Eagles surpass last season’s win total 10 games into 2013

Eagles surpass last season’s win total 10 games into 2013

The Eagles might be a year or two away from contending for a championship—they don’t even know who their franchise quarterback is (or do they?)—but at least one thing is now certain. This year’s team is officially better than the 2012 iteration.

After finishing 4-12 in Andy Reid’s final season as head coach, Philadelphia has already clinched a better record just 10 games into 2013, Chip Kelly’s first season on the sidelines. With a sound 27-13 victory over a limited Packers squad, the Birds improved to 5-5 and once again find themselves in the thick of the playoff picture.

Yes, Green Bay was without 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, and down to practice-squad darling Scott Tolzien under center after the first series. The Eagles can only play the opponent that’s on the schedule though, and they took care of business on Sunday.

A Birds defense that has only given up more than 21 points twice all season was able to bottle up power running back Eddie Lacy for 73 yards on 24 carries. That forced Tolzien to carry the Packers’ offense in his first appearance in an NFL game, coming on in relief of Seneca Wallace who exited with a groin injury.

Tolzien piled up 280 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 39 passes, but threw two costly interceptions—one in the end zone. The pass to Jordy Nelson was behind its intended target, which allowed Brandon Boykin to swoop in for the pick (his second of ‘13) and a 73-yard return.

DeMeco Ryans also came up with his second interception of the season off of a tip after Tolzien attempted to thread a pass into traffic. Ryans set the tone for the Philly’s stifling run defense as well with 13 tackles—two for loss—building on another fine season.

The story once again though was the Eagles’ quick-strike offense led by Nick Foles, who finished with another strong line. The second-year passer connected on 12 of 18 passes for 228 yards with zero interceptions and three touchdowns—all over 32 yards. He did lose a fumble however to commit his first turnover of the ’13.

It wasn’t Foles’ best day despite the numbers. Two of his three touchdown passes were underthrown deep passes, the first of which in particular was nearly trouble. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams had the ball knocked away by his own teammate, and DeSean Jackson was there to collect the deflection for a 55-yard score.

It wasn’t a performance that is going to cement Foles as quarterback of the future, but as far as statistics are concerned, he’s still thrown 16 touchdowns with no picks this season. More importantly, his record as a starter this season jumped to 3-1.

If nothing else, Foles has earned another week to continue showing what he can do.

Jackson’s touchdown was his seventh of the season. Philadelphia improved to 5-1 in games where Djacc finds the end zone. Riley Cooper continued filling up the stat sheet as well with three catches for 102 yards and two scores. Coop now has five TDs over the past two games.

LeSean McCoy finally got on track as well, recording only his second 100-yard game since Week 3. How he finished was the most impressive part, with 115 of his 155 yards coming in the second half. The Eagles finished off the Packers with a clock-killing drive that ate the final 9:32 in the fourth quarter, largely Shady’s doing.

It may sound somewhat cliché, but this was a total team victory by the Birds, who toughed it out with several key injuries. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher was inactive, and Philly lost Jason Peters, Mychal Kendricks and Earl Wolff to injuries over the course of the game.

The Eagles forged ahead though and won anyway because they’re a better, more well-rounded team than they were a season ago. Credit Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis for the quick turnaround, and fans should be excited to find out what the ceiling is for this season.

The playoffs are right around the corner, and Philly is in the mix. Even if they don’t catch the Cowboys for an NFC East title, a wild card may be in play. As of this writing, the second wild card spot is currently owned by a five-win team.

First things first though, and that’s taking care of Washington next week, which will require the Birds to end this horrible 10-game losing streak at the Linc. Now winners of two straight, the Eagles will be riding a wave of momentum back to Philly. No reason right now to think they can’t continue to roll.

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

A day after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, Odubel Herrera is leading off for the Phillies in their series opener Friday night against the Reds (see game notes).

It's the first time Herrera is leading off since last Aug. 19, a span of 84 games.

Cesar Hernandez gets the night off, with Andres Blanco batting second and playing second.

Maikel Franco is back in the six-hole after going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot Thursday. Tommy Joseph bats fourth and Michael Saunders fifth.

Cameron Rupp, who walked three times in Thursday's win over the Rockies, catches Aaron Nola and bats seventh.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Andres Blanco, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Aaron Nola, P

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies (16-29) vs. Reds (22-24)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Following their first win in a week, the Phillies open a new series this weekend against a beatable team in the Cincinnati Reds, who are 3-9 in their last 12 games and 1-7 in their last eight road games.

Let's have ourselves a look-see:

1. Nola's turn
Aaron Nola is on the mound tonight for his second start since a month-long DL stint. He was extremely impressive his last time out, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Pittsburgh.

Nola's fastball reached as high as 95.5 mph against the Pirates, which is notable because he threw only two pitches faster than 94 mph all of last season. His velocity was up before the lower back strain and it's a great sign that the elbow injury which ended his 2016 season is truly in the past.

In Pittsburgh, Nola (2-1, 3.52) threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes. He got 11 outs on the first three pitches of at-bats. 

He's faced the Reds twice in his career and dominated them both times, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings with one walk and 17 strikeouts.

Current Reds have gone 7 fo 39 (.179) against him with just two extra-base hits. Joey Votto is 0 for 5.

2. What to do with Odubel
Pete Mackanin has an interesting decision to make this weekend with slumping Odubel Herrera, who on Thursday became the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in a game.

Herrera is down to .226 on the season with a .275 on-base percentage. In May, he's hit .194 with one walk and 28 strikeouts.

Mackanin could bench Herrera like he did with Maikel Franco for two games earlier this week. It would send a message to the player that poor at-bats and wild swings have consequences. And, quite frankly, sitting Herrera for a day or two might give the Phillies a better chance to win.

The issue, of course, is that there's a thin line between giving a player a chance to clear his head and ridding him of opportunities to get back on track.

Plus, the Phillies don't have great options in replacing Herrera in the lineup. They have a four-man bench at the moment and the only options would be putting Ty Kelly or Brock Stassi in left field and moving Aaron Altherr to center.

(Update: Mackanin is taking the opposite approach with Herrera, leading him off Friday night.)

Herrera just has not been himself this season and it's troubling. At this point last season, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. He's been an undisciplined hitter in 2017 and when you have two of them in the middle of the lineup in Herrera and Franco, it makes things really easy on pitchers at times.

Herrera started the year hot, hitting in his first eight games. Since then, he's hit .203/.239/.324 in 155 plate appearances with six walks and 42 K's.

3. Tommy time
Tommy Joseph has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this month, batting .329/.400/.671 with six doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games.

He's 148 games and 499 plate appearances into his major-league career and has hit .257 with 23 doubles, 28 homers, 69 RBIs and an .804 OPS. That's about 10 points higher than the league average OPS from first basemen over that span.

Had Joseph's April slump continued into May, prospect Rhys Hoskins might have already been called up. But Joseph has done enough so far to hold off Hoskins, who appears to have more upside because of his combination of power and plate selection.

Controlling the strike zone is the next step for Joseph. He has a .311 OBP so far with 33 walks and 112 strikeouts as a Phillie.

But over the last two seasons, he's been one of the few Phils who's taken advantage of this ballpark. Joseph's hit .276 with an .844 OPS at Citizens Bank Park compared to .240 with a .769 OPS on the road.

4. Scouting the Reds
The Phillies face 29-year-old Reds right-hander Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19).

You look at the ERA and think, OK, maybe the Phillies' bats will wake up tonight. But keep in mind that the Rockies' four starting pitchers this week entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA and the Phillies scored three runs against them in 27 innings.

There's nothing special about the 6-foot-5 Adleman. He throws his fastball and sinker in the 88 to 91 mph range with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. His opponents have hit .300 against his fastball and have eight extra-base hits with a .290 batting average against his changeup.

In six starts this season, Adleman's yet to go deeper than six innings. The Phils faced him last season and scored three runs in five innings. Cesar Hernandez went 2 for 2 with a walk and Franco went 1 for 3 with a double.

As for Cincinnati's offense, Votto is obviously the hitter you worry about most. He's hit .299/.422/.591 this season with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs, 35 walks and 24 strikeouts. A typical Votto season.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has been surprisingly hot these first two months, hitting .340 with 20 extra-base hits, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts. It's most surprising to see him walking this much because he never has. He's 15 walks away from matching his career high.

Leftfielder Adam Duvall has killed the Phillies over the last two seasons. He went 5 for 11 with two doubles and a homer in the season-opening series in Cincy and went 8 for 18 with four doubles against them last season.

5. This and that
• Over the last seven games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 22⅔ innings.

• Howie Kendrick started at third base for Lehigh Valley during his rehab assignment Thursday. He was hit by two pitches and removed from the game.  

• Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. He's 8 for 8 in save chances this season with a 0.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's struck out 28 and allowed just one home run in 24⅔ innings. His ability to go multiple innings is what makes him stand out — he's Andrew Miller-like in that regard. Iglesias has pitched more than one inning in 7 of his 19 appearances.