In Final Series of 2012, Phillies Can Still Play Role of the Spoiler Against Washington

In Final Series of 2012, Phillies Can Still Play Role of the Spoiler Against Washington

For five consecutive years, some poor saps in the opposite dugout had to retreat back inside the clubhouse with heads hanging as the inevitable unfolded on the diamond: the Phillies celebrating an NL East pennant. On three of those occasions, the poor saps were the Washington Nationals.

At some point in the next three days, there's a very good chance the shoe will finally wind up on the other foot. However, inevitable it is not.

The Nats currently hold a three-game lead over Atlanta, which means if the Phillies sweep Washington, and the Braves sweep the Pirates, there will be a tie for first place. That would result in a one-game playoff to determine the division champion, and Philadelphia spared the sight of a rival popping corks.

What are the odds the Fightins can pull this off? Well, they did beat the Nats in seven of eight at one point this season before dropping the last two, including a sweep. Down south, the Braves are 19-8 in September, the Pirates 7-21. It's plausible.

If the Phillies are to get it done, they would first need Kyle Kendrick to cooperate as he shoots for a career-high 11th win. KK has been shaky in two of his last three outings though, and especially his latest start which happened to be against Washington: 2.0 IP, 5 ER. Then a lineup absent Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, who has the night off with a calf tweak, will have to solve unbeaten John Lannan, 4-0 in five starts this year.

And tomorrow, it sounds like the game will be in the bullpen's hands, with pitching coach Rich Dubee informing reporters Johnny Wholestaff will be the starter.

So sweeping the Nats, and expecting the Braves to do the same to Pittsburgh isn't the likeliest of scenarios. But it is a scenario, so there you have it.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins ready to man the slot with Ron Brooks out

Safety Malcolm Jenkins ready to man the slot with Ron Brooks out

With slot cornerback Ron Brooks out for the year, the Eagles have a big hole in their secondary.

And safety Malcolm Jenkins is happy to fill it.

Jenkins, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl safety, said he hopes to replace Brooks as the Eagles’ slot corner. Brooks went on injured reserve Monday after rupturing his quad during the win over the Vikings Sunday.

Jenkins spoke Monday evening on CSN's Quick Slants from his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation fundraiser at Union Trust.

“I played 60 percent of my snaps last year in the slot so it's a position that I'm very, very comfortable with and that I prefer as opposed to playing deep,” Jenkins said. “So I'm comfortable in that role.”

With Brooks out, the Eagles are thin at cornerback, with only Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and rookies Jalen Mills and recently activated C.J. Smith.

Carroll can play in the slot, but Doug Pederson indicated Monday that he’s leaning toward using Jenkins to cover the opposing slot receiver, like he did Sunday, after Brooks got hurt.

“Yeah, I would think that it would be very similar to what we've seen with Jalen on the outside and then Malcolm coming down inside and playing the nickel spot, and Jaylen Watkins being back there a little bit.

“And with Leo being healthy now, (it) gives you a little more depth. But we've got to continue to look at getting C.J. some more reps probably during the week to have a full complement of secondary help.”

Mills is a rookie seventh-round pick, and Smith is an undrafted rookie who spent the first seven weeks of the season on the practice squad.

McKelvin has missed three games this year but appears healthy now. Mills started Sunday but McKelvin played the bulk of the snaps.

Sunday will present a huge challenge for whoever mans the spot since Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley is so dangerous. He’s the Cowboys’ leading receiver with 33 catches for 390 yards and three touchdowns.

Beasley caught nine passes for a career-high 112 yards against the Eagles in the second meeting last year. He’s one of six receivers in the league this year with at least 50 yards in six games.

Jenkins said there are a number of ways the Eagles can defend the slot this weekend in Dallas.

“Now that we’ve got Leodis McKelvin back, it's another option,” he said. “We could put Jalen Mills in there. Just basically depends on matchups and what we want to do.

“I think the coaching staff right now is weighing those options and we'll see [Tuesday] or Wednesday what that package is really gonna look like.”

Brooks played 228 snaps in the Eagles’ first five games, or about 46 per game. That was fourth-most in the secondary before he got hurt.

“It's a tough loss,” Jenkins said. “But we've got so many guys that are interchangeable on our defense that it won't affect anything that we're doing.”

Flyers recall forward Taylor Leier from Lehigh Valley

Flyers recall forward Taylor Leier from Lehigh Valley

The Flyers on Tuesday made an unexpected roster move as they have recalled forward Taylor Leier from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, general manager Ron Hextall announced. The 22-year-old will be available for Tuesday night's game against the visiting Buffalo Sabres (see game notes).

Now the question is why the call-up?

There were no reports of injuries following Monday's 3-1 loss to the Canadiens. But knowing the secretive nature of hockey injuries, it's possible a Flyer was indeed nicked up in Montreal.

It's also entirely possible that the upper-body injury to Michael Raffl, who hasn't played in a week's time since leaving the 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago, is more serious than originally thought and needs more time to heal. The Flyers could place Raffl on long-term injury reserve retroactive to last Tuesday. That would free up a roster spot and make room for Leier.

This will not be Leier's first stint with the Flyers. Along with Shayne Gostisbehere, he was called up last November and made his debut in a Nov. 14 win in Carolina. He played six games in the NHL before he was sent back down to Lehigh Valley for the rest of season. He did not record a point with the Flyers last season and averaged 7:43 of ice time a night.

In three games with the Phantoms this season, the 2012 fourth-round draft pick of the Flyers has three assists. He scored 20 goals for the Phantoms last season, including a team-high 10 power-play goals.

Leier will wear No. 58 for the Flyers. It remains to be seen if he will crack Tuesday's lineup.