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.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).