Big Man and the Doctor: 'Nuff Said for Phils Victory

Big Man and the Doctor: 'Nuff Said for Phils Victory

It's always a nice feeling when you feel like your team has the game in
the bag in the first inning. When Ryan Howard lifted off on a three-run
blast in the Phillies' first time up in their second game at Miller Park
this trip, you could be pretty sure that the Brewers were just about
sunk with Cy Young candidate (and reigning winner) Roy Halladay taking
the mound in the bottom of the frame. Sure enough, Doc was dominant, and
despite some unnecessary suspense from the bullpen in the ninth, the
Brew Crew were shut down as the Phils won their fifth in a row, by a
score of 5-3.

The game was a relatively boring one in between that rockin' first
inning and a mildly heartburning ninth (the Brewers began the inning
down four but managed to bring up the possible tying run several times),
so rather than doing straight recapping, let's look at some player and
team numbers instead. Cool?

The Big Piece

Though
Ryan Howard's percentages have fallen this year pretty much across the
board, his counting numbers remain about as impressive as ever. Ryno's
three-run no-doubter tonight give him 32 dingers and 111 RBIs for the
season, both more than he had all of last year, and in only 137 games so
far. (Howard played 143 in '10.) His .836 OPS (as of yesterday,
probably in the low .840s with his performance tonight) is way too low
for a slugger of his stature and pay-rate, but good to know that the big
man still knows how to put points on the board as well as anyone.

The
Doctor Is In

Roy Halladay was predictably beastly for the
Phils tonight, giving up just one run in eight innings of four-hit, nine
K ball. (The three walks Doc gave up were a season high, but
considering that still puts him at just one per start, we'll let it
slide.) The nine punchouts put Big Roy over 200 for the fifth time in
his career (and fourth straight season), and with presumably at least
three more starts coming his way before season's end, he's got a fairly
good shot of breaking his career-best mark of 219, set with the Fightins
last year. Doc's start will hopefully be a challenging en garde
for Cliff Lee's start tomorrow, as the pair are undoubtedly two of the
three NL Cy Young front-runners at this point—though the third, Clayton
Kershaw of the Dodgers, also strengthened his case with an eight-inning,
one-run win of his own in San Francisco.

Choooooooooooch

Anyone notice how quietly awesome our starting catcher has been the last
few months? On July 6, Carlos sat with a batting average of .248,
looking like he was undergoing a major regression to the mean after last
year's unexpected .300+ hitting campaign. But in the 45 games since,
Chooch has goosed that average all the way back up to .283, getting his
OPS over .750—my highly unofficial cut-off line for when a player is
having an above-average hitting season. Ruiz has hit safely in 18 of his
last 20 games, hitting .388 over that stretch, and last night posted a
ho-hum 2-2 with two walks and an RBI. It's enough in my opinion to prove
that last year wasn't a fluke, and that Chooch has indeed turned
himself into a legitimate offensive threat in this league.

The Magic is Fading Fast

The Magic Number posted for the Phillies on Yahoo! Sports is currently a
paltry nine over the Braves, but by my highly unreliable calculations,
the number over the Cardinals to secure the wildcard is just
three—meaning that the Phils could theoretically clinch a spot in the
post-season as early as Sunday, If so, hopefully there will be ginger
ale and chips made available to the boys in the locker room for what
will undoubtedly be an incredibly unimpressed celebration.

108

All right, so I shouldn't even care about this and it probably doesn't
even make sense for us to push for it, but whatever—I really, really
want to see this team get to 108 wins. 108 wins would mean a 2/3 winning
percentage—in other words, the team would have won twice as many games
as it lost for an entire season, something that I don't believe has been
done in the NL since the '86 Mets. It's something only a truly great
team can do, though as the 116-win 2001 Seattle Mariners will attest, it
can ring a little hollow without a post-season to back it up. I'm
rooting for it, in any event, and the team only has to 15-6 to do it—no
easy task, certainly, but not impossible by any means. And at the very
least, I would like to see the team get to 102, thus making it the best
regular-season squad in the Phillies' 128-year history. That and another
ring, I'd certainly live without the 108.

Up Next

Cliff Lee—remember him?—will be facing our old friend Randy Wolf at 7:05
tomorrow night in the penultimate game of the series, and the last game
of the season before the Phils officially have to share face time with
the Eagles' 2011 campaign. Enjoy it while you can, kids—for as hyped as
the team is this year, we'd still have to be damn, damn lucky for
the Eagles' season to end up being anywhere near as pleasurable and
drama-free as it has been so far for the Fightins.

MLB Notes: Nationals acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from Pirates

MLB Notes: Nationals acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from Pirates

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Washington Nationals have acquired All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates for Melancon, who supplants Jonathan Papelbon as Washington's closer.

Melancon, a 31-year-old right-hander, has 30 saves and a 1.51 ERA this season. He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Papelbon is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA and has allowed eight runs and seven hits in his past three outing. Manager Dusty Baker wouldn't say earlier Saturday whether Papelbon still was his closer. Baker pulled Papelbon from a game Thursday in the ninth inning.

Rivero, a 25-year-old lefty, is 0-3 with a 4.53 ERA this season. Hearn is a 21-year-old lefty who was the Nationals' fifth-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft (see full story).

GIANTS: Pence back after 48-game absence
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants right fielder Hunter Pence was activated Saturday and in the starting lineup against the Nationals after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

San Francisco hopes Pence will bring some much-needed life to a club that had lost 11 of 13 since the All-Star break.

Newly acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez made his first start since joining the team in a trade from Minnesota on Thursday and having his first at-bat Friday. Nunez was playing shortstop Saturday because Brandon Crawford, who lined into a bases-loaded triple play during Friday's 4-1 loss, had a sore left hand from a swing early in the game.

Center fielder Denard Span also was out of the lineup because of a tender quadriceps from a collision at home plate Friday.

The Giants designated for assignment infielder Ramiro Pena to clear roster room for Pence's return.  

MARINERS: Karns to DL, Martin recalled
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Mariners have placed right-hander Nathan Karns on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain a day after he was roughed up in a relief appearance.

Right-hander Cody Martin was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma before Saturday's game against the Cubs.

Chicago scored five runs in two innings off Karns in Friday's 12-1 romp. He gave up three hits, walked three and allowed a home run to David Ross.

Karns began the season as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen in June. He has a 5.15 ERA.

Martin has appeared in two games and thrown four innings for Seattle this season, allowing one run and five hits.

Brian Dawkins excited for scout role with Eagles, hopes it leads to something 'bigger'

Brian Dawkins excited for scout role with Eagles, hopes it leads to something 'bigger'

This is how much of a kinship Brian Dawkins has with the game of football.

And it won’t surprise anybody.

“I was in Orlando with my family and we’re passing by a football field, me and my brother in law, to go to the gym,” Dawkins said. “There’s nobody in the stadium. But as I passed by, there’s a certain comfort I have when I see football fields.”

That connection, that bond, to the game he loves and the team he loves has ultimately brought Dawkins back to Philadelphia, where from 1996 through 2008 he firmly established himself as one of the greatest Eagles of all-time.

The Eagles announced Saturday morning that eight years after he was allowed to leave for Denver as a free agent, Dawkins has rejoined the franchise to work in the scouting department (see story).

Dawkins’ initially joins the Eagles' scouting team as part of the NFL’s Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, a new program aimed at introducing former players to the world of player personnel and the duties of an NFL scout.

As of now, Dawkins is committed to working with the Eagles through the draft in April.

But both Dawkins and Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said this relationship could evolve into a permanent one. And a very important one.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity, I really am,” Dawkins said. “It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it just so happened we were able to talk about it and get something done with it.”

Dawkins retired after the 2011 season, his third year in Denver. He worked for ESPN from the fall of 2012 through this past football season. He said ESPN did not renew his contract after last year, which opened up the door for him to explore a return to the NFL.

“I enjoyed my time there, I really did,” he said. “But it was one of those things where everything fell into place for me to have more freedom to do other things, and this was that opportunity and it presented itself and I jumped on it and we’re rolling with a fluid situation.

“This is something that I’ve been thinking for a while. I didn’t know it would come to fruition this fast, but here it is. And sometimes, you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone to really see what you can achieve. And so this is something that I’m really looking forward to, to see if this will move to something even bigger.”

Dawkins is with the Eagles at training camp this week, but he will be based for the time being in Denver, where he’s lived since signing with the Broncos and where his daughter is still in high school.

Roseman, very interestingly, revealed on Saturday morning that he has used Dawkins as an informal player personnel consultant, both when he was general manager through 2014 and again since being re-instated in a similar role with a new title by owner Jeff Lurie after Chip Kelly’s firing.

“I’ve (been) always trying to get him here because he’s got such a bright future, he’s got such a great football mind and a great presence and leadership ability, which translates to the front office,” Roseman said Saturday.

“I always think about (Hall of Fame tight end and Ravens general manager) Ozzie Newsome and how he made that transition, and then talking to (Dawkins) during the coaching search, as we were going into the offseason about the team.

“And then he did more evaluations this year for the draft and (we) continued to try to find the right role for him that he felt comfortable with and when this came along it was a perfect transition for him, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him in the building and helping us as we move forward here.”

Dawkins was a first-team all-pro four times and a Pro Bowler seven times with the Eagles. He made two more Pro Bowls with the Broncos.

It's interesting that the Eagles’ safeties the last time they won a playoff game – 2008 – are now back with the team.

Quintin Mikell, who spent the 2003 through 2010 seasons with the Eagles and made the Pro Bowl in 2009, was a coaching intern last year and currently serves as director of player engagement.

Dawkins said evaluating players comes naturally to him.

“I love it,” he said. “When you get up there in age playing the game, you see young guys come in and you’re hoping they can help the team win that year, so you start to evaluate, even back then.

“So now that I’m out of the game I just take those things that I learned then and apply them now. Evaluating guys and seeing if they can help this team going forward.”

Asked what he wants to accomplish in this role, Dawkins looked up at the NovaCare Complex 50 feet away and spoke in that hyper-intense Dawk whisper we all know so well.

“To bring this place back to someplace when we played, when I played here,” he said. “The energy was completely different. There were expectations every year with what we were going to do, and I’m pretty sure the players would tell you the exact same thing. They want to get this thing back there as well.

“This is a place I feel comfortable. Not just this organization, but the football field, watching tape, having those conversations, I feel comfortable doing those things.”

But Dawkins said he ultimately doesn’t want to limit himself to scouting.

“I’m trying to grasp the whole gamut of football operations, how a team is run,” he said. “So I’m learning about the scouting part of it, but sometimes it’s either you have an eye or you don’t, and I’ve been blessed to have an eye to be able to see talent, so if I can help in that respect I’d love to that, but I also want to learn everything I can about running a football team.”

Roseman and Dawkins both hinted at a major role for Dawkins in the organization moving forward.

Could he one day be the general manager? A team vice president?

Don’t bet against it.

“He’s going to start with scouting and work with Joe (Douglas, vice president of player personnel) and his guys because he’s done that and he’s written evaluations for us,” Roseman said.

“But we don’t want to limit him to that. His ability to communicate to the players … everything that we’re doing that’s different than when he was a player from a strength and conditioning standpoint, from a sports science standpoint, his observations on the team as a whole.

“We’re really going to drop him into a bunch of areas that he’s interested in, but it starts with the scouting department.”

Beyond his individual accomplishments, Dawk played for the Eagles during the most successful period in modern franchise history.

The Eagles have won 19 playoff games, and Dawkins was on the field for 10 of them.

More than half.

“He’s been part of championship-caliber teams, so he understands about what that looks like and the energy and enthusiasm that that has, and he’s been in a defense simiar to this, so he knows the responsibilities,” Roseman said.

“He’s also looking at it from a guy who played the position. When he’s watching DBs … when you sit with him and watch him watch safety play, he’s looking for different things than maybe we are maybe as a scouting staff or guys who maybe never played the position.

“He’s able to come into the meetings and impart what he saw, and that helps all of us as we’re evlauating guys and that’s the biggest part of it for all of us. To be able to pick his brain.”

Where will this ultimately lead? Dawkins just smiles and says he has big plans. Bigger than just working in scouring.

“Bigger is bigger,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “Bigger is bigger. I don’t know what bigger is. I just know bigger is not where I’m standing right now.

“So whatever bigger is, that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard back in the lineup, batting cleanup

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard back in the lineup, batting cleanup

After scoring just once on Friday night, the Phillies are sticking with nearly the same lineup on Saturday.

Ryan Howard moves into the cleanup spot, replacing Tommy Joseph at first base. Other than Howard, the lineup stays the same with Cesar Hernandez leading off.

Howard pinch hit in the ninth inning on Friday and hit a double, giving him a little momentum into Saturday. He last started on Tuesday vs. the Marlins. He's looked more like his normal self in July, batting .257 with a .543 slugging percentage in 35 at-bats for the month. The veteran has raised his average from a paltry .151 to start the month to a slightly less worse .167. 

He has three home runs in July and two career home runs off Julio Teheran, the Braves' starter steeped in trade rumors (see Game Notes)

Aaron Altherr makes his third start in as many days since coming off the disabled list. He went 0 for 4 on Friday after a three-hit season debut on Thursday. Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco take their same spots in the lineup, batting second and third, respectively. 

Here is tonight's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P