Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Plenty of fans were on their feet for the final out of the Phillies-Cubs game tonight at Wrigley. The only problem for Chicagoans was that the people wearing red were the hot, sweaty fans doing all the cheering late in this one. It didn't come easy for the Phillies tonight, however.

Cubs starter Matt Garza was fantastic for seven innings on Tuesday night, keeping the Fightins hitless until the fifth inning, but Cubs Manager Mike Quade opted to bring him out for the eighth after having thrown 113 pitches. Garza proceeded to give up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and the Cubs right-hander's effort proved to be for naught, as reliever Sean Marshall promptly gave up a single to Michael Martinez to put two men on for Chase Utley.

Utley came to the plate with ducks on the pond and no outs, having failed to notch a hit in his last fifteen at-bats. It was time for the Phillies leader to finally make some noise.

Utley delivered a double to the gap in left which scored both Rollins and MiniMart to tie things up at two.

The turning point in this one could have been moments later after Utley stole third and Howard went down swinging.

Shane Victorino hit a weak chopper to short, and with the infield in, Starlin Castro went for the play at the plate. Utley didn't appear to get a great jump, and may have even slipped on the grass a bit when Vic first made contact. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto blocked the plate well and Chase was called out on a bang-bang play. You almost expect Utley, with his baserunning prowess, to score there every time.

But the Phils had some exiting two-out heroics left in them in the top of the ninth, rewarding the throngs of loyal Philadelphia fans in attendance.

After John Mayberry grounded out and Carlos Ruiz went down swinging to start the ninth, Ben Francisco came through with a big two-out pinch-hit to center. Jimmy Rollins ripped a ball right at third baseman Aramis Ramirez which ricochetted off him to short. The play was ruled a single.

That brought up Michael Martinez who proved to be the man of the hour, saving the Phillies from dropping two straight to the second-to-last-place Cubs.

Martinez hit a bloop double down the line in right that scored both Francisco and Rollins to put the Phillies up 4-2. MiniMart was so excited with what would prove to be the game winner that he got thrown out caught between second and third. Awful base running, but we'll let it slide tonight.

Mike Stutes must be commended for his two innings of shutout work after replacing Lee, who was pulled after six in hopes of getting some offense out of pinch-hitter Ross Gload. Stutes wasn't perfect, and allowed a couple of Cubbies on board in the seventh, but despite getting squeezed by the homeplate ump, he kept them from crossing the plate and put the Phils in position for the come-from-behind victory.

Antonio Bastardo was filthy in the ninth, striking out the side and earning the save.

The final two innings don't erase the offensive ineptitude for the rest of the night, but damn a come-back victory -- keeping a another potential series win alive -- certainly sends the Phillies and their fans home happy tonight.

*

Cliff Was Solid For Six

Starlin Castro hit a home run in the first inning off of Cliff Lee to put the Cubs ahead 2-0 early. Manuel pulled Lee a bit early in this one because he desperately needed some offense. Cliff's final line: 6.0 IP, 8 hits, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BBs.

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. 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 over 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.