0-1 pitch into the bleachers in left with two out in the seventh, tying it at 5.
James Russell came on with two on and two out and got Utley to fly out to left, closing Samardzija’s line. He gave up eight hits and walked two in his worst start since he lasted just 3 1-3 innings in a 12-1 loss at Philadelphia on Aug. 8.
“The big horse on the mound and all of a sudden he starts misfiring,” Sveum said.
Chicago had a chance to go back in front in the bottom half, but Dioner Navarro was thrown out when he tried to score from second on Darnell McDonald’s pinch-hit single. John Mayberry’s throw from right field bounced a couple times and still beat the lumbering catcher to the plate, drawing groans from the crowd of 27,753.
“We can’t catch a break today,” Navarro said.
Halladay made his second start since he had right shoulder surgery in May. The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched six effective innings in a 9-5 victory over Arizona on Sunday, but he struggled right from the beginning against the Cubs.
He allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings while throwing only 77 pitches.
“I had more of an issue holding on to the ball late in the game than anything,” he said, bothered by the moisture on a muggy day in Chicago. “My arm felt good, shoulder felt good, nothing different there.”
NOTES: Sveum said INF Luis Valbuena (right oblique strain) and OF Ryan Sweeney (broken rib) will be activated from the disabled list when the active rosters expand on Sunday. ... Phillies LHP Cliff Lee (11-6, 3.07 ERA) takes on LHP Chris Rusin (2-3, 2.64 ERA) in the second game of the series Saturday afternoon.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap