Phils Get Back to .500, Cole Wins, Dom Homers, Everyone Happy Forever

Phils Get Back to .500, Cole Wins, Dom Homers, Everyone Happy Forever

A dicey game for about six-and-a-half innings there--especially if you were squatting behind home plate--was redeemed in the seventh inning today when the Phils exploded for five runs, all with two outs, off Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos. The Phillies easily held on in the last two frames to get a 6-1 win that makes for all sorts of team benchmarks: Their first home sweep of the year, their first four-game winning streak of the year, and of course, their first time this season with as many wins as losses since they were 6-6 on April 14th.

The biggest personal vindication of the afternoon goes to Colbert Michael Hamels, who had easily his best start of the season (though truth told, all his Miami starts have been pretty good--six runs in 27 innings, with 32 strikeouts and just four walks between his four outings this year) with a final line of 7 IP, 4H, 1ER, 1BB and a season-high 11 K's. Best of all, the Phils' offensive unshackling came just in time to count towards Cole's decision for the game, resulting in his long-delayed second W of the season, his first since April 28th. I don't want to call it a "Vintage Cole" outing because I want to believe this was more of a return to form than a flashback, but in any event, it was fun to watch our ace pitching like one.

And after going hitless in his last eight at bats--a biblical drought considering the tear he'd been on--the Downtown Dom Brown watch was back in full effect in the sixth inning tonight, when Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos generously hung a 3-1 changeup over the outside of the plate to Dom, and he belted it to right for an easy round-tripper. The best thing about it for me was how damn predictable it was--men on base, Phils with the lead, a 3-1 count and a shaky righty reliever on the mound, of course Dom was gonna homer to right. I mean seriously, doesn't this Ramos dude watch MLB Tonight? This be what Dom Brown do.

And in case you need happy funtime stat reminders, it's Domonic's NL-leading 18th homer of the season--Justin Upton is now four back in second place with his 14, and Dom now only trails Chris Davis' 20 for the lead in all of baseball--and his 10th in his last 12 games. With only one dinger today and zero yesterday, though, Dom is really starting to lag behind the homer-a-game pace he's set out for himself, so he should probably make up some ground by going yard thrice tomorrow night against the Brewers. Otherwise he might be spending the whole year playing catchup.

Aside from Dom and Cole, big kudos today go to Ryan "Big Legs" Howard, who again went for the triple today on a drive to right-center and actually got there this time. ("I thought, 'Oh no, not again,'" was Charlie's answer when asked his reaction to Ryno going for three.) And the whole inning was broken wide by Jimmy Rollins, whose single scored Delmon Young for the go-ahead run. J-Roll is also in the midst of maybe the best stretch of his career seeing the ball--though batting third in front of Ryan and Domonic might be helping with that--walking 12 times in his last ten games, after walking just 12 times in the 50 games before that. OBP has always been a concern with Rollins, so it's good to see him doing his part to give Ryan and Dom actual runs to bat in.

Oh, and because it's what anyone who didn't care about the actual outcome of this game is likely going to be talking about, it's probably worth mentioning that umpire John Hirschbeck took one in the wrist in the seventh and laid on the ground for several minutes afterwards, resulting in a 20-plus-minute delay and Jim Reynolds replacing Hirschbeck behind the place. Weird moment at the ballpark that halted what was otherwise a very quick-moving game, but the Phils commenced their rally shortly thereafter, so it looks like Charlie's "Win One For Hirschy" motivational ploy worked. Thanks John!

In Milwaukee tomorrow night for the first of a four-gamer, hopefully which will go better than the last time the Brewers were in town. Unrealistic to expect all four going this well, anyway--nine hits for the game, and one for each slot in the lineup (the eight position starters and Delmon Young as a pinch-hitter). Throw in the afternoon setting and gorgeous weather, and baseball will rarely be as utopian as this.

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

BOX SCORE

The New York Mets and a slew of their supportive fans took over Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon. The Mets posted a 5-3 win over the Phillies and streamed out of the dugout like school children at recess to celebrate clinching a National League wild-card playoff spot on the penultimate day of the season (see Instant Replay).

As the Mets players congratulated each other on the diamond, several thousand of their vocal fans cheered in the stands while Phillies fans headed to the exits longing for those days when their team used to have celebrations on the field.

There was a moment in the game, however, when it did feel like the good ol’ days at the ballpark, a moment when Ryan Howard owned the place like he used to and the Phillies fans drowned out the Mets fans with ease.

It came in the fifth inning when the Phillies were down by two runs and Howard came to the plate and turned on a pitch from Bartolo Colon and sent it into the right-field seats for a game-tying two-run home run. Phillies fans had seen Howard hit homers like this before because many of the 382 he has hit in his career have been clutch shots that have come in big moments, and though the Phillies have long been dead in the standings, this was an important game and thus a big moment because the Mets had a lot to play for and no competitor worth his salt would let another team walk on him.

The game didn’t stay tied long as reliever Patrick Schuster allowed a hit and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth before David Hernandez surrendered a two-run homer to James Loney as the Mets went up for good.

But at least Howard gave the Phillies fans in the house something to cheer about for a short while.

“It was cool,” Howard acknowledged after the game. “I was able to hit the home run, tying the game up. I tried to spoil it for them today a little bit, but they got us, and you’ve got to congratulate those guys because they scratched and clawed and did what they needed to do. That’s a good ball club.”

Howard’s home run, of course, was cool for another reason.

It might have been his last as a Phillie.

This is the veteran slugger’s final weekend with the team he helped win the 2008 World Series and a little love-in has developed between him and the fans. They gave him a standing ovation after the homer – his 25th of the season – and he responded with a curtain call.

“It was awesome,” he said. “To be able to hit the home run in the first place and then get the curtain call. To have the fans show that kind of appreciation is a great feeling.”

The Phillies will not pick up Howard’s contract option for 2017. On Sunday afternoon, he will play his final game for the Phillies. First pitch is at 3 p.m. The team will make an on-field presentation to Howard at 2:30.

Howard doesn’t know what the team has planned.

“I’m just going to show up and see what happens,” he said. “You know, I think it’ll be something cool. We’ll see what it is. Whatever it brings, I'll embrace it and take it and enjoy it."
 
Howard had spent the previous few days stiff-arming the attention that has come with his final days as a Phillie.

He put his guard down a little after Saturday’s game.

“I’m just taking the weekend as is,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, trying to embrace everything and take it as is. I’m not trying to look too much into anything. Actually, I’m just trying to go out there and win these ballgames. I mean, I’ve said it before, things will hit you when they hit you.”

The Phillies have not been to the playoffs since 2011, their last of five straight trips to the postseason. If anyone needed a reminder of what it used to look like around here, it was on the field after the game in the form of the Mets’ celebration.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did not watch the Mets celebrate. He’s waiting to experience a celebration of his own.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get back where we need to be and we’re going to be one of those teams, just like the Mets are now,” Mackanin said.

Howard will turn 37 in November. He is the elder statesman on this club and he’s embraced that role in his dealings with younger players.

He used the Mets’ celebration as an opportunity to pass on some advice to the men who are his teammates for one more day.

“You never want to see somebody else celebrate on your home field, but for these young guys it's something where once you’ve seen it, you want to be those guys," Howard said. "When you see the other team out there, you want to be that guy next year. You want to be out there celebrating on your home field or somebody else's field.

“It's tough, but you take that and find a way to use that as motivation.”

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

It appears that Carson Wentz' fanbase in North Dakota is still pretty strong. Before North Dakota State’s game against Illinois State Saturday afternoon, fans were seen walking around the parking lot in Carson Wentz Eagles’ jerseys. 

Wearing Eagles gear at the tailgate was not all, however. A large group of people begun chanting “Carson” over and over to show their love and support for the Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz, along with Eagles practice squad cornerback C.J. Smith, a fellow Bison alum, showed up to North Dakota State's homecoming Saturday.

This is not the first time we have seen North Dakota State fans showing how much they adore Carson Wentz. Going back to the NFL draft, fans were seen on the red carpet wearing North Dakota State Wentz jersey’s and waving flags.

On Sept. 19, when the Eagles played the Bears, North Dakotans traveled to see Wentz play in person.

Clearly, Wentz has a lot of love from his fans back at home, but it is safe to say that Eagles fans love him just as much after he has led them to a 3-0 start.  

It doesn't hurt that Wentz' cousin, Connor, plays for North Dakota State. Connor is a redshirt junior tight end.

John Clark with Connor Wentz

A photo posted by Rob Kuestner (@rkuestner23) on