Inside the Standings: West Coast Baseball Edition

Inside the Standings: West Coast Baseball Edition

Of course April 16 is far too early to make much of the standings in the NL East... but it's not too early to take a peak, and who's that in first?

You see, the problem is not so much that the Phillies currently reside in fourth place in this season nine games old, trailing the upstart division-leading Nationals by 2.5. The problem is that the Nationals are actually in excellent position to build up a solid lead over the course of the next week and a half.

Tonight, Washington begins a four-game set with the lowly Houston Astros, followed by three games with a Miami Marlins squad that hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire so far, and finally three with the San Diego Padres, who you will read more about below.

Meanwhile, the Phillies are beginning a 10-game west coast swing tonight. Depending on how they fare, and whether or not the Nats can capitalize on the seemingly light slate ahead for them, this could quickly become a fairly intimidating lead before a month's worth of baseball has even been played.

So far, the Nationals are taking care of their business. They took two of three off a sorry Cubs team, two of three off the moderately surprising Mets -- but they're still the Mets -- and three of four off an average Reds club. If they can keep it up, Washington's series with the Los Angeles Dodgers starting April 27 could be on a collision course to feature two of the best records from the National League.

I suppose we should be grateful the Phillies will manage to avoid the white-hot LA Dodgers on this trip, owners of the best record in baseball and a six-game winning streak. In fact, the Dodgers aren't on the docket until June, and hopefully at least Chase Utley will be back by then.

Instead, the first west coast swing of the season features dates in San Francisco and San Diego, both of whom have been slow out of the gate, with a stop in Arizona on the way back, where five of the club's six wins have come at the expense of the aforementioned.

The Giants (4-5) got off to a rough start in Arizona, eating a three-game sweep served up by their division rival, but have since rebounded. San Fran is 4-2 over their last six, with the big difference coming on the mound. After allowing five or more runs in each game against the Dbacks, the Giants have held opponents to three or fewer in all four of their victories.

So far, the missing link is still Tim Linececum, who will start tonight's game against the Phillies. Lincecum is 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA in two starts, most recently allowing six earned runs in 2.1 frames against the Colorado Rockies. If he finally gets it going tonight, this series becomes a big early test for Philly.

The Padres (2-8) have been mired in a perfect storm of putrid offense and lousy pitching. They've been held to two or fewer runs in half their games, while allowing four or more in eight of ten so far. In the National League, only the Pirates have been worse at the plate across the board.

Let's be perfectly honest: the Fightins haven't been much better than San Diego at the dish, but Philly's starting pitching is keeping them in games. Pads starters on the other hand have thrown just 54.1 innings, while their relievers have been called upon for 38. By comparison, the Phils have only needed 22 innings from their bullpen in 2012 -- a huge disparity for 6% of the way through the season.

The Diamondbacks (6-3), as we mentioned, may have padded their win total a bit by jumping all over the Giants and Padres, but the Rocks may have pulled them back down to earth over the weekend. Colorado took two of three off of Arizona, a club that has had little trouble producing runs (tied for 4th in the NL), though they haven't exactly kept anybody other than San Diego off of the scoreboard.

The Dbacks have posted five or more runs in two-thirds of their games so far, but the Giants and Rockies also averaged that total against Arizona, revealing possible vulnerabilities for the reigning NL West Champions. Whether the Phillies can take advantage remains to be seen, but there is at least an expectation that runs should not come quite as easily for Zona either.

We'll check back in with the standings when the Phils return home, where they'll be getting back down to business with a series of NL East opponents -- including a head-to-head with the pesky Nationals.

On deck: Cubs, Braves, Nats, Mets

NFL Notes: Vikings cancel practice after Teddy Bridgewater injures knee

NFL Notes: Vikings cancel practice after Teddy Bridgewater injures knee

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with an injury in practice on Tuesday, causing the team to cut short its session after 25 minutes.

Bridgewater dropped back to pass during a drill when his right leg appeared to give out. Bridgewater immediately went down while concerned teammates and athletic trainers huddled around him.

Coach Mike Zimmer eventually called off practice, and the rest of the team walked off the field while Bridgewater was being attended to.

The nature of his injury was not immediately clear. But there is little behind Bridgewater on the depth chart, with veteran Shaun Hill the primary backup.

The Vikings host Los Angeles Rams in their final preseason game Thursday night.

Chiefs: Justin Houston placed on PUP list
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs have placed Justin Houston on the physically unable to perform list and put fellow linebacker Josh Mauga on injured reserve as they trimmed down to the NFL's roster limit.

Houston is still recovering from surgery in February to repair a non-functioning ACL in his left knee. He will continue his rehab and be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews during the Chiefs' bye week in early October with the hope that he will play at some point this season.

Mauga tore the labrum in his hip in early August. He will have surgery on Sept. 8.

The Chiefs also waived Mitch Matthews, getting them to 76 players by Tuesday's deadline. The limit is normally 75 but Kansas City got a roster exemption for Eric Berry, who reported to camp Sunday.

Dolphins: Dion Jordan to miss first 6 games
DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan has been placed on the reserve non-football injury list, meaning he's ineligible for the first six games of the season.

The move was expected after Jordan, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013, underwent minor knee surgery in late July. He received conditional reinstatement from the NFL last month following a 15-month suspension for his latest violation of the league's substance abuse policy, and has been taking part in team meetings.

The underachieving Jordan has played in only 26 games with one start and three sacks.

Linebacker Zach Vigil, who is recovering from a back injury, was also placed on the non-football injury list Tuesday.

St. Joe's honors A-10 championship team as focus turns to 2016-17 season

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Sideline Photos

St. Joe's honors A-10 championship team as focus turns to 2016-17 season

Picked to finish seventh in the 2015-16 Atlantic 10 preseason poll, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks were all but written off before their season even began. 

Fast forward a year or so later, those same Hawks gathered on the first day of school on Monday in the Ramsay Basketball Center for a special ring ceremony to commemorate their A-10 championship. 

To help give out the rings, head coach Phil Martelli was able to gather members of past St. Joe’s A-10 championship teams: Rodney Blake and Bruiser Flint from the 1986 team, Pat Carroll from the 2004 team, and most recently Daryus Quarles from the 2014 team. 

Notably missing from the ceremony was A-10 and Big 5 Player of the Year DeAndre' Bembry, a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks, and Isaiah Miles, who has begun his professional career in France with JDA Dijon. 

Aaron Brown, the team’s third graduated senior and another key cog of that championship run, was able to attend before heading off to start his pro career in Iceland. 

Martelli, addressing a room full of players, coaches, family and friends, made it clear just what it means to wear that ring and represent St. Joe’s as A-10 champions. 

“Championships last with you for a long time, if not forever, and we’re getting the opportunity to share that with these players, their families and some really special people in the room,” Martelli said. “People are going to have some tough times; they’re going to lose loved ones, they’re going to lose possessions, they’re going to lose jobs, but forever this group of players is going to be the 2016 Atlantic 10 champions.”

The 2015-16 Hawks finished the regular season with a 28-8 record, good enough for second-best in school history. They won their fourth A-10 championship, made their second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years and came a few points shy of a Sweet 16 appearance. 

A simply remarkable season for a team that won just 13 games the year before. However, as with any sport, when one season ends the focus is already on next year. 

"We knew in the beginning, since I’ve had this job, that each year is a separate entity and each team is a separate group," Martelli said. "Obviously the talent changes, we had a first-round draft pick, we had a great player in Isaiah Miles, so we had all-league players. Now it’s really the question of who's next and what expectations do they have for carrying the ball. Everybody gets a chance, and this group now has that opportunity."

Lamar Kimble, a 2015-16 A-10 All-Rookie selection, is one player who will be counted on following the recent departures of Bembry, Miles and Brown. Despite being just a sophomore, Kimble knows he’s ready for a more expanded role this season.
 
"I've always been a leader, but I definitely see a bigger role this year in terms of scoring and facilitating," Kimble said. "I'm definitely ready to [have a bigger role], I’m looking to have more goals than last year rather than just All-Rookie, so there’s definitely big dreams for me."

Regardless of the success that St. Joe’s saw last year, both the players and coaches recognize that a new season has begun. Prior to the ceremony and reception, the Hawks went through a routine summer practice. Players realize the work and effort that must be put in if they want to replicate last season’s run. 

“It just starts from the older guys, you know, letting the younger guys know that what we did last year doesn’t fold over to the next year, we still have to work as hard as possible to get to where we need to get to,” Kimble said. “I think that’s the mind set we had this whole summer, going into the year now we have that same mind set where we want to get back to where we were at, that’s the position we want to be in.”

Martelli, entering his 22nd year on Hawk hill, looked out and addressed the crowd one last time after sliding his fifth championship ring (four A-10 titles and one from the 2004 undefeated regular season) onto his finger. 

“Championships are won and championships are lost,” he said, “but the Hawk will never die.”

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

Updated: 3:23 p.m.

The Eagles have some injuries, but they don't seem to be too serious. 

Vinny Curry (knee), Taylor Hart (knee, ankle), Isaac Seumalo (pec) and Rodney McLeod (hamstring) all missed practice and won't play Thursday, but head coach Doug Pederson said if it was a regular season game, they'd all be able to go. 

Wendell Smallwood (concussion) also missed practice and is going through the NFL's concussion protocol. 

On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson said the team would hold Seumalo back from practice until he was 100 percent. Pederson expects Seumalo back next week and then the team will make a decision about the starting offensive line.

For the second straight day, however, Carson Wentz (ribs) and Jordan Matthews (knee) were practicing. Neither will play on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Jets, but both also said they'll be ready for the opener.

The Eagles wrap up their preseason at the Linc on Thursday with a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Jets.