Bats FTW: Marginally Revived Phillies Offense Looks to Take Series from Padres

Bats FTW: Marginally Revived Phillies Offense Looks to Take Series from Padres

Runs! The sight of the men in Red and White crossing home plate has been something of a rare one in recent days, but Phillies fans have been treated to it a whopping 11 times over the course of the last two games. OK, so maybe that's not really that extraordinary--that's just 5.5 a game, when the Phils scored over five a game on average for all last season. But considering that 11 is also the sum total of runs the Phils had scored in the six games prior to that combined--and that we'd gone about half a month without ONCE scoring more than three in a game--we'll take it, and we hope to see the trend continue tonight against the Padres. 

Of course, the mild uptick in offensive production hardly means that the team's woes are over. Despite the five runs scored in last night's game, the Phils still lost 6-5 in extras, with the NLFCs stranding a whopping 19 men on base over ten innings--including two in the bottom of the tenth, when Jayson Werth went down swinging with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard perched on first and third for the game's final out. But with some of the team's long-dormant big bats finally starting to wake up--most notably, Ryan Howard, who's cashed in five runs the last two games--you gotta think/hope/pray that this is just the beginning.

Lost amidst the whining about the team's recent lack of run production has been the fact that several of the Phils' starting pitchers have put together some nice stretches of late. Last month, Cole Hamels was every bit the #2 starter the team needs, going 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA for the month of May, never giving up more than three earned in a start. After an abortive performance in Atlanta last Tuesday where he gave up a three-run homer to Troy Glaus before getting his start rain-delayed, Cole gets his first full start of the month tonight in the fourth game of Philly's series against San Diego.

7:05 first pitch from CBP. With a national audience watching on ESPN tonight, certainly wouldn't mind a nice old-fashioned drubbing of the Pads and starter Wade LeBlanc to take the series and hopefully make up some ground on the Braves. Give us something to get the 48-hour pre-gaming for Game Six going.

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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