Fall Ball: Phils Still Alive, and... Well...

Fall Ball: Phils Still Alive, and... Well...

Friday night saw gorgeous weather in Philly, perfect for an outdoor meal, a few beers, and some playoff-implications baseball to send the summer off in style. Despite some monumental setbacks this season, the Phillies are still an exciting ball club when healthy. Look no further than the past two nights for evidence of that, as they destroyed the Mets in a laugher on Thursday before welcoming the Braves to Citizens Bank Park with a 6-2 victory.  
The Phils find themselves in a somewhat unique situation as fall begins. They're not far from gaining a wild card spot, yet there seems to be little external postseason pressure right now. Most fans wrote the season off as lost months ago, and we've enjoyed the pleasant surprise of a climb in the standings and some great baseball to watch along the way. 
This afternoon, on the first day of the season that has lately brought playoff baseball to Philly, we have a meaningful game to watch, and our team is the one no other clubhouse wants getting into the playoffs. Hard not to enjoy nine innings right about now (possibly while flipping back and forth to Temple-Penn State). 
Last night's starter, Kyle Kendrick, may be the feel-good story of the Phillies' resurgent second half. If this season doesn't have a storybook ending, we can at least appreciate Kendrick's efforts lately and hope he maintains a solid portion of it next season. 
At the plate, Ryan Howard has homered in three straight games, giving him 13 on the season, with 54 RBI in 66 games played. A .228 average may induce a wince, but Todd Zolecki points out that with runners in scoring position, that mark jumps to .343. It's been great to see the Big Piece in the Cadillac again. 
Both he and Chase Utley homered on Friday, marking the 47th time they've gone yard in the same game, per Elias Sports Bureau. Elias also says they're the active leading duo in that regard, with 36 by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun the next best. Again per Zolecki, they're also on the brink of milestones, with Howard a homer shy of 300 and Utley just one away from 200. Kevin Frandsen notched the first of the Phillies' four homers last night, and after Howard homered in the bottom of the fourth, Chooch followed him up with a blast of his own. Meanwhile, Kendrick induced ground ball after ground ball. 
It was hard not to think about what 2012 might have been with a far healthier squad. 
Even still, there is time for a postseason berth to happen, though it will take more than just continuing the winning streak. The Dodgers are just one game ahead of them, the Brewers 1.5 after winning an impressive six straight and nine of 10. Three games back from the Cardinals with 11 to play, starting with tonight's action between Roy Halladay and Mike Minor... That's still a lot of teams to leapfrog and not much time to do it, but it's more than enough reason to tune in. 
Baseball's 162-game season can at times leave individual contests feeling like just another game. For the rest of this regular season, until the Philliess are eliminated or clinch a berth, every plate appearance feels more magnified. Whether they make it or not, that's enjoyable. 
The way the Phils have played on many nights lately (aside from the wtf Houston series) is entertainment enough if you love the game. Go Cubs. 

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce is aware of the rumors and reports that have surrounded his name this offseason. 

As much as he might try to avoid them, the Eagles' veteran center does not, presumably, live under a rock. So he's heard for months about the possibility of his long run with the Eagles coming to a close. 

After all, the Eagles have stockpiled an abundance of interior offensive linemen who can play center, and trading Kelce would save the team $3.8 million in cap space. 

So it all makes sense, but Kelce is trying to keep it out of his mind. 

"I think you'll drive yourself crazy if you're reading too much into what's going on," he said on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off their voluntary OTAs. "My whole offseason has just kind of been really the only thing I can control is my game and the way I play and what I've been doing. So I've just really tried to hit the weight room, work on technique, work on things to try to get my game back to where it used to be."

How is he able to put it out of his mind? 

"Because worrying about it doesn't do any good," he answered.

While the Eagles have Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center if necessary, head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday that Kelce is still "the guy." 

Kelce, 29, was named to his second career Pro Bowl team last season, which might be a surprise to those who watched the Eagles throughout the year. Kelce wasn't as bad as some people think, but he also probably wasn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

He got off to a very slow start in 2016 but did seem to get better as the season went on.  

"I feel at times last year, there were times I was dominant and games where I didn't really do a great job," he said. "You go back and watch film and try to make the corrections, try to make sure that moving forward I'm the same player I was in the past."

Kelce attributed many of his problems early last season to lousy technique. He's been trying extra hard to work on that part of his game as well as in the weight room. 

Often characterized as undersized, he said weighed 295 pounds on Tuesday morning. That's also his listed weight on the Eagles' website. 

All last season, Kelce said he played in the 290s, which was heavier than he had been in a long time. His goal this offseason is to make it up to 300 pounds by training camp, and then he hopes to keep the weight on. 

"I would certainly think so," he said. "As you get older, it gets a little bit easier to put on the weight and hold it on. I think everybody kind of finds that out."

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles to keep Kelce around this season is the development of quarterback Carson Wentz in his second year. Kelce, as his center, might be integral to Wentz's growth. Although Kelce said he doesn't think of it like that when asked if that relationship gives him an advantage over others.  

Kelce has been with the Eagles since 2011 when he was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati. He's played and started 78 games in six seasons. 

He admitted last season he needed to play better or he knew he would become expendable (see story). So the rumors and reports this season likely aren't a shock to him. 

He's still not going to pay attention to them. 

"The reality is, we always have guys coming in, coming out," he said. "Now we happen to have a lot of really good depth at interior line. But like I said, it doesn't do me any good worrying about the what-ifs. All I can control is what I can control and that's how I go out and play, how I go out and prepare and how I try to get back to the player I've been in the past."