Eagles bench Watkins for recent signee DeVan

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Eagles bench Watkins for recent signee DeVan

The Danny Watkins Era is over before it began.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid has benched Watkins, the rookie first-round pick, four days before the season opener against the Rams and replaced him with veteran Kyle DeVan, whos only been with the team for four days.

Sometimes its good to take one small step back to take one big step forward, Reid said.

Reid, meeting with the media Wednesday morning, declined to name his starting right guard, and Watkins wouldnt confirm whether hed been benched. But a team source confirmed that DeVan took all the practice reps with the first offense at walkthrough on Wednesday morning, would get all the reps at right guard the rest of the week and will start against the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday.

He doesnt really want us talking about it, Watkins said when asked about his demotion. Im not going to get into that.

DeVan started 21 games at guard for the Colts in 2009 and 2010, including nine regular-season games and three playoff games at right guard under current Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd in 2009. He started for the Colts in their 2009 Super Bowl loss to the Saints.

Thanks to his familiarity with Mudd, DeVan is already ahead of Watkins, even though Wednesday was his first full practice day in an Eagles uniform.

Im not worried about starting, DeVan said. Im going to go out there and do my thing and let things end up where they end up. Im not worried about it at all.

DeVan becomes the fifth right guard the Eagles have tried since Shawn Andrews Eagles career ended with severe back problems early in the 2008 season. He follows Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole, whove started most of the games the last three years; Stacy Andrews, a big-money free agent failure who was benched after starting the 2009 opener; and Watkins, the 23rd pick in this years draft.

DeVan is also the second member of the projected opening-day starting offensive line who wasnt with the team when the preseason began. Left guard Evan Mathis signed on July 30.

Ill play whatever role I need to play, whether its helping the young guys with the technique to use or helping the veterans, said DeVan, awarded to the Eagles on waivers on Sunday. Theyll help me out with calls and go over things Howard wants done.

Watkins said his approach to his first NFL regular-season week wont change, whether hes the starter or a backup.

Nothings changed for me, Watkins said. Approaching it just like any other week. Just getting familiar with the Rams blitz and defensive front.

Reid raised eyebrows at his Wednesday morning media briefing when he declined to confirm that Watkins would start the opener.

We have flexibility there to do whatever we want to do, Reid said. Im not going to get into all the personnel things here.

That seemed odd, considering Reid named Watkins the starter on draft day back in April and hadnt wavered in his support of the 26-year-old rookie from Baylor since.

At least, until now. Once the Eagles acquired DeVan, released Saturday by the Colts, the Watkins watch was on.

The obvious thing with DeVan is that he started a few years for Howard and the Colts when Howard left and did a nice job, Reid said in not announcing Watkins demotion. He was a starting guard on a Super Bowl team, and so he knows Howards system, which were using right now. So thats a positive thing.

Watkins struggled throughout training camp and the preseason games. He found himself so far behind last week that he asked to play in the preseason finale against the Jets, a rarity for any starter under Reid.

Ive said since Day 1, its going to be a grind learning it, Watkins said. Im never done learning it and working on it. So its going to be a thing in progress.

Reid said Wednesday Watkins struggles shouldnt be that surprising, considering hes playing a new position, he didnt have OTAs or minicamps, hes only been playing organized football for four years and he missed the first week of training camp in a contract impasse.

When you move from the college to the pros, thats a big deal, Reid said. When you move from tackle to guard thats another tough deal. And, when you move from the left side to the right thats another tough deal. Then you add on to it missing part of camp. So hes been playing a catch-up game all the way through.

Watkins wouldnt allow whether his demotion was disappointing but did concede its been hard making the transition from college to the NFL.

Its been difficult for everyone, without rookie OTAs and just learning everything at the last second, he said. Its difficult for everybody.

Since the first preseason game, the Eagles have used one left tackle, two left guards, two centers, two right guards and three right tackles on the first offensive line. Going back to the start of training camp, 13 different players have taken reps with the first line.

Center Jason Kelse, now the only rookie starter on offense, said the linemen are used to change and said it doesnt affect them.

I dont think it really matters whos in there, Kelce said. What I do isnt going to change up too much. Pretty much the whole preseason I was working with different guys, different left guards, guys in and out, Jamaal Jackson and me in and out, so I think guys are used to working with different guys.

It definitely keeps you on your toes. You never get too comfortable.

CSNPhilly.coms Dave Zangaro contributed to this story.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Best of MLB: Dodgers deny Cubs' Jake Arrieta 21st straight win

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Best of MLB: Dodgers deny Cubs' Jake Arrieta 21st straight win

CHICAGO -- Scott Kazmir and two relievers combined on a one-hitter, matching zeros with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta before the Los Angeles Dodgers got to Chicago's bullpen for a 5-0 victory Tuesday night.

Arrieta went seven scoreless innings, but was denied his 21st consecutive victory. The Cubs had won in Arrieta's last 23 starts.

Cubs left-hander Clayton Richard (0-1) gave up three straight singles to lefties in the eighth, the last Adrian Gonzalez's liner to left that scored Chase Utley and ended the Dodgers' 16-inning scoreless streak.

Corey Seager hit a three-run homer off Trevor Cahill in the ninth.

Joe Blanton (3-2) struck out three in two perfect innings as the Dodgers snapped the Cubs' six-game winning streak.

Kazmir allowed a single and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings. Adam Liberatore struck out one in a perfect ninth (see full recap).

Betts hits trio of homers in Red Sox win
BALTIMORE -- Mookie Betts hit a career-high three homers and drove in five runs, and the Boston Red Sox cruised past the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 on Tuesday night to open a three-game lead in the AL East.

Betts led off the game with a shot to center and added a three-run drive to left in the second inning. After lining out to second base in the fourth, Betts hit a bases-empty homer to right in the seventh.

Batting in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game, Betts grounded out to second against rookie Ashur Tolliver.

Still, he's the first Boston player to hit three homers in a game since Will Middlebrooks against Toronto on April 7, 2013. Betts' 12 home runs rank second on the team behind David Ortiz, who has 14.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts stretched his career-best hitting streak to 24 games with a single in the seventh inning (see full recap).

Rockies tie franchise record with 7 HRs
DENVER -- Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon each hit two of Colorado's team record-tying seven homers, powering the Rockies to a 17-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

Blackmon became the first player in Rockies history to hit leadoff homers in back-to-back games and added his first career grand slam in the seventh. Carlos Gonzalez homered for a fourth straight game, while DJ LeMahieu and Gerardo Parra also went deep.

It was the first time Colorado hit seven homers at Coors Field. The team also had seven on April 5, 1997, in Montreal.

Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (3-2) allowed three runs in six solid innings.

Jon Moscot (0-3) was hit hard in his return from the disabled list. He surrendered seven runs and four homers in two innings. Moscot also was grazed in the right ear in the third while bunting. Moscot stayed down for a moment before taking his base (see full recap).

Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

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Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

BOX SCORE

The gap in talent level that exists between the Phillies and some of the top teams in the majors has really been evident over the last eight games.
 
The Phillies have lost seven of those eight games to the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals. Tuesday night brought the latest defeat, a 5-1 loss to the National League East-leading Nats at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay). The Nats have won the first two games of the series and go for the sweep on Wednesday night.
 
While losing seven of their last eight, the Phillies have seen their feel-good story turn to dust. Their record has gone from 25-19 to 26-26 and their deficit in the NL East from two games to 5½.
 
“We had a good month and a half,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “When things are going good, they snowball. When things are going bad, they snowball. We’ve got to keep that snowball from rolling. We’ve got to get out of it.”
 
There are a number of reasons the Phillies have hit hard times. Poor offense is a big one. They have been held to two or fewer runs five times in their last seven losses and 20 times for the season. They are now averaging 3.15 runs per game, the lowest mark in the majors. Offense like that is the reason why Aaron Nola can pitch six innings of two-run ball and lose on two mistake pitches as he did Tuesday night. These pitchers have no margin for error.
 
One of the offensive’s big shortcomings is the lack of power. The Phils have been out-homered 15-7 in the last eight games. Washington hit four longballs on Tuesday night; the Phillies hit none. In fact, the Phillies had just four hits – period.
 
“We’re just getting out-homered every night,” Mackanin said. “We’re not hitting home runs. I feel like it’s a broken record. We’re not hitting.”
 
For the season, the Phillies have 39 homers. Only Atlanta has hit fewer.
 
And it doesn’t appear as if things are going to get all that much better any time soon. Management would consider trading for a bat close to the July trading deadline – if the team is in the race. With reality striking hard lately, it’s tough to see this team being in the race for anything but a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. In the short term, the Phils could soon have Cody Asche back on the roster.
 
“Our pitching overall has been very good,” Mackanin said. “We’ve just got to hit.”
 
The Nationals won this game with power and good starting pitching.
 
Right-hander Joe Ross held the Phils to a run over seven innings – an RBI triple by Cesar Hernandez.
 
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth capitalized on a poorly located fastball by Nola and homered two batters into the game. Daniel Murphy got Nola in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie.
 
Nola would like to have had both pitches back.
 
“The pitch to Werth was right down the chute,” he said. “With Murphy, I wanted to get it in a little further and I didn’t.”
 
Other than that, Nola was pretty good. He pitched out of trouble in the second inning and was supported by a double play started nicely at second by Hernandez and a nice catch by Odubel Herrera in center field.
 
“We’re doing some things right but not enough of them,” Mackanin said.
 
“That’s baseball,” Nola said of the lack of run support. “Sometimes we pitch bad and get a lot of run support. The guys are battling. I feel like we’re going to bounce back the next couple of games.”
 
The Nationals blew the game open with three runs in the ninth against reliever Colton Murray. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
The two home runs deprived Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon a chance at a save as he recorded the final three outs against his old team.

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).