Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies' Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies' Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

We've gotten so used to crappy development after crappy development with our teams this past year that it's almost unsettling when something unreservedly positive happens with one of them. But in case you were too busy this weekend watching game film on Matt Barkley or celebrating the historic demise of the Lakers and Celtics, the rumors are true--the Phillies swept the Mets at Citi Field this weekend, winning three games by a combined score of 18-5. If it was five years ago, this would have been cause for rioting in the streets; even in 2013, it's a pretty cool thing.

None of the three games were even particularly close--yesterday afternoon's game was knotted for a while, but the Phils broke it open in the seventh and the Mets never really fought back. And in the meantime, a whole bunch of our guys who had been struggling some got to get back on track. Some of the positives include:

1. Cole's first win of the season. Hamels had gone a dispiriting five starts without earning a W, despite going at least six innings while allowing  three runs or fewer in his last three starts. He finally got one yesterday, although it wasn't Cole's sharpest performance--he walked an uncharacteristic six batters, his most since July of last year. But he managed to get out of trouble and only let up two hits all game, and after giving the Mets one in the first, went five more scoreless before turning the game over to the bullpen.

2. The Bullpen holding tight. Speaking of which. After being about as secure as a Playskool piggy bank for four games against the Pirates, the bullpen was actually on lockdown for this series, letting up only two hits and one run in seven innings of combined work, the lone damage courtesy of a John Buck solo blast off Jeremy Horst in a game the Phils were already leading 9-3. The bullpen on this team was supposed to be a strength, so it's good to see that the Pittsburgh disaster situation does not appear to be a continuing crisis.

3. Ryan getting on track. Ryan Howard only had one hit in each of the three games--he was just a pinch-hitter in the third game anyway--but he made them count, with a game-breaking three-run homer in the first, a floodgate-opening RBI single in the second, and a huge, go-ahead two-run double in the third. He ended with seven RBIs on the series, awesome production from our hot-and-cold cleanup hitter. Ryan's clearly still not the MVP candidate he was a half-decade ago, with more of his one-time home runs dying at the wall and his walk rate diminishing to near non-existence, but if he can at least stay a net positive on offense, we won't be kept up at nights thinking about the four years, nearly $100 mil left on his contract.

4. Dom and JMJ going back-to-back. Domonic Brown's alternately frustrating and tantalizing year continues, as he only went 3-13 on the series, but with one of those three being a three-run blast that put game two of the series to bed in the fifth inning. John Mayberry Jr. followed that with a solo blast of his own, continuing his 2011-level production for the season, with ten extra base hits (tied for second on the team) in just 73 plate appearances. We could really use at least one of these guys turning out to actually be a good, reliable everyday outfielder, so we'll continue to grasp onto these scraps while gritting our teeth through their 0-4 with three strikeouts games.

5. Kyle going the distance. Kyle Kendrick picked up just the second shutout victory of his career with a three-hit, one-walk, five-K blanking of the Mets in the series opener. With his 2-1 record, 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 3:1 K/BB ratio, Kendrick has been the unlikely ace of the Phils' pitching staff this year, despite making over $15 million less than three of our other starters. It might not last, but going back to the second half of last year now, Kendrick has made a decisive case for being a reliable back-end starter, if not more. He probably won't get optioned to Triple A again at any point this year, at the very least.

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Related: a Phillie Phanatic photo gallery

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Carson Wentz goes through lengthy pregame warmup in Indy

Carson Wentz goes through lengthy pregame warmup in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- Carson Wentz isn't playing on Saturday night against the Colts, but the No. 2 overall pick might have a chance to play in the preseason finale on Thursday, which has been the hope all along. 

Wentz went through a lengthy pregame warmup -- about an hour -- on Saturday as his teammates prepared to face Andrew Luck and the Colts. Long after Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel went into the locker room, Wentz continued to throw. 

This week's pregame warmup was much more intense than the one he was put through last week in Pittsburgh. On Saturday, he dropped back to throw and looked smooth throwing on the run, even across his body. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo put Wentz through the hour-long workout on Saturday. Leaving the field after the workout, offensive coordinator Frank Reich agreed that Wentz looked good. 

The real test will be the X-ray, because no matter how good he feels or how much he lobbies, he'll need to be cleared before he's allowed to return. Shortly after the injury, Wentz said practice would be determined by his pain tolerance and game action would be determined by medical personnel. If he doesn't play against the Jets, it could be a while before Eagles fans get to see their quarterback of the future. 

Another hurdle is the short week of practice thanks to a Thursday game coming after a Saturday game. 

"It's interesting because next week we only got really two days of practice," Doug Pederson said earlier in the week. "We'll see. We'll evaluate him through the weekend. [We’ll] take him on this trip and work him out a little bit when we get to Indy [Indianapolis], and then again next Monday and Tuesday. We've got to at least get a day's work with him in order for him to go in the game next Thursday."

Along with Wentz, there are several other Eagles who won't play against the Colts: Aaron Grymes, Alex McCalister, Joe Walker, Jordan Matthews, Isaac Seumalo and Mike Martin.

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

After watching his club get smacked around in a 9-4 loss to the Mets on Friday, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has tinkered with his lineup for Saturday's game at Citi Field.

Odubel Herrera moves up to the two-hole after hitting sixth Friday, while Aaron Altherr goes from second to third and Jimmy Paredes gets the start in left and bats seventh. Ryan Howard starts again at first base and bats fifth.

Herrera, who has been struggling since the All-Star break with a .257 average, has lost his leadoff spot to Cesar Hernandez but is starting to find his swing again.

In the last seven days, Herrera is 5 for 17 with a double and a run scored. In August, the centerfielder is hitting .288 with two homers and five RBIs.

Altherr, who played left field Friday, moves over to right field and Peter Bourjos gets the night off. Altherr is hitting .255 with four home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.

Here is the full Phillies lineup:

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

For more on tonight's's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Despite the Soul leading by three touchdowns early in ArenaBowl XXIX, there was little cheering from the their bench.

Given the volatility that is Arena League football and the frequency from which teams can strike, the approach remained resolute and determined. Defensive tackle Jake Metz kept the mindset of a scoreless game and could not stop hearing words coming from Ron Jaworski, a highly vocal partner in the Soul’s ownership.

“He kept yelling that offense gets headlines but defense wins championships,” said Metz, who currently lives in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, and went to Shippensburg University. “That resounded with me, and brought the championship.”

Metz and his defensive teammates then went out and shut down a highly hazardous and explosive Arizona Rattlers offensive unit en route to a 56-42 win (see story). Led by quarter Nick Davila, the only three-time MVP in Arena Football League history, the Rattlers could manage only seven points in a critical fourth quarter.

At the same time, Metz recovered a fumble by Davila with the Soul holding a slim six-point margin with just under six minutes to play. That turnover was the key point in the Soul’s eventual win, and cemented the role of the defense as a shut-down unit.

On the subsequent possession, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected with Shaun Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike. That created a 14-point comfort zone and the final margin of victory.

“These players deserve this championship,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “This is a first class organization and ownership gives the players a first-class experience. That way, we can attract great players, and with great players comes success.”

In capturing the league title Friday night, the victory was the second in franchise history. In 2008, the Soul and Phillies each won championships, and that was the last time a professional team captured a title in Philadelphia.

Metz remembers the Phillies' win over the Rays, and pointed out, “I went to those games as a kid.” That championship stuck with the 6-foot-6, 265 pounder, and helped to forge a championship mentality.

Early in the fourth quarter, Arizona caught the Soul at 42-42. From that point, Raudabaugh directed two scoring drives, and along with Metz’s important fumble recovery, carried the Soul to the title.

“It’s all about how you respond,” said Raudabaugh, who finished with 20 for 36 for 278 yards and six touchdowns. “Granted, they have a very explosive team, but we were never out it. They did come back, but we had an answer for them.”

The answer was a strong defense which Dolezel indicated was playing at their peak just prior to the title game.

Defensive back Tracy Belton, the AFL defensive player of the year and DB Dwayne Hollis, whose fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the game was another key defensive play, clearly showed how a defense can carry a team to a league title. That was the effort the Soul brought together in an environment as unpredictable as the Arena Football League.