This Is It, Don't Get Scared Now: Phils Begin Fight to Stay Together in Atlanta

This Is It, Don't Get Scared Now: Phils Begin Fight to Stay Together in Atlanta

Pat Burrell. Jayson Werth. Pedro Feliz. Jamie Moyer. Brett Myers. Brad Lidge. Ryan Madson. J.C. Romero. J.A. Happ. Chad Durbin. Scott Eyre. Clay Condrey. Chris Coste. Eric Bruntlett. Greg Dobbs. So Taguchi. Geoff Jenkins. Matt Stairs.

Save for the familiar infield, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies really don't resemble the WFC's of 2008. Still, there's been enough continuity that 2007 through July 2012 has all felt like part of the same run. And that's why this trade deadline has looked so ominous for so many weeks.

In reality, the Phillies are a much different team now as compared to then and many of the speculated moves they could make involve players who weren't parading in the first place, with the exception of one very notable individual. But there's just something about this weekend, a feeling, even if its misguided, that these Phils as we know them are about to change in spite of the fact that they already have.

For the next three days, they control their own fate. If they want to stay together through next Tuesday, now is the time to show it.

John Finger did a great job yesterday providing a brief refresher on just how the Phillies have stuck it to the Atlanta Braves the past two Septembers in a row. Now, of course, the Braves have the chance to return the favor a good month and a half to two months ahead of schedule.

The general narrative surrounding this three-game set at Turner Field, and the narrative Finger spelled out in that same article above, goes something like this:

-- If the Phillies can win the series, especially in decisive fashion, it could be enough to convince Ruben Amaro, Jr. to keep the team together over the next two months or even buy at the deadline in the hope of winning the second wild card, earning a one-game play-in opportunity, and hoping to scare everyone in October.

-- And if they lose, especially in decisive fashion, then it's time to sit down, pick up the phone and begin the 2013 baseball season.

There is certainly an argument to be made, an argument I rather like, an argument that makes sense in my head, that this weekend really shouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things. The centerfielder really should be traded regardless of what happens. The rightfielder and the other lefthanded ace really should be on the block and available for the right price.

But then there's this group that managed to recapture this city's love affair with baseball for the first time since the mid-to-early '90s. There's this thing they can do when they're behind in games, and it generates a genuinely unmatchable level of excitement and joy and pride and fun.

It's irrational to make an honest argument that this team should hold steady through next Tuesday out of the belief that they really can get hot, that they really can make the run, that they really will steamroll everyone when the weather gets cold and we're left with Buck and McCarver and, briefly, Sager. They can't. They won't. They really shouldn't try.

But if there's any group who can do it -- look at Chooch's intensity after ripping a bases-clearing double, watch Ryan talk up everyone in the dugout before putting his head down on his bat, see the smile on Jimmy's face when they somehow pull it off -- it's this group.

Take a good look at the 2012 Phillies you really haven't had a chance to watch this season. Come Wednesday Aug. 1, you might not be able to see them like you used to. Somebody else's name could be added to the list in italics.

Tonight's Pitching Matchup
Well, if it isn't Mr. Moneybags -- Cole Hamels, the man who definitely isn't going anywhere, makes his first start since signing his extension and will get the weekend going for the Phils. Hamels is 11-4 this year with a 3.23 ERA, 1.122 WHIP and $144 million contract. In three starts in the month of July, two have been not so good and one has been really good. Here's to hoping the new deal settles and refocuses him, because it has to be hard not to think about all he probably has on the mound since mid-June. Against the Braves lifetime, Cole is 11-6 with a 3.69 and and 1.204, but those numbers rise (4.06, 1.311) at Turner.

He'll be opposed by 34-year-old Ben Sheets, who has spent two of the past three seasons out of baseball because of injury. Sheets is 2-0 in two six-inning starts with a 0.00 ERA. The Phils have not seen him since a four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers in Sept. 2008, shortly before the two clubs' NLDS series. He'll kick things off at 7:35 p.m.

Roster Moves
Placido Polanco placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday (retroactive to July 23) with lower back inflammation.

Kevin Frandsen has had his contract selected to fill Polanco's spot on the roster.

Charlie's 7/27 Lineup
1. Rollins, SS
2. Victorino, CF
3. Utley, 2B
4. Howard, 1B
5. Ruiz, C
6. Pence, RF
7. Pierre, LF
8. Fontenot, 3B
9. Hamels, P

We'll see you postgame.

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies' late-May slide continued in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
 
Aaron Nola delivered a solid start, but got poor run support. The Phillies entered the game averaging 3.2 runs per game, lowest in the majors.
 
The Nationals scored all their runs on home runs.
 
The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-7 in their last eight and have gone from 25-19 and two games back in the NL East to 26-26 and 5½ games back.
  
Starting pitching report
Nola went six innings and allowed two runs, both on solo homers. He walked one and struck out six. He is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
 
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (5-4) pitched a strong game. He gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Ross has given up just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
 
Bullpen report
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the Nats in a non-save situation.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have been held to two or fewer runs 20 times in their 52 games.

Cesar Hernandez tripled home the Phillies' only run.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy accounted for the Nationals’ first two runs pair of solo homers against Nola. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer off Colton Murray in the ninth and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
Murphy also singled in the game. He had 47 hits in the month of May, tying a Washington/Montreal franchise record that had previously been shared by Al Oliver and Marquis Grissom.

Lineup stuff
Mackanin was trying to send Hernandez a message by batting him eighth (see story).
 
Bryce Harper did not play for Washington. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch in Monday night’s game.
 
Slumping Ryan Howard started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats to fall to .154. He hit .101 (7 for 69) in the month of May.
 
Howard will not start Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. He is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer. Tommy Joseph will start that game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint expires Wednesday. He could rejoin the team at any time.
 
Up next
 The series concludes on Wednesday night. Lefty Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) pitches against Washington right-hander Scherzer (5-4, 4.05).

Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

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Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

CHESTER, Pa. — For more than a month, Union center back Ken Tribbett waited patiently on the sidelines, hoping to get the starting spot back that he had and then lost.

Last week, he indeed got back on the field … and then some.

After Joshua Yaro separated his shoulder in Orlando on Wednesday, Tribbett proceeded to notch his first MLS goal and assist, before playing the full 90 minutes in front of 30 family members in his home state of Colorado on Saturday.

It was quite the eventful week for someone who wasn’t expected to play at all during the road trip, let alone accomplish a couple of emotional milestones.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tribbett told reporters from Tuesday’s training session after the Union returned home following hard-fought road draws vs. Orlando City SC and the Colorado Rapids. “For me, being out a month, mentally I had to make sure I stayed tuned in. And when I got my chance, I stepped in and was ready to go.”

Even if you are mentally prepared, it’s still not an easy thing to step in at center back in the middle of a game, considering that’s a position that rarely gets changed. Making things even more difficult was the fact that Yaro, who took over starting duties after Tribbett rolled his ankle in April, had been looking every bit like the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

“Josh was playing a great game in Orlando,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “If you go back and watch the tape, he was one of our top performers. Ken stepped in at the end of the first half, which is challenging at center back — not a position you like to sub at all. But Ken came in pretty seamlessly and got the goal, which is a bonus, obviously.”

You can call it a really big bonus.

Tribbett was never expected to even be in MLS this year after failing to get much notice following a standout career at Drexel.

And he certainly wasn’t expected to log much playing time this season with the Union, who added Yaro and Anderson, a Brazilian, to a position that already featured a rising star in Richie Marquez.

So surprises are nothing new for Tribbett, who started the first five games of the year after soaring up the depth chart in the preseason and now has a goal to add to his unlikely MLS resume.

But it’s no surprise to him.

“I don’t think shock is the right word because I expect a lot of myself and I expect to score a couple of goals this year,” Tribbett said. “So it was just more relief to get the first one out of the way. Any time you score, it’s jubilation, so that was awesome. And to tie the game in Orlando after going down 2-1 was really good for the team, so everything about it was just a special moment.”

Tribbett, who also had a secondary assist in Orlando, enjoyed another “special moment” just three days later when he got to play in the Denver area where he grew up. That was not something he could have imagined after his circuitous journey took him from Colorado to Drexel to the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders and now to the Union.

“That was probably a moment I won’t ever forget,” Tribbett said. “I had about 20 or 30 family members there, and for a lot of them it was the first time they’ve seen me play professionally. So being back home in Colorado was a special feeling.”

Although the Union backline stayed organized and surrendered only a couple of shots on target in Colorado, Curtin did say it wasn’t the best performance from Tribbett. But the Union coach is ready to lean on him again for Wednesday’s game vs. the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m./TCN) while Yaro gets an MRI on his shoulder.

“He did fatigue at the end and I talked to him about it,” Curtin said of Tribbett. “He had a couple of little mistakes toward the end of the game. Part of that is your legs starting to fade. But it’s good for him that’s under his belt. He’ll be ready to go now [Wednesday] for the full 90 minutes.”

With the Union idle for two weeks following Wednesday’s game because of a Copa America layoff — and Tribbett’s place in the lineup uncertain from there — the Drexel alum is certainly excited to get back on the field for his first home game since April 8.

“It’s a very important game,” Tribbett said. “We want to go into the break with certain goals for ourselves. We want to be at the top of the conference, and if we win, we’ll achieve that goal. We want to keep one goal per game [allowed]. Right now, we’re one off that, so if we get a shutout tomorrow, we’ll be right back on track.”

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

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Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

Pete Mackanin dropped second baseman Cesar Hernandez to eighth in the batting order for Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals.

“If you want to call it a message you can call it a message,” Mackanin said.

Hernandez entered the game hitting .255 with a .616 OPS. Last year, he hit .272 with and .687 OPS.

“I expect more out of him,” Mackanin said. “I think he's a better hitter than he's shown. I think he's a .280 hitter and I think he's at .250. I want to see improvement. We need him to get back up to .280, where I think he belongs. He’s got to make adjustments. We need offense.”

Mackanin pointed to Hernandez’s double-play partner, shortstop Freddy Galvis, as an example of a player who has made improvements.

Galvis entered Tuesday night hitting .257 with a .696 OPS. But in the month of May, he was hitting .277 with a .708 OPS.

“Freddy is starting to come on,” Mackanin said. “He’s starting to make adjustments.”

Galvis has also played excellent defense.

The Phillies are a rebuilding club with a number of potential big-league contributors rounding out their development in the minors. The team’s top prospect is a shortstop – J.P. Crawford – and he’s in Triple A now. It’s not out of the question that he will be the team’s opening day shortstop next season.

Crawford’s eventual ascension impacts both Galvis and Hernandez. Galvis can also play second base. Whether Hernandez or Galvis becomes the second baseman when Crawford arrives could be determined by who hits. This is the time to make impressions.

“That's basically what it boils down to,” Mackanin said. “I've even talked to them about that — 'It's an important year for both of you because there are people who want to be in the big leagues that are in the minor leagues and want to take your job.' You have to approach it that way. You can't let down. You have to stay focused and work hard.”

While all signs point to Crawford taking over at shortstop in the future, Mackanin said Galvis’ defense should not be taken for granted.

“As well as Freddy is playing shortstop, you'd hate to move a guy like that out of that position,” Mackanin said. “It's a defensive position and he's been so good at it.”

Galvis entered Tuesday night with just two errors in 50 games. His .990 fielding percentage trailed only San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, both .995.