Hang on Tight, It's Gonna Be a Wild Ride: Eagles Make Things Interesting Yet Again in Win Over Giants

Hang on Tight, It's Gonna Be a Wild Ride: Eagles Make Things Interesting Yet Again in Win Over Giants

You wanted convincing? You got it. The Eagles didn't beat their opponent by one point on Sunday night, as they did both the Browns and Ravens in Weeks 1 and 2. No, no, no -- they beat the Giants by two!

All kidding aside, there was progress in more aspects of the Birds' 19-17 victory over rival New York than a subtle difference on the scoreboard. They ran the ball. They protected the quarterback. Most important, they did not commit a single turnover. After they averaged four per game through the first three weeks this season, some of you may have doubled back to read the previous sentence twice.

Yet for their many steps in the right direction, the Eagles still had to take a few backwards. They were forced to settle for field goals in three out of four red zone trips. They needed to come from behind after their defense surrendered a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. Even after it appeared as though they had it sewn up when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed the potential game-winning field goal, it turned out he would get to attempt it again thanks to Philadelphia's favorite son, Andy Reid.

Reid called a timeout as the ball was snapped on Tynes' 54-yard field goal try with 15 seconds remaining, fans celebrating as they watched it sail left. Tynes got another shot at it, and while the direction was true, this time he took something off of the boot.

Luckily the pigskin dropped harmlessly in the end zone to seal the W, or we would have never heard the end of that one. Despite questions about the time-honored tactic of icing the kicker, Reid's game plan surely pleased the masses otherwise. If nothing else, it put a smile on the faces of LeSean McCoy fantasy owners.

With a 7-3 lead heading out of the locker room, Reid leaned heavily on Shady. Eight of nine plays on the opening possession of the second half were runs, handing the ball to McCoy seven straight times at one point. That particular drive ended with three points when they were unable to punch it in from the goal line, but the emphasis on the ground attack down the stretch allowed the Eagles to bleed the clock, which obviously came into play in the end.

17 of McCoy's 23 carries came in the second half, as the All-Pro back gained 123 yards all told, averaging 5.3 per attempt. He added three receptions for 17 yards through the air.

Pounding the rock didn't lead to a boon on the scoreboard, but it did take some of the pressure off of Michael Vick and the offensive line. After giving the ball away nine times on his own through three games, Vick played within himself against the Giants, keeping his mistakes to a minimum -- zero turnovers, and only two sacks, one of which was a give-up to make the Giants use a timeout. If nobody was open, Vick either scrambled for whatever the defense was willing to concede, or simply threw the ball away.

It helped that the patchwork offensive line finally seemed to gel in front of the quarterback. Early on, they opened few holes for McCoy, and it seemed like it was going to be another long night of Vick scooping himself off the turf play after play. McCoy obviously got his, plus the protection was vastly improved as the game went along. For the first time in 2012, Vick spent a surprising amount of time on his feet.

Vick finished with a workmanlike line, completing 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a TD, along with six runs for 49. He connected on a 19-yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson, who was his top receiver with six catches for 99 ticks.

The Eagles' offense were not the only ones who got off to a slow start. Every drive for the first 28 minutes ended in a punt until Vick to DJacc broke the stalemate. Somehow, that was what it took for Eli Manning to get going. The Giants scored on three of their next four possessions, and would have done so on every one of them were it not for a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie interception in the end zone, his third of the season.

After DRC's pick opened the fourth quarter, the Birds settled for another field goal, pushing the tally to 16-10. Manning responded with a five-play, 83-yard march, abusing the secondary for gains of 31 and 41 yards before capping it off with a six-yard toss to little-used tight end Bear Pascoe, uncovered. Watching safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen bite up on play-action on those big gainers was deflating, while DeMeco Ryans appeared to be on the hook for the touchdown. Ryans had his fingerprints on Manning's 14-yard TD to Victor Cruz in the third as well, hesitating on his zone responsibility.

But after everything was all said and done, Juan Castillo's unit held strong when it mattered most -- even if the officials tried real hard to keep the game alive. Ticky-tack pass interference penalties against DRC on 4th and 1 and Nnamdi Asomugha on 3rd and 10 extended the drive. Miraculously, the Eagles got a call back when Ramses Barden dragged Asomugha down for an offensive PI, which set up the longer field goal try for the win.

While some might continue to make a big deal out of the fact that the Eagles once again came out ahead by the slimmest of margins, this was another huge win, one in which they likely would've given away a year ago, as has been said about the others as well. Taking out the Giants is always a huge win -- the reigning world champions, mind you -- and it moves Philly's record to 3-1 for the year.

It's also become safe to say we might be witnessing a trend here with this Eagles team. They must be talented to overcome four and five turnovers in previous victories, then to limit a Super Bowl MVP quarterback to 17 points. If the month of September is any indication though, they are still quite flawed, and little will come easy for the Eagles this season. Better buckle your seat belts on and take any prescribed heart medication. If the Birds are on, you can bet the final is coming down to the wire.

Notes

• The drive to set up Alex Henery's decisive 26-yard field goal was 12-plays, 75 yards. Vick only put the ball in the air three times on that possession. By the way, Henery hit all four of his tries, including a long of 48.

• Vick appeared to have been hobbled on his give-up sack when Osi Umenyiora slid across his legs, but the quarterback brushed it off as nothing too serious during his post-game presser.

• The Giants could never establish their running game, gaining just 57 yards on the ground on 19 attempts for a 3.0 average. Perhaps in correlation, they converted only two of 10 third downs.

• Eli shook off a shaky start to hit on 24 of 42 attempts for 309 yards and two scores in large part because the pass rush vanished, finishing with zero sacks. The Birds' front four made it hard on the younger Manning at the start, but the blocking eventually settled down and gave the QB time to operate.

• The Eagles kick coverage unit was absolutely torched by rookie running back David Wilson, whose six returns averaged 36.2 yards.

• Philadelphia won time of possession 33:21 to 26:39.

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).