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.

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators sign Zack Smith to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he's aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants' game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS