Papelbon's Second Blown Save Hurts More Than His First, Nats Rally to Avoid Phils Sweep

Papelbon's Second Blown Save Hurts More Than His First, Nats Rally to Avoid Phils Sweep

Jonathan Papelbon probably wasn't going to go the whole season without blowing a save, and we were lucky that his first failed conversion of the year--two nights ago, against this same Nats team--was redeemed by a bottom-of-the-ninth Phils rally, capped by a Domonic Brown RBI single to drive home Ben Revere. However, blown saves result in heartbreak more often than not, and tonight, the Philly offense failed to bail out their closer, when a Jayson Werth RBI single off Pap in the 9th tied things up at 2-2, and Ian Desmond broke things wide open with a grand slam in the 11th. Final score: Nats 6, Phils 2.

Remarkably, not only did the Phils have a chance to win this one in the bottom of the ninth again, but it was almost the exact same scenario as it was two nights ago. Not only did the Phils have two on with two out, they had Dom Brown up at the plate again with the chance to let Pap off the hook and send the Philly Phaithful home happy. He even squibbed a soft liner up the middle that looked like it had a chance of depositing in shallow center, as his winner on Monday did. But this time, the ball died gently in the shortstop Desmond's glove, and the Phils never again got a real chance.

Tonight was not the Domonator's night in general. For the second straight night, he went 0-4 with multiple strikeouts--in fact, the aforementioned soft liner in the 9th was his only time even putting the ball in play. Add in some sluggish defense out in left, and Dom is officially in a bad way at the moment, now having gone ten straight games without an extra base hit--this, of course, immediately following a stretch where he homered ten times in 13 games. In a way, this is a relief, because we knew we were gonna get some serious regression to the mean with DomBro sooner or later, but man, it's almost getting to the point where he's as cold now as he was hot previously. (Almost.)

That said, there's plenty of blame to go around in the Phils' lineup tonight, which after a two-run Michael Young homer in the first, went the next 33 outs without bringing a single man across the plate, racking up just two additional hits in the process. The weak offensive effort wasted a stellar pitching outing from Kyle Kendrick, who had one of his best outings of the season against the struggling Washington offense, going 7 2/3rds with six strikeouts, letting up just two hits, a walk and a run in between his 23 outs. Still, he got to hand the ball over to Jonathan Paplebon with the lead, and up until this series, that'd been good enough for the Phils this year. Sigh.

At least the end of the series means no more Jayson Werth for a while. Werth ends the series 4-12 with a homer and four RBIs, as well as a big walk in the 11th inning tonight, all continuing the time-honored tradition of ex-Phils excelling upon their return visits to Philadelphia. The Nats also leave town having reclaimed the runner-up spot in the NL East, Philly falling back to three games under .500 and eight behind the victorious Braves.

Day off tomorrow, then three against the Mets. The really sad thing about the Phils sub-.500 record is how many crap teams they've played over their first 70+ games, and how even with a sweep of the again-lowly Mets, we'll still be a definitively mediocre team with the real meat of the schedule still yet to come. Hopefully a couple more healthy regulars will help with compensate for that--Chooch got a hit tonight, while Chase began his rehab stint in Reading--but man, getting Dom swinging the bat again (and actually hitting the ball while doing so, preferably far) would be pretty nice as well. Otherweise, getting to .500 might be as good as it gets with this team.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.