On a 1-3 Start for Andy Reid's Eagles

On a 1-3 Start for Andy Reid's Eagles

These are trying times for a so-called Eagles apologist. Does one simply swallow their pride, admit they were wrong about this organization, and join the "Fire Andy Reid" mob?

For the first time since I began contributing to T7L, I am speechless. This team truly defies explanation. The defense blows fourth quarter leads, but is fairly solid in the second and third. The offense gains tons of yards, but couldn't find the end zone with a GPS and a bus to carry them there. Special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away.

Their deficiencies are numerable and plain to see, but even supposed areas of strength look suspiciously like weaknesses. Pro Bowl-caliber players come up small in clutch situations. Expensive free agent additions are exposed. The quarterback can't stay healthy, and the coaching staff doesn't have a clue.

The result: the Birds are 1-3. The club has lost six of its last seven games that counted. They've dropped fourth quarter leads for three consecutive weeks. Philadelphia resides in last place in a weak NFC East.

By and large, people are fed up. A few of us are racking our brains for answers, while others are content to bury their heads in the sand. There isn't a soul sticking up for Andy Reid though -- as there shouldn't be -- and a quick poll would undoubtedly reveal the overwhelming majority no longer expect the Eagles to make the playoffs.

It's hard to blame anyone for losing faith. The first four weeks of the season have deteriorated past the point of the wildest worst case scenarios, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what the head coach needs to do to get his squad ready to play.

And yet, are we to believe this season is already over?

***

A lot of our readers probably don't realize or remember (or care) I haven't always been one to give Andy Reid a pass. For the most part, I've remained a fan of his work, but between the 07-08 seasons, I too flirted with the idea he was no longer the right head coach for the job.

Donovan McNabb was recovering from a torn ACL, and Andy seemingly had him dropping back to pass 100 plays per game. Clearly rusty and his athleticism diminished, McNabb was incapable of executing the offense at that volume. It appeared Reid was trying to get his quarterback killed, perhaps to make the impending decision about Donovan's future easier.

Not that there is any truth to that, but the front office could have sold Kevin Kolb to even his most jaded detractors if Donovan had his legs sheered off by Osi Umenyiora.

Of course, he survived, and the team even went on a little winning streak to close out their 8-8 season. It was just enough to keep the dogs at bay.

Then 2008 picked up where Bad Andy left off, with the Eagles digging the grave where play-calling balance was almost laid to rest. The slow start culminated in an epic three-game winless streak that included a tie against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, and finally resulted in McNabb being benched for the second half of a blowout at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

Their record 5-5-1, the playoffs were a remote possibility... which naturally was when they suddenly figured some things out. The Birds won four out of their last five, and enough crap broke the right way for them to sneak into the postseason. They nearly made it all the way to the Super Bowl, long after most folks had given up on in November.

I admit, up until minutes before the 44-6 thrashing of the Cowboys to propel the Eagles into the dance, I half wished it would all shake out so that game meant nothing, and win or lose, we might see the last of Andy.

***

But those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

'08 was my first season "covering" the Eagles, and I learned a lot about not writing off teams or individuals too soon. We left that group for dead, then they appeared in the NFC Championship game, a destination that was in line with our expectations. Andy Reid was a buffoon who was accused of losing the locker room, but he made some adjustments and turned their season around.

If the Birds fail to reach the playoffs, by all means, Jeffrey Lurie should fire Reid. If they are eliminated in the first round, or don't make an otherwise convincing run, the front office most certainly should explore other options. The only excuse that's left is individual players and possibly coaches have been at the heart of many of this club's damning mistakes, but since Andy chose the roster and his staff, that dog won't hunt.

Having said that, we would all do well to be reminded the date today is October 4, and the Eagles have 12 games to go. Realistically, they probably need to finish 9-3 to earn a spot in the playoffs -- give or take a win -- and as outlandish as that has to sound in light of what we witnessed through the first four weeks, it's not statistically impossible.

If they somehow make it into the bye at 3-3, how bad is the situation really? None of their rivals appear poised to run away with the division, or look incapable of falling into a three-game skid themselves. 10-6 or 9-7 could be enough to take the NFC East this year, and once a team is in the playoffs, there's no telling how far they can go.

Which is why the "Fire Reid" camp might as well take a break. Nobody is getting canned after four weeks, and after waiting 12 and a half years, you can surely wait the extra three months, since everybody is so thoroughly convinced there is no reversing the tailspin.

Without much physical evidence to the contrary, there is little choice but to agree with the doubters that this time Andy Reid may not be able to correct course enough to save this season, or his job. But what do the Eagles have left to lose in 2011 besides more games?

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

BOX SCORE

On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rondon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).