Cole Hamels Needs Better Command Today vs. Indians

Cole Hamels Needs Better Command Today vs. Indians

16 runs of support in eight starts for Cole Hamels clearly isn't going to cut it. So the first words on the Phillies $144 million man's ninth start today against the Indians at 1:05 p.m., absolutely need to be that the lineup needs to start producing for him. Like, now.

That said, Hamels flimsy run support isn't just a Hamels thing. It's a top ace thing.

So between his pay grade and room for error (which is at this point is tiny), Hamels needs to shore up the part of his game that's actually awry, and uncharacteristically so: his command.

Twice this year Hamels has walked five or more batters in a single start, both of those in his last three starts, a span in which he's issued 11 freebies in 20 innings. He entered 2013 with only four such starts... in seven years.

That is very, categorically un-Hamels. His 3.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2010-12 was fourth-best in the game. Nos. 1 and 2? Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Cole has never dipped below 3.02 for a full big league season. Yet through six weeks, Hamels' K/BB is a horrid 1.95, which falls 78th of 106 qualifying starters.

Of course, Hamels' dearth of Ks mints the other side of that coin. His 7.49 strikeouts per nine innings pace is the tiniest of his career, down 1.50 from last year. He's topped seven strikeouts only twice so far. Through eight starts last year, he gassed seven or more five times. Today would be a good time to rediscover that.

Twice in a row Charlie Manuel has had to concede that his No. 1 starter was outdueled by someone the Phillies hadn't seen before this  year. Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.64 ERA) isn't likely to make it 3 for 3. The 27-year-old righthander has lasted five innings or more only twice in five starts. In his latest two, he's been tagged for 11 runs off 16 hits and three homers in 10 1/3 innings.

That would figure to bode well for, well, everybody.

Ryan Howard is mired in a 2 for 22 slump in his last six games. Delmon Young and Carlos Ruiz have as many strikeouts (17) as hits in 80 combined at-bats. Chase Utley is back in the lineup after sitting yesterday, and has been on a tear. He’s hitting .379 in his last 29 at-bats over his last seven games.

Though the biggest contributor here may be Hamels' command.

Get it back, and his Phillies are but a lock for their first four-game win streak this year.

Don't, and he's leaving himself and the team vulnerable to this lineup's whims.

An early 1:05 Business Persons Special from South Philadelphia.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talks protesting anthem, Myke Tavarres doesn't

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talks protesting anthem, Myke Tavarres doesn't

A day after flip-flopping on whether or not he planned to stand or sit during the national anthem, Myke Tavarres had nothing to say about this complex issue.

Tavarres, a rookie undrafted linebacker with the Eagles, told ESPN on Monday he planned to emulate 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and sit during the playing of the national anthem Thursday night prior to the Eagles’ preseason game against the Jets at The Linc.

Tavarres said he wanted to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice with the demonstration.

"We’ve got an issue in this country in this day and age, and I feel like somebody needs to step up and we all need to step up,” Tavares  told ESPN.

But within a couple hours, Tavarres had changed his mind.

“Myke plans on standing for the national anthem,” his agent said in a statement. “Myke does not want to be a distraction to the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Mike’s goal is and will always be to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster and help the team win a Super Bowl.”

Kaepernick, who four years ago led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, spoke for 18½ minutes about his decision to sit during the Star-Spangled Banner.

Tavarres said at his locker after practice Tuesday he had nothing more to say.

“I made a statement through my agent last night,” he said. “If you have any other questions, please talk to him.”

Head coach Doug Pederson said he did not talk individually to Tavarres, a fringe prospect who is unlikely to survive this weekend’s roster cuts.

But he did discuss the broader issue in a meeting with the full team and said he believes his players should stand during the anthem.

“Listen, I can appreciate everybody's opinions and I respect everybody's opinions,” Pederson said.

“But at the same time, I feel that [the national anthem] is important and it's obviously out of respect for the men and women of our country that sacrifice in order for us to coach and play this great game.

“So I get it. I understand it. But at the same time, I encourage everybody to stand.”

If not yet suspended, Lane Johnson would start at RT in opener

If not yet suspended, Lane Johnson would start at RT in opener

The Eagles are just 12 days away from the season opener against the Browns. 

And Lane Johnson still isn't suspended. 

The Eagles' starting right tackle is facing a 10-game PED suspension once the B sample returns and shows the same peptide from an amino acid that his A sample did. Johnson expects it to, but it hasn't happened yet. On Aug. 13, after news broke about the looming suspension, Johnson said he thought the results from the B sample would come back in two to three weeks, although there's no set timetable.  

... Nothing yet. 

So, at what point do the Eagles, who shifted the offensive line in anticipation of the suspension, have to plan for Johnson to be active for the opener? 

"[That’s] a great question, and this is something that we wrestle with every day," head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday. "The conversations are such that we've got to have — especially offensively — just have a plan ready to go. 

"I'll tell you this: If he's ready to go, then he's our guy." 

Since news of the impending suspension broke, Johnson has been working with the second team at right tackle. To replace him, the Eagles moved Allen Barbre from left guard to right tackle and inserted rookie Isaac Seumalo at left guard. Seumalo stayed there until an injury forced Stefen Wisniewski into the lineup. 

If there's no suspension and Johnson is able to play in the opener, things would then shift back. Johnson would take his job at right tackle, and Barbre would go back to left guard, sending Seumalo and/or Wisniewski to the bench. 

"I think he had a tremendous camp and tremendous offseason at left guard, and you kind of put the pieces back in place," Pederson said of Barbre. "We've seen enough from the Isaacs and Wisniewskis, and Allen over there at right tackle that we know we've got the combination of guys — and ‘Big V’ (tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai) got plenty of reps — to sustain this thing through the duration."

For now, though, the Eagles aren't treating Johnson like a starter. The veteran will be playing on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Jets. It might be his last game until Nov. 28 against the Packers. Or not. 

The waiting game continues.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts despite awful numbers vs. Max Scherzer

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts despite awful numbers vs. Max Scherzer

Despite having awful career numbers against Max Scherzer, Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup against him Tuesday night.

Howard, 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against the Nationals' ace, bats fourth. 

Howard seems to be coming back to Earth. He hit .357 with seven home runs, four doubles and 16 RBIs in his first 20 games out of the All-Star break, but has gone 2 for 16 with two singles and eight strikeouts since.

Jimmy Paredes gets another start in left field. Peter Bourjos is out of the lineup for a fourth straight game.

The rest of the lineup is standard. Odubel Herrera, who bats second, is 6 for 19 with five walks in his career against Scherzer (see game notes).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Aaron Altherr, RF
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P