Inside the Standings: Welcome to the Crowded Wild Card Race

Inside the Standings: Welcome to the Crowded Wild Card Race

The NL East standings can be found later on, but we've focused so much attention on that already, and little has changed. Let's shift gears, and talk about the hurdles the Phillies will have to leap in order to earn a Wild Card.

It goes without saying that everything hinges on the team playing better going forward, but you start to get a sense for how dire the situation is when you look at that list. I mean, that's practically the entire National League who hold at least a couple of games over the Phils at the moment. In fact, only four teams are further out of a playoff spot than the reigning NL East champions.

Of course there will be a lot of movement in these standings between now and September. Some of these clubs will fall out of the hunt as others separate themselves from the pack. The way things stand, it would still be a shock to the senses if Pittsburgh was there until the end,

But the point is, there are a lot of obstacles climb over even to grasp that extra ticket to October. I think the Phillies have a ton of work to do before the words "postseason" and "2012" should come up again, unless some variation of the word "miss" is in the mix as well.

vs. Colorado (25-40)

One of the few teams not above the Philadelphia for a WC spot, the Rockies should help jump start the home team. The Phils are 10-5 against the other three NL clubs below them in the standings, and 14-7 overall over teams presently under .500. And as bad as the Fightins have been recently, Colorado arguably has been worse, dropping 10 of their last 11, including a pair of home sweeps at the hands of the Angels and A's.

Not surprisingly, the Rocks own one of the top offenses in the league, thanks in part at least to Coors Field, but also not surprisingly, they are far better at home than on the road. Only the Marlins score fewer runs than Colorado in their opponents' buildings. They're also saddled with the worst team-ERA in baseball, having pretty much no effective starters in their rotation. You'd like the Phillies to sweep this team, but if they can't take two of three here, they're really in trouble.

vs. Tampa Bay (37-29)

One last interleague series on the slate, and it's a doozy. The Rays are hanging tough in the AL East, currently four back of the Yankees, and thanks to that second WC, they would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Tampa Bay wins games on the mound, their staff in possession of the second-lowest ERA in the league. 42 times this season, they've held their opponent to four or fewer runs, with a 33-9 record in those games. We'll save you the math: that's 4-20 when they give up five-plus. TB is a middling club at the plate, so if the Phillies can build a decent lead, theoretically they should be safe -- although they've already blown 18 leads this season.

vs. Pittsburgh (34-31)

The Pirates have the second-least productive offense per game in baseball, behind only San Diego, yet they are in second place in the Central Division, and only 0.5 behind the second WC. Their pitching is keeping them in games, particularly the bullpen, which ranks second in the league.

The Phillies know all about the Pitt's pen, unfortunately. The Bucs picked up the series win in April, including a pair of walk-offs, as their relief pitching stymied the Fightins bats late in games. They allowed zero earned runs and five hits over nine innings of work in those three games. The Phils have improved a bit at the dish since then, finding ways to mix and match their lineup, but they are still lacking a bit in the clutch hits department.

vs. Miami (33-33)

The Phils welcome the Marlins to Citizens Bank Park for the third and final time this season, and are currently 3-3 against the Fish. Right now, it sets up for Cole Hamels to open the series, and while he's struggled in general of late, Miami was his kryptonite twice already this year. Cole is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA facing the division rivals, his last outing against them on June 2 kicking off his current winless streak.

We know more or less what we're going to with the Marlins. They're an incredibly streaky team -- 8-14 in April, 21-8 in May, 4-11 so far in June, and 2-10 over their last 12. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled off considerably since their last visit, and the rest of the lineup along with him. Stanton was batting .304 with 13 HR and 39 RBI when the month began. Now he's down to .272, with one home run and three RBI over his last 15 games.

On Deck: @ New York Mets, vs. Atlanta, All-Star Break

Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

Justin Verlander mowed down the Phillies last night in a 3-1 Tigers victory, but the Phils have a chance to strike back this afternoon against a struggling pitcher who hasn't had much career success against them.

Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers and oppose Aaron Nola in today's series finale (1:10 p.m. on CSN). To say Sanchez hasn't had a great start to his season would be an understatement. He's 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA and opponents are batting .270 against him.

In his career against the Phillies, Sanchez is just 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Granted, most of those numbers came in the early part of his career with the Florida Marlins, when he regularly faced powerful Phillies lineups. As one might expect, Ryan Howard, who is again in the lineup today as the designated hitter and batting fifth, has seen Sanchez plenty of times. His 42 at-bats against Sanchez are tied for third-most against the 32-year-old righty. Howard's done OK against Sanchez — 9 for 31 (.290 average) with two homers and four RBI. Maybe some familiarity will finally lead to a breakout game for Howard. But, if his massive slump is any indication, maybe not.

For as poor as Sanchez's start to the season has been, Aaron Nola's first six weeks of 2016 have been at the other end of the spectrum.

Today's Phillies starter is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. But he's been better than those numbers show.

His .900 WHIP is third in the NL, as is his 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 6.45 hits allowed per nine innings is fourth in the NL, as is his 1.65 walks per nine innings. His 64 strikeouts rank eighth in the NL. Imagine if he got more than the 2.89 runs of support he's been getting in his starts.

As for the rest of the Phillies' lineup today, the only changes see Andres Blanco getting the start for Cesar Hernandez, batting seventh and Cameron Rupp behind the plate, batting sixth.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Cameron Rupp C
7. Andres Blanco 2B
8. Tyler Goeddell LF
9. Peter Bourjos 1B

Tigers
1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. Victor Martinez 1B
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Steven Moya LF
7. James McCann C
8. Mike Aviles 2B
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

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Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

The Phillies once again couldn't find much offense and fell to the Tigers in Detroit last night by a final of 3-1.

But at least the pitching showed something.

There was a fun moment between Jeremy Hellickson and Miguel Cabrera after Hellickson threw quite a nice pitch that fooled Miggy.

Here's how Jim Salisbury described the fun battle:

Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
 
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
 
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
 
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.

And here's the thumbs up:

Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

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Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

Eagles rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will report to training camp on Monday, July 25. 

The rest of the veterans will report on July 27, with the first full-team practice of training camp taking place on Thursday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m., the team announced Wednesday. 

The majority of training camp practices this summer under Doug Pederson will take place at the NovaCare Complex, beginning at 8:15 a.m., which is earlier than the team practiced during camp under former head coach Chip Kelly. The early practices hark back to training camps under Andy Reid at Lehigh, although now the team will have its walkthroughs in the afternoon. 

The Eagles will have two practices open to fans at Lincoln Financial Field: Sunday, July 31 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Both open practices are free and don't require tickets. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The Eagles will have several off days throughout camp: Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 12. And camp ends on Aug. 16, with the preseason opener vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs in the middle, on Aug. 11.