Show Goes On: Phillies in Big Apple for Three with Mets

Show Goes On: Phillies in Big Apple for Three with Mets

It will be easy to tune out the last-place Phillies during this July 4 holiday week, but Philadelphia still has a professional baseball team. They have uniforms and everything.

The Fightins begin a three-game series in New York on Tuesday night against the surprising Metropolitans. Considered by many to be also-rans before the season even got underway, the Mets are currently second in the NL East with a 43-37 record, 3.5 back of the Washington Nationals. They are also just 0.5 out of a Wild Card.

As we close in on the All-Star break, it would probably be fair to say the Mets are for real.

They certainly have had their way with the Phils this year, taking six of nine so far, including a sweep at Citizens Bank Park. The good guys pulled out a series win at Citi Field in their last meeting though.

New York features one of the most potent offenses in the league. Ranked third in runs scored, they don't mash a ton of home runs, or even bat for a high average. The Mets do draw a lot of walks however, with two of the NL leaders for bases on balls in their everyday lineup -- all-star 3B David Wright (3rd) and RF Lucas Duda (10th).

Of course, Wright can hit the cover off the ball too. Just named to his sixth All-Star Game, he's in among the league leaders in a slew of categories, notably batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging, runs scored, and runs batted in.

Keeping those guys off the base paths falls on Vance Worley (4-4, 2.92), but when he faced the Mets back on April 14, he issued a season-high four passes. That wasn't what hurt him so much though -- it was the long ball. Wright and Duda both went yard, as Worley surrendered four runs through six in a loss. The Phils were blanked 5-0.

Lifetime, Worley is 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA in seven appearances against the Mets. He's not fared well at Citi Field in particular, where he's 1-1 with a 6.30.

The Mets toss a young pitcher of their own. Lefty Jonathon Niese (6-3, 3.55) is becoming a dependable piece in a solid rotation. In the midst of his third full season in the big leagues, the 25 year old has faced the Phillies more than any team in his career, going 4-4 and 3.86 over 11 starts.

Niese has the upper-hand in 2012 as well, with a 1-0 record in three starts, but the Phils may be catching up with him. He was chased after five innings in each of the past two head-to-heads, a pair of no-decisions in May where he walked nine batters and sported a 5.40 ERA.

It's good news whenever you knock a Mets starter out of the game. They own the worst bullpen in Major League Baseball.

We're choosing John Mayberry for tonight's standout performer. In 22 at bats versus Niese, Mayberry is batting .318 with three bombs and seven RBI. He's batting eighth, so he may only see Niese twice -- but that might be plenty.

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."