Phils Shake Off Chicago's Late Rally, Salvage Series Split with 6-4 W

Phils Shake Off Chicago's Late Rally, Salvage Series Split with 6-4 W

For awhile it looked like Chris Volstad would cure what ails the Phillies. A long-time punching bag when he was with the Marlins, the towering righthander did not disappoint early on, as the Phils tagged him for a quick 4-0 lead while batting around in the bottom of the first. That was all they would get off of Volstad though, who settled down and wound up giving the Cubs six innings.

As it turned out, those four runs almost weren't enough, but the Fightins got some timely hitting from one of the old heads.

Vance Worley did his job, allowing one earned over seven frames, but Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls gave up three in the eighth to knot the score. The night was beginning to resemble some oh-so-familiar territory in the month of April, during which they dropped several close games in the ninth inning or later, experiencing a devastating combination of ineffective relief pitching and untimely at bats.

That wasn't the case here. The Fightins came right back with two in the eighth, then shut down Chicago in the ninth.

Juan Pierre was plunked on the behind and awarded first base in the bottom half of the eighth. When Jimmy Rollins came up with two outs one batter later, the Cubs proceeded to become very concerned with Pierre attempting to run. After a series throwovers, J-Roll eventually got a chance to swing the bat, and made Chicago pay with a liner into right field. Placido Polanco then followed with undoubtedly his biggest hit of the season.

Polanco drove a Rafael Dolis offering deep to left field past Alfonso Soriano. By the time Soriano corralled the ball and fired it back into the infield, Pierre and Rollins had scored easily, and Polanco was standing on second. It was his third extra-base hit of the season, and accounts for two of his four RBIs in 2012.

Jonathan Papelbon came on to close out the ninth. He surrendered a lead-off walk, but it was smooth sailing from there. Pap sat the next three batters down in order, striking out Tony Campana looking to end the game, securing the 6-4 victory. It is already Papelbon's eighth save of the season.

A win is a win, even against the Cubs, but the big takeaway has to be escaping April just one game below .500 with an 11-12 record. For as awful a start to the season the Phillies have had, they are just 3.5 games back of the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East, this while playing without two of their biggest stars in Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Speaking of the NL East, the Phils begin the first of three consecutive series against division rivals in Atlanta tomorrow, when Cole Hamels goes head-to-head with Brandon Beachy.

Notes:

- The Phillies offense produced a strong all-around game. All eight of their starters produced on some level, most with at least one run or RBI -- the lone exception being Ty Wigginton, who had two hits. Carlos Ruiz and Pete Orr combined to knock three runs home from the seven and eight spots in the order.

- Qualls picked up the win despite giving up the game-tying, two-run homer to Bryan LaHair in the eighth.

- Volstad entered the game with a 2-5 record, and a horrific 5.88 ERA in 12 appearances versus the Phillies.

Carson Wentz goes through lengthy pregame warmup in Indy

Carson Wentz goes through lengthy pregame warmup in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- Carson Wentz isn't playing on Saturday night against the Colts, but the No. 2 overall pick might have a chance to play in the preseason finale on Thursday, which has been the hope all along. 

Wentz went through a lengthy pregame warmup -- about an hour -- on Saturday as his teammates prepared to face Andrew Luck and the Colts. Long after Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel went into the locker room, Wentz continued to throw. 

This week's pregame warmup was much more intense than the one he was put through last week in Pittsburgh. On Saturday, he dropped back to throw and looked smooth throwing on the run, even across his body. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo put Wentz through the hour-long workout on Saturday. Leaving the field after the workout, offensive coordinator Frank Reich agreed that Wentz looked good. 

The real test will be the X-ray, because no matter how good he feels or how much he lobbies, he'll need to be cleared before he's allowed to return. Shortly after the injury, Wentz said practice would be determined by his pain tolerance and game action would be determined by medical personnel. If he doesn't play against the Jets, it could be a while before Eagles fans get to see their quarterback of the future. 

Another hurdle is the short week of practice thanks to a Thursday game coming after a Saturday game. 

"It's interesting because next week we only got really two days of practice," Doug Pederson said earlier in the week. "We'll see. We'll evaluate him through the weekend. [We’ll] take him on this trip and work him out a little bit when we get to Indy [Indianapolis], and then again next Monday and Tuesday. We've got to at least get a day's work with him in order for him to go in the game next Thursday."

Along with Wentz, there are several other Eagles who won't play against the Colts: Aaron Grymes, Alex McCalister, Joe Walker, Jordan Matthews, Isaac Seumalo and Mike Martin.

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

After watching his club get smacked around in a 9-4 loss to the Mets on Friday, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has tinkered with his lineup for Saturday's game at Citi Field.

Odubel Herrera moves up to the two-hole after hitting sixth Friday, while Aaron Altherr goes from second to third and Jimmy Paredes gets the start in left and bats seventh. Ryan Howard starts again at first base and bats fifth.

Herrera, who has been struggling since the All-Star break with a .257 average, has lost his leadoff spot to Cesar Hernandez but is starting to find his swing again.

In the last seven days, Herrera is 5 for 17 with a double and a run scored. In August, the centerfielder is hitting .288 with two homers and five RBIs.

Altherr, who played left field Friday, moves over to right field and Peter Bourjos gets the night off. Altherr is hitting .255 with four home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.

Here is the full Phillies lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

For more on tonight's's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Despite the Soul leading by three touchdowns early in ArenaBowl XXIX, there was little cheering from the their bench.

Given the volatility that is Arena League football and the frequency from which teams can strike, the approach remained resolute and determined. Defensive tackle Jake Metz kept the mindset of a scoreless game and could not stop hearing words coming from Ron Jaworski, a highly vocal partner in the Soul’s ownership.

“He kept yelling that offense gets headlines but defense wins championships,” said Metz, who currently lives in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, and went to Shippensburg University. “That resounded with me, and brought the championship.”

Metz and his defensive teammates then went out and shut down a highly hazardous and explosive Arizona Rattlers offensive unit en route to a 56-42 win (see story). Led by quarter Nick Davila, the only three-time MVP in Arena Football League history, the Rattlers could manage only seven points in a critical fourth quarter.

At the same time, Metz recovered a fumble by Davila with the Soul holding a slim six-point margin with just under six minutes to play. That turnover was the key point in the Soul’s eventual win, and cemented the role of the defense as a shut-down unit.

On the subsequent possession, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected with Shaun Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike. That created a 14-point comfort zone and the final margin of victory.

“These players deserve this championship,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “This is a first class organization and ownership gives the players a first-class experience. That way, we can attract great players, and with great players comes success.”

In capturing the league title Friday night, the victory was the second in franchise history. In 2008, the Soul and Phillies each won championships, and that was the last time a professional team captured a title in Philadelphia.

Metz remembers the Phillies' win over the Rays, and pointed out, “I went to those games as a kid.” That championship stuck with the 6-foot-6, 265 pounder, and helped to forge a championship mentality.

Early in the fourth quarter, Arizona caught the Soul at 42-42. From that point, Raudabaugh directed two scoring drives, and along with Metz’s important fumble recovery, carried the Soul to the title.

“It’s all about how you respond,” said Raudabaugh, who finished with 20 for 36 for 278 yards and six touchdowns. “Granted, they have a very explosive team, but we were never out it. They did come back, but we had an answer for them.”

The answer was a strong defense which Dolezel indicated was playing at their peak just prior to the title game.

Defensive back Tracy Belton, the AFL defensive player of the year and DB Dwayne Hollis, whose fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the game was another key defensive play, clearly showed how a defense can carry a team to a league title. That was the effort the Soul brought together in an environment as unpredictable as the Arena Football League.