Ben Francisco smacked a leadoff homer in the 12th inning off Kevin Gregg Tuesday night to lift the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.
"We're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit," Chicago's Milton Bradley said. "We had the lead and gave them a run and fell short. They're the World [Series] champs over there and you have to take advantage of everything."
The only good news was that St. Louis also lost, so the Cubs remained three games back in the National League Central.
The Cubs had chances, but you've heard that before. They opened a 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Jake Fox and sacrifice fly by Alfonso Soriano in the third. That seemed to be enough for Rich Harden, who retired the first 16 batters he faced before walking Carlos Ruiz with one out in the sixth. One batter later, Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run homer to tie the game.
"One mistake, and not what I wanted to throw," Harden said. "I didn't take control and throw what I wanted to throw. And I didn't throw it with conviction and missed the spot."
The score stayed that way until the eighth. Carlos Marmol walked the leadoff batter, and two outs later, hit Shane Victorino, then walked Chase Utley to load the bases. Marmol then walked Ryan Howard to give the Phillies the lead.
"He gets out of it sometimes, most of the time," manager Lou Piniella said of Marmol, who has walked 52 in 58 games this season, compared to 41 walks in 82 games last year. "I've had a couple conversations with him. You've got to throw strikes. Nobody's good enough to put people on base and get behind in the count and get out of it every time."
The Cubs tied the game in the ninth on Bradley's RBI single, driving in Kosuke Fukudome, who had walked. Bradley thought he had a walk-off blast with two outs in the 11th, but Victorino caught the ball on the warning track in deep center. Bradley did two pushups between innings on the field.
"I rarely hit a ball and think it's gone and it's not," Bradley said. "Maybe it's just Wrigley's center field and the wind swirling around or something, but I definitely thought I hit that well enough and it fell short. It was very disappointing."
Francisco hit his just enough. Acquired from Cleveland in the Cliff Lee deal, he led off the 12th by driving a 1-1 pitch from Gregg (4-4) into the basket rimming the left-field bleachers for the game winner.
"It was a 1-1 slider, right at the bottom edge of the zone," Gregg said. "That's kind of where we try to make our living. He just happened to hit it in the basket."
"We had to fight for it," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "They probably feel the same way. They probably feel like they hit some balls hard. Early, they hit some balls hard off [starter J.A.] Happ. He did a good job of battling. Once we tied the game up, it became a pretty hard-fought game."
The Cubs closer has served up 11 homers this season, more than the last two years combined. Last year, he gave up three in 72 games.
"I want to keep the ball in the ballpark," Gregg said. "Obviously, it's not happening for me. I've got to keep plugging away at it and figure out a way to stop it."
The Cubs began the day knowing they would be without their best clutch hitter, Aramis Ramirez, who received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder. Harden delivered a clutch performance on the mound, and gave up two hits in the game over seven innings. One bad pitch and his outing was spoiled. It shouldn't have been that close. The Cubs stranded 12 runners and outhit the Phillies, 10-3.
"We've talked about chances all year," Piniella said. "It was a good ballgame. Give Philadelphia credit. They won it."
The Cubs have 51 games to go, and there are some differences of opinion regarding whether there's enough time to catch the Cardinals.
"Now, every game is important and we can't afford to lose games like that," Harden said. "We've got to step up."
Said Gregg: "I wouldn't say [time is] running out. We've got to play good baseball. We've got to pitch, we've got to hit, get timely hitting."
Bradley, who seems to have finally found his comfort zone in the No. 2 hole, said he was eager to get back to Wrigley Field. This was one of just 13 home games in August.
"Coming home, it was the first time all year I was glad to be coming back to Chicago," said Bradley, now batting .267 and riding a six-game hitting streak. "We needed some home cooking and for the most part, we did OK tonight. We fell short."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.