Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies' Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies' Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

We've gotten so used to crappy development after crappy development with our teams this past year that it's almost unsettling when something unreservedly positive happens with one of them. But in case you were too busy this weekend watching game film on Matt Barkley or celebrating the historic demise of the Lakers and Celtics, the rumors are true--the Phillies swept the Mets at Citi Field this weekend, winning three games by a combined score of 18-5. If it was five years ago, this would have been cause for rioting in the streets; even in 2013, it's a pretty cool thing.

None of the three games were even particularly close--yesterday afternoon's game was knotted for a while, but the Phils broke it open in the seventh and the Mets never really fought back. And in the meantime, a whole bunch of our guys who had been struggling some got to get back on track. Some of the positives include:

1. Cole's first win of the season. Hamels had gone a dispiriting five starts without earning a W, despite going at least six innings while allowing  three runs or fewer in his last three starts. He finally got one yesterday, although it wasn't Cole's sharpest performance--he walked an uncharacteristic six batters, his most since July of last year. But he managed to get out of trouble and only let up two hits all game, and after giving the Mets one in the first, went five more scoreless before turning the game over to the bullpen.

2. The Bullpen holding tight. Speaking of which. After being about as secure as a Playskool piggy bank for four games against the Pirates, the bullpen was actually on lockdown for this series, letting up only two hits and one run in seven innings of combined work, the lone damage courtesy of a John Buck solo blast off Jeremy Horst in a game the Phils were already leading 9-3. The bullpen on this team was supposed to be a strength, so it's good to see that the Pittsburgh disaster situation does not appear to be a continuing crisis.

3. Ryan getting on track. Ryan Howard only had one hit in each of the three games--he was just a pinch-hitter in the third game anyway--but he made them count, with a game-breaking three-run homer in the first, a floodgate-opening RBI single in the second, and a huge, go-ahead two-run double in the third. He ended with seven RBIs on the series, awesome production from our hot-and-cold cleanup hitter. Ryan's clearly still not the MVP candidate he was a half-decade ago, with more of his one-time home runs dying at the wall and his walk rate diminishing to near non-existence, but if he can at least stay a net positive on offense, we won't be kept up at nights thinking about the four years, nearly $100 mil left on his contract.

4. Dom and JMJ going back-to-back. Domonic Brown's alternately frustrating and tantalizing year continues, as he only went 3-13 on the series, but with one of those three being a three-run blast that put game two of the series to bed in the fifth inning. John Mayberry Jr. followed that with a solo blast of his own, continuing his 2011-level production for the season, with ten extra base hits (tied for second on the team) in just 73 plate appearances. We could really use at least one of these guys turning out to actually be a good, reliable everyday outfielder, so we'll continue to grasp onto these scraps while gritting our teeth through their 0-4 with three strikeouts games.

5. Kyle going the distance. Kyle Kendrick picked up just the second shutout victory of his career with a three-hit, one-walk, five-K blanking of the Mets in the series opener. With his 2-1 record, 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 3:1 K/BB ratio, Kendrick has been the unlikely ace of the Phils' pitching staff this year, despite making over $15 million less than three of our other starters. It might not last, but going back to the second half of last year now, Kendrick has made a decisive case for being a reliable back-end starter, if not more. He probably won't get optioned to Triple A again at any point this year, at the very least.

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Related: a Phillie Phanatic photo gallery

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Carson Wentz further asserting himself as Eagles' leader in Year 2

Carson Wentz further asserting himself as Eagles' leader in Year 2

It's not like Carson Wentz wasn't a leader last year. 

He was. 

From the moment the No. overall 2 pick arrived at rookie camp in May, those leadership qualities the Eagles discovered during the pre-draft process were immediately on display. Wentz is a natural leader at a position that necessitates it. 

So in his rookie season, he led. 

"I thought that was all kind of natural, things naturally happened," Wentz said. "Yes, I was a rookie but I don't think that I was by any means quiet. I wasn't just the guy that rolled with the punches and went with it. I thought I was still doing my job as a leader as well. But the longer we're playing this game and the more experience we have, the more we can just step up our leadership as well."

If Wentz was a leader in his rookie season, he's really a leader now.  

Last year, he arrived to the Eagles' offseason after the whirlwind of the NFL draft and admitted on Tuesday that he "didn't really know where the locker room was." Hard to lead when you don't know where to get changed. 

And throughout last spring, he was the team's third-string quarterback preparing for a redshirt season until he was thrust into the starting role after the Sam Bradford trade, just a little more than a week before the start of the season. 

A year sometimes makes a huge difference. 

This year, he's the guy, the face of the franchise, the unquestioned leader of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. 

"There’s definitely a poise about him," receiver Jordan Matthews said. "You can tell it’s not like last year when he was thrust into the position. He knows his role, he knows he’s the guy, and I think there’s a sense of confidence that comes with that, a sense of poise that he handles extremely well. I’m excited to see what he does this whole offseason and what we’re going to do moving forward."

Wentz is the Eagles' leader on and off the field. He's planning on getting together with his receivers and skills position players again this summer, something he thinks will become an annual trip. 

Earlier this month, Wentz took his offensive linemen out for a day of shooting guns and eating steaks (see story). He bought his entire line shotguns last Christmas. 

It might not seem like a summer get-together or a trigger-happy trip would help the Eagles on the field, but it might. After all, the team's being closer certainly won't hurt. And Wentz, 24, is the guy facilitating all of it. 

Then there's the way Wentz leads on the field. He's always had control of the huddle, but with more time in the offense, he knows what he wants. Center Jason Kelce said the more knowledge Wentz gains of the offense, the "more comfortable (he is) voicing [his] opinion." 

"And I think that he's definitely asserting his style on the offense," Kelce said. 

For the most part, Wentz had a pretty good season as a rookie, flourishing early, hitting a long rough patch, and then finding his way out of it. He ended up throwing for 3,782 yards and set an NFL record for completions as a rookie. 

The Eagles this year, and in the foreseeable future, will go as far as Wentz leads them. 

"They say the biggest jump is from year one to year two, so him just knowing what’s coming, he looks like a vet already," offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. "Pretty extraordinary."

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Shaq always has the trump card -- and by that we mean championship rings -- to throw in Charles Barkley's face. But with that said, Sir Charles is probably a much better trash talker and therefore has a superior mouth to defend himself with and throw barbs back in Shaq's direction.

The mouthy duo got into it a bit last night and it teetered between fun and lighthearted and a little personal.

Shaq attacks Chuck for only playing in one NBA Finals and therefore not really knowing what he was talking about. Charles claps back at Shaq for having ridden Kobe and Dwyane Wade's coattails. 

During an NBA playoffs that has been mostly boring, at least these two can still entertain us.