The 20 happiest memories from a Phillies season mostly worth forgetting

The 20 happiest memories from a Phillies season mostly worth forgetting

Fans cheer as left fielder Domonic Brown (9) rounds the bases after hitting a home run Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

And so the Phillies finish the 2013 MLB season with a 73-89 record, seventh worst in the NL, and a league-worst run differential that suggests they were somehow actually far crappier than even their miserable record would suggest. Hope that this team would end up as any more than this faded quickly after the All-Star break and was minimal even before that, and the team begins next season with far more question marks concerning their roster and their future outlook than, uh, any other form of punctuation.

A countdown of all the indignities inflicted upon the Phillies fanbase this year--the dropped fly balls, the blown saves, the countless moments of front-office ignominy--would be too long and depressing to relate (again) here, and there's no real point in it. Instead, I would like to remember for posterity the few things that happened this year that actually might have brought a smile to the Philly Phaithful--the hot streaks, the dramatic wins, the moments of transcendent play that were all far too few and far between in 2013.

20 happy moments over a year isn't a ton in a sport where you play 162 games per season. But for the most part, it was enough--enough to keep us tuned in, enough to keep us from totally abandoning ship and jumping on the Pirates' bandwagon (at least until the post-season--go Buccos!) For those of you who had the foresight to give up back in April, here's what they were.

20. Kyle Kendrick shuts out the Mets (Apr. 26). Easy to forget given the predictably uninspiring way he ended the season, but Kyle Kendrick actually started the season as the Phils' most reliable starter, pitching like an All-Star for the first month-and-a-half (4-1, 2.97 ERA, nearly 4:1 K/BB ratio through eight starts). His finest moment was easily his blanking of the Mets at Citi Field, striking out five while letting up just three hits and a walk, in what would be the first W in a New York sweep. We knew it wouldn't last, but it was a beautiful moment where we were able to dream that Kyle had somehow finally evolved into something more than a back-end innings eater.

19. '90s nostalgia (Aug. 26). The 20th anniversary of the '93 pennant-winning team, complete with appearances by Dutch, Wild Thing and the Krukker, was pretty fun. But '90s Night probably wins for best theme night at CBP this year, thanks to giveaways featuring the Phanatic as the baby from Nirvana's Nevermind cover, as well as the requisite funkdafied '90s player intros and a whole lotta mullets.

18. Ben Revere's season-ending hitting tear (July). After doing a whole lotta nothing for the Phils through the season's first two months--minus one noteworthy play that we'll talk about again later--Ben Revere finally came on for the Fightins in June, hitting safely in 14 straight games and reclaiming his leadoff spot in the batting order. He one-upped himself in July, racking multiple hits in seven out of 11 games, and raising his batting average over .300 for the season. Then, of course, he broke his foot and was lost for the season. Hoping you spare us the slow start and pick up where you left off next year, Ben.

17. Kevin Frandsen walks off against Mets, spares Phils third straight late-game collapse (Jun. 22). The Phillies' bullpen--primarily once-perfect closer Jonathan Papelbon--had blown consecutive games against the Nats and Mets, when they were handed a 7-1 lead in the seventh inning against the Mets on the day of my birthday party. I remember watching in horror, thinking no, not again, not today as they proceeded to give the entire thing up in the seventh and ninth, allowing the Mets to knot the score at 7-7, before unlikely hero Kevin Frandsen saved the day with a leadoff blast in the bottom of the ninth. Thanks for preventing the bullpen from ruining my 27th, Kev.

16. J-Roll's web gem allows the Phils to salvage some dignity against the Braves (Sept. 28). Speaking of Pap and blown saves, our closer nearly cost the Phils their only win in their last five tries by giving up a three-run blast in the bottom of the ninth against the Braves to allow them to creep within 5-4 of the Fightins. A single and a walk later, a sharply hit Chris Johnson grounder to the left side looked like a sure bet to tie the game up, until Jimmy Rollins--whose range wasn't generally what it used to be this year--made a phenomenal diving stop and quick throw to first to nail a sliding Johnson and end the game. A Pyrrhic victory at best, but we didn't have many victories of any kind this September, so we were grateful anyway.

15. Comeback win over the Cubs (Aug. 30). For the most part this season, when the Phils got down, they stayed down, but a rare actual comeback came in a fun Friday win over the Cubs at Wrigley. Chicago's 5-0 lead was cut to 5-4 in an offensive flurry in the sixth, then to nil in the 7th with a Frandsen solo shot, and then in his last (only?) great moment as a Phillie, Michael Young gave the team the go-ahead with an RBI single in the ninth. Certainly happened the other way around plenty for the Phils in '13, so it was nice to get one for the good guys.

14. Chase re-signed (Aug. 7). It took a lot of money to do it--possibly as much as $75 million over five years, if he hits all his plate-appearance benchmarks--but it was a rare bit of good news for the '13 Phils to find out for sure that the franchise's best player since Mike Schmidt would be sticking around for at least another couple years. Hard to say if he'll be around for the whole five-year duration of his contract, but if we could get the kind of production we got from Chase this year (.284/.348/.475, his highest OPS+ since '09) for even three years of that deal, it'd be hard to argue he wouldn't be worth it.

13. Darin Ruf's on-base streak (Jul-Aug). Watching Darin Ruf as an every day player for the Phils the second half of this season was certainly not without its frustrations, but it was a rare fun subplot for the post-All-Star squad to see him continue to stretch his career-starting on-base streak--through his first 36 career games, he had reached base safely at least once in every one of them. It ended with an 0-fer in Chicago, and it was much rougher sledding for Ruf after that--he hit just .232/.354/.378 in September--but between the on-base streak and his nine-homer August, it was more offensive production (and more of a reason to watch) than we get from most of the Fightins all season.

12. Cole Hamels goes the distance against Atlanta (Aug. 12). An up-and-down year for sure for Colbert, but an upswing was definitely started with his complete game victory--one ninth-inning run away from being a shutout--of the first-place Braves in August, in which he struck out nine and walked none. After a start to the season in which wins were pretty hard to come by, the Phils would win in Cole's next six outings, improving his record to a still not-as-bad-as-it-looks 8-13, and proving that Hamels was still perfectly capable of living up to the ace billing (and ace-scale contract) he had with the Phillies.

11. Domonic Brown redeems Pap's first blown save of the season (Jun. 17). Remember how Jonathan Paplebon was perfect through the season's first two and a half months, giving up just four runs in 24 appearances and converting his first 13 save opportunities? Probably not, since he blew four of his next five chances, including a series-opener against Washington, in which Chad Tracy of all people laced a two-out, two-strike homer right to tie the game at 4-4. But Papelbon's hide was saved by hits from Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins and Dom Brown, the last of whom drove in the winning run with a single to center. The look of sheer elation on Pap's face as he embraced the man who redeemed his blown save was not one often seen on the Fightins' faces this season.

10. Kratz & Galvis homer to win it in the ninth (May 9). You need big bats to scrape runs off a closer with stuff as dynamite as the Reds' Aroldis Chapman, and whose bats were bigger in baseball this year than Eric Kratz and Freddy Galvis? Well, pretty much everyone's, but it was enough for the Phils on one unlikely day in May, where back-to-back solo shots from Freddy and ol' Turkey Bacon were enough to turn the tables on the Cuban Missile and secure the 3-2 victory for Philly. You could say nearly every win for the Phils this season was unexpected, but this one moreso than most.

9. PHI-LAD, 16-1 (Jun. 28). Still pretty hard to believe this actually happened, but yes, that was the Phillies hanging 16 on the West-best Dodgers, with homers from Michael Young and John Mayberry Jr. and an unlikely six RBIs from Delmon Young, in what will sure go down as Delmon's greatest game as a Phillie. The 16 runs was easily the most the team scored all year, and the 15-run difference for the game was especially stark considering they still ended up with a worse run differential on the season than the friggin' Marlins. Winning by a lot is fun, turns out.

8. Chase finally responds to Mac's letter (Sep. 3).

Only took him about four years. But then again, Chase was always a man who was careful with his words.

7. John Mayberry Jr.'s walk-off grand slam (Jun. 4). Anytime you can use the phrase "walk-off grand slam" for your side, that's a pretty cool thing. JMJ got his in the bottom of the 11th against the Marlins--which, remarkably, was his second homer of the game after being inserted as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning. The slam was the first of Mayberry's career, and one of the few truly positive moments the over-exposed backup outfielder had on the season. Walk-off grand slam, though...hard to beat that.

6. Sweeping the Braves at home (Sep. 6-8). More a moral victory than anything by that point, natch, but c'mon--three straight one-run victories over the best team in your division, two in late-game go-ahead style, in front of a fanbase that hasn't had a ton to cheer about all year...you had to respect the showing. The fact that it was one of only three series sweeps the team managed over the entirety of 2013 makes it all the more noteworthy. And hey, if the Braves win one or more of those, they at least tie for the best record in the NL and maybe get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Take solace in the little things, guys.

5. The Ben Revere Catch (Apr. 15).

You could tell how good this catch was because even the guys on the Reds broadcast couldn't stop running it back and waxing poetic about how it might end up as the year's best. It may or may not have finished the season with that superlative honor, but it was certainly the web gem of the season for the Fightins, and one of the few times when Ben Revere actually lived up to his much-hyped and little-delivered defensive prowess. Another way you could tell how good this catch was--the fact that Revere was easily able to recover and double the man off first, who clearly thought to himself "no goddamn way is that thing not dropping."

4. Cliff Lee's final month (Sept). The numbers are just staggering: 39 IP, 8 ER, 54 K, 1 BB--the last two of which have never been done in conjunction over the course of a month by any other pitcher. And that's not even including how Cliff went 3-4 with a triple at the plate against the Marlins over that stretch, setting all kinds of benchmarks for badassery in the process. While the rest of the Phils barely looked like they were trying in the season's final weeks, Cliff Lee was making baseball history. We say again: If not for Clayton Kershaw's once-in-a-decade season of dominance, you're looking at your 2013 NL Cy Young winner right here.

3. Blowing out the Mets to move over .500 (Jul. 19). Ah, the season's second half started out with such promise. After fighting the entire pre-All-Star Break to get to a winning record, the Phils finally managed to creep one game over .500 for the first time all season in their first game back, with a 13-8 immolation of the Mets in New York that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Chase, Dom and Michael Young homered, and the Phils were leading by double digits by the end of the third inning. It seemed like good times forever for the Phillies, a portent that things in the season's second half would be far smoother than the first. Then the Phils lost their next eight, and five of the six after that, and before you could say "Juan Lagares," the season was over. We'll always have the optimisim of that one inordinately hot night at CitiField, though.

2. Three consecutive walk-off wins for Ryne Sandberg (Aug. 21-23). In what was easily the lowest ebb of the Phillies' season, after the incessant losing in late July and early August and the resultant firing of beloved long-time manager (and forever world f---ing champion) Charlie Manuel, a trio of consecutive walk-off wins against the Rockies and Diamondbacks managed to briefly restore some sense of momentum, and even a little fun to what was probably the most depressing franchise in the majors. Incredibly enough, it was very nearly four straight, as the Phils managed to fight back from 7-1 to tie the Diamondbacks in the eighth, then got about 27 chances to win it in walk-off fashion in the ninth and extras, before the Phils finally had to pitch Casper Wells for an inning and the Diamondbacks scored five for the win. Still, for a minute there, it seemed like the team had gotten some of its WFC mojo back--a most-welcome feeling, even as it was far too little and far too late.

1. The emergence of the Domonator (May-Jun). If you remember this Phillies season for one thing and one thing alone, let's hope it's for the span of late May to early June, where there was simply no hotter hitter on the planet than Domonic Brown. The potential long-promised from the Phillies' 25-year-old outfielder took such a long time to consistently show itself that many understandably assumed it had just never existed in the first place. Then Dom hit ten homers in 11 games, taking the baseball world by storm and securing his first All-Star bid (though somehow, not a slot on the NL's squad for the home run derby--thanks, David Wright and Michael Cuddyer). With the possible exception of watching LeSean McCoy juke his way out of a sure tackle, there was simply no sight in Philly sports this year more exciting then Dom squaring up on a ball on the outside corner for those couple of weeks.

Of course, it couldn't last, and as NL scouting figured out how to stop feeding into Domonic's hitting strengths (and as Dom was nicked up with a couple injuries), his power numbers sagged, and after going deep for the 27th time on August 14th against the Braves, Dom did not homer again all season, slugging just .314 for the month of September. But all we wanted to see this season was that it was there at all with Domonic, and if that impossibly hot stretch didn't leave you convinced that there was still the potential for greatness with Dom, you sir or madam are one tough sell. I can't wait to see him in the lineup again every day next year, wondering when next the Dom Bomb might go off.

Mychal Kendricks may be only starter to play Thursday vs. Jets

Mychal Kendricks may be only starter to play Thursday vs. Jets

Nelson Agholor, a struggling second-year receiver who may or may not be a starter, likely won't play in the Eagles' preseason finale Thursday against the Jets.

Mychal Kendricks, a fifth-year linebacker who's been a regular starter since he was a rookie, likely will.

"There's a chance," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday. "There's a chance he plays because he hasn't played all preseason, and we still want to get him those live reps and get him ready for Cleveland."

Kendricks played Saturday against Indianapolis after missing the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury suffered in training camp earlier this month. He was still in the game in the fourth quarter, when the rest of the starters had exchanged their helmets for baseball caps.

"Why? Because he hasn't played," Pederson said. "He hasn't played and we just want to see him get game and live reps. That's the bottom line."

And just to be sure, Kendricks is still a starter?

"Oh, yeah. He's another one that we'd love to see again this Thursday night in a short role," Pederson said. "But at the same time he hasn't played all preseason. Stephen Tulloch's another one that we need to see play. So there's an opportunity for these two to get some more reps on Thursday."

Tulloch makes sense. He needs all the reps he can get. And he's also a backup. He should have no problem playing Thursday.

As for Kendricks ... he was not available to the media Monday.

Aaron Grymes waived/injured by Eagles

Aaron Grymes waived/injured by Eagles

Aaron Grymes was making a serious push to be on the Eagles' 53-man roster until the cornerback's right shoulder slammed into the ground at Heinz Field after an interception.

Grymes hasn't practiced or played since and the Eagles waived/injured the 25-year-old corner on Monday.

Before coming to the Eagles this spring, Grymes spent three successful seasons in the Canadian Football League and won a Grey Cup as an All-Star for the Edmonton Eskimos in 2015.

There seems to be a decent shot that the Eagles might want to put Grymes on their practice squad.

After the Pittsburgh game, when he had the interception and suffered the injury, Grymes was asked if he would prefer to be on a practice squad or head back to Canada, where he's already a proven star.

“I’ve thought about both of them," Grymes said on Aug. 18. "Both of them are great opportunities. I know that there are teams in Canada that are willing to bring me in and let me play. But then again, you can’t really compare it with this NFL dream I’ve had forever.

"To sign to a practice squad … injuries happen every day, and I think an opportunity could be there. It will be something I sit down with my wife and talk about, sit down with my agent and talk about. We’ll just make the best decision for us from there.”

Nelson Agholor unlikely to play Eagles' preseason finale, even if he could use the work

Nelson Agholor unlikely to play Eagles' preseason finale, even if he could use the work

Starters typically don't play much if at all in the final preseason game, but what does that mean for the Eagles and Nelson Agholor?

Agholor may be a starter by default, but the second-year wideout has followed up a disappointing rookie campaign with an uninspired summer thus far. More reps might be of value for a young player in Agholor's position.

Doug Pederson apparently disagrees, telling reporters on Monday that Agholor "probably" won't make an appearance in the Eagles' preseason finale this Thursday against the Jets. When pressed for an explanation, the head coach gave a curious response.

"One, I don't want to risk an injury necessarily," Pederson said. "Two, he's right on track with where he needs to be, so I'm not concerned with Nelson."

Any assertion that Agholor is "on track" is debatable. The 2015 first-round pick has just two receptions for 30 yards in preseason action. To make matters worse, he's also dropped three passes, including a costly deflection that went for an interception against the Colts on Saturday.

Minimal production and lapses in concentration plagued Agholor throughout last season, and there's little evidence those issues are behind him. Regardless, Pederson sounds unconcerned.

"Every day he comes out here and puts in a quality day's work," Pederson said. "He works extremely hard, and I've seen what he can do in practice.

"Is there the occasional drop here or there? Yeah. What he did after the drop (against the Colts), you probably didn't notice the blocking downfield, the things he did away from the ball. More than being a receiver — obviously, catching the ball is number one — but we pride ourselves in being physical in the run game and blocks down the field, and the things he did in this football game put him in a really good position going into the regular season."

To his credit, Agholor has shown a willingness to contribute without the ball in his hands. The 23-year-old threw a key block on Josh Huff's eight-yard touchdown run on Saturday.

Of course, Agholor wasn't taken 20th overall for his ability to pancake defensive backs. The Eagles are hoping he can become a viable target in the passing attack.

Agholor has dealt with questions about his production and confidence going back to last year. He knows as well as anybody that he needs to improve, although he doesn't necessarily feel that growth needs to take place in an exhibition game.

"The most important thing to me right now is practice, and I got an opportunity to go out here and practice and progress from the game to today," Agholor said. "We went over some corrections from the game, so that was a step, and now when I go out here, I have to show signs of progression.

"(Coach Pederson's) decision is his decision. For my mind, I need to make sure I go out here today and get better as a football player."

But are Agholor's troubles holding on to the football correctable through practice? Drops are often attributed either to a receiver's hands or his concentration, both of which tend to be difficult flaws to overcome.

Concentration has been more to blame in Agholor's case. If there's a positive, he realizes that. Agholor looks at a drop like the one he had against the Colts that wound up going for an interception and tries to figure out exactly what broke his concentration on that play so that he won't make the same mistake again.

"As a wide receiver, when you watch that, the end result, the drop, isn't on my mind," Agholor said. "It's 'What was my route?' to go to that. Did I do too much to take my focus away from receiving that football? And I felt like I did.

"I felt like my pattern to get to the football — I made man moves and they were actually in a zone — and all those stairsteps made my eyes and my hands not be in the right place to receive the football at the right time."

Nobody is putting more pressure on Agholor to eliminate these mistakes than he is.

"That's what you have to do in this league, and that's what you have to do for a football team, especially when they count on you," Agholor said.

"My teammates count on me to be explosive with the football and without the football. I want to always do it with the football because that's my job. I'm a wide receiver. But as a player on the field, I have to make sure I'm explosive and I have to make sure I make plays without the ball in my hands too."

Perhaps that's why Pederson is showing so much faith in his young receiver. Work ethic has never been an issue for Agholor, and he's going to do whatever he can to become a reliable weapon for the Eagles. When he comes up short, it's not for lack of effort or preparation.

Fortunately, there's still time for Agholor to turn things around. If he can give the offense somewhat steady production in 2016, nobody will remember the preseason or even how he struggled as a rookie. Agholor realizes that too, so he's worried only about getting ready for opening day against the Browns on Sept. 11.

"I have a responsibility because I will be a guy that's out there," Agholor said. "In my mind, my number's going to be called multiple times and I need to answer the phone. That's how I look at it."