Wait a Minute, the Union Could Finish the Weekend in First Place!

Wait a Minute, the Union Could Finish the Weekend in First Place!

If you’ve been following The 700 Level over the past couple of days, you’ve seen Steve Moore’s excellent writeups on how Philly fans can pick an English Premier League to root for. (If you haven’t, stop reading this and go do that immediately.)

Honestly, it’s hard not to get excited for the start of the English Premier League, which is undoubtedly one of the best leagues in the world, in any sport. But as the EPL season is about to begin, the MLS season is finally kinda sorta winding down as a little more than two months remain. And here’s one aspect of MLS that I think is more fun than the EPL, where the same three or four teams win every year: the parity.

If you look at the Eastern Conference standings right now, there are seven teams within nine points of each other, all of them battling to earn one of the conference’s five playoff spots. And when you factor in games in hand, the top five teams are in a virtual dead heat.

One of those teams is none other than your Philadelphia Union, who currently sit in third place, one point behind the second-place New York Red Bulls, who they just happen to be playing tonight in a nationally televised showdown at Red Bull Arena (8 p.m., NBC Sports).

Leading up to the big game, Hackworth was asked about the parity this season. Here's what he said:

“It’s a little scary. You can’t ever rest on what you did the last game, even if it’s a positive game. … We know we’re in a good spot but we also know how vulnerable we are right now. And if we take it for granted that we’re in a good spot, I think we can be hurt really quickly. That’s what happens right now. You’ve got so many teams that are bunched together and some teams have games in hand, it’s difficult to look at those standings and sort out where everyone’s going to end up at the end of the year.”

With 10 games left in the season, Hackworth admitted he’s started to do some math in his head to figure out how many points the Union need to get into the playoffs. “And it’s difficult math,” he noted. Well, here’s something that’s simple: If the Union beat the Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City loses to San Jose on Sunday, Philly will be in first place in the Eastern Conference at the end of the weekend.

So after going to the pub this morning to watch the EPL kick off Saturday, make sure to also watch one of the most important games in the New York-Philadelphia soccer rivalry this evening. The good part is Steve Moore won’t need to tell you who to root for.

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, White Sox 3

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, White Sox 3

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO – The Phillies got a nice start from Jerad Eickhoff, mostly good bullpen work and plenty of timely hitting in posting a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox in interleague play Wednesday night.
 
The Phils had been outscored 18-1 in losing their previous two games to the White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
 
The Phillies are 59-68. They are four wins shy of last year’s majors-low total of 63.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff (9-12) pitched six innings of two-run ball and left with a 4-2 lead after throwing just 71 pitches. Eickhoff scattered four hits, walked nine and struck out two. The sixth inning has been a problem for him this season. He has allowed 26 earned runs over 19 innings for a 12.32 ERA in the frame. Eickhoff did hold it together and limited the damage to two runs in the sixth before handing off to the bullpen.
 
Eickhoff’s ERA in the first five innings of a game this season is 2.64.
 
White Sox right-hander James Shields gave up four runs over six innings. He is 5-16 with a 5.98 ERA.
 
Bullpen report
The trio of Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out for the Phillies.
 
Gomez survived a run in the ninth for his 34th save.
 
Ramos and Neris both pitched a scoreless inning.

Since the All-Star break, Neris has pitched 18 1/3 innings and allowed one run and two walks while striking out 26.
 
At the plate
Tommy Joseph had a nice game with a double, his 17th homer and two runs scored. Aaron Altherr had a pair of RBI singles and scored a run. Freddy Galvis doubled home a run and Cesar Hernandez homered.
 
Dioner Navarro smacked a two-run homer off Eickhoff in the sixth.
 
Trade talk
There’s interest in Carlos Ruiz (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Mets in New York on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Friday night – LHP Adam Morgan (1-7, 6.21) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (11-7, 3.36)
 
Saturday night – RHP Jeremy Hellickson (10-7, 3.60) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (11-7, 2.61)
 
Sunday afternoon – RHP Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.31) vs. RHP Robert Gsellman (1-0, 0.00).

Rookies Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers help Union top Crew

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USA Today Images

Rookies Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers help Union top Crew

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rookies Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers scored to help the Union beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Rosenberry gave the Union (10-9-7) a 2-1 lead in the 74th minute. Tranquillo Barnetta one-timed a feed to Rosenberry who trapped it with his right foot and blasted a left-footer through a pair of defenders and past goalkeeper Steve Clark.

Herbers, making his fifth start of the season, opened the scoring in the 60th. Chris Pontius tapped it to Herbers who, from the top of the box, had a shot blocked by Hector Jimenez before side-netting the rebound. Both of his two career goals have come against Columbus (4-9-11).

Adam Jahn tied it in the 73rd minute. Tony Tchani's header, off the corner by Federico Higuain, was deflected off the crossbar by goalkeeper Andre Blake and -- after a failed clearance by the Union -- Jahn tapped it in from close range.

It was the Union's third consecutive home win.

Columbus has one win in its last 11 matches.

Source: Phillies have gotten trade 'nibbles' on Carlos Ruiz

Source: Phillies have gotten trade 'nibbles' on Carlos Ruiz

CHICAGO — Another trade deadline arrives next Wednesday.

Could a Phillies veteran such as Ryan Howard or Carlos Ruiz, the lone holdovers from the 2008 World Series championship team, be on the move?

ESPN reports that both players have cleared waivers, which would make them eligible to be dealt. Players traded after Aug. 1 must first clear waivers. They have to be on a new team’s roster by Sept. 1 to gain postseason eligibility. Players traded after Sept. 1 are not eligible for the postseason.

Howard has been available for a trade for a couple of seasons, but there has been no interest. Even now, with him hitting .339 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and a .742 slugging percentage since the All-Star break (entering Wednesday), there remains little interest, according to sources. Howard is still owed about $16 million in the form of salary and a $10 million contract buyout for 2017, but that would not be an impediment to a deal as the Phils would eat that. Still, it’s unlikely he will be traded because most of the American League contenders are set at designated hitter, which would be his optimal role.

So, Howard, 36, is likely to play out the final year of his contract with the Phils, take his well-earned bows and exit either to retirement or a new team next season. He says he wants to keep playing.

Ruiz, 37, is also in the final year of his contract. Like Howard, he has swung the bat well recently, hitting .298 with a .433 on-base percentage in his last 26 games. He’s a backup catcher at this stage of his career, but that could appeal to a team like Cleveland or Boston, contenders who could be in the market for catching depth.

A baseball source said the Phillies have received some recent “nibbles” on Ruiz. It’s unclear if a deal will reach the finish line.

As players with 10 seasons in the majors and five consecutive with the same team, Howard and Ruiz both have the power to block a trade. It’s doubtful that either would because both have stated that their goal is to play in the postseason again.

“I’m still happy here,” Ruiz said. “We’ll see what happens. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm going to play.”

Howard has taken the same attitude.

“Those are situations where I guess you’ve got to see what presents itself,” he said. “You know me. The last 12 years I’ve just been focused on playing ball. If it presents itself, it presents itself. You handle that situation. Otherwise, I just try to stay in the moment, stay in the now and prepare for the game.”