New Religion: Phillies' Voodoo Pins Yankees in the Bronx

New Religion: Phillies' Voodoo Pins Yankees in the Bronx

A night after the staff's best pitcher was knocked around to start the series in New York, things weren't looking too great on paper for the Phillies in game 2. Wednesday night's starter, Jamie Moyer, was dismantled for NINE earned runs in securing just three outs this past Friday in Boston, and we haven't seen much from the bats in over a month. 

But there was something a little unusual about the second game of this series. First, it was the 24th anniversary of Jamie Moyer's first career win, which oddly enough saw him top the Phillies in Steve Carlton's last game with the club. Second, Chase Utley channeled some voodoo before the game (story w/ video here), possibly joking around but more likely just doing anything he could to get the Phils' stagnant offense going. 

And anyone who's seen Major League knows that Jobu is NOT a Yankees fan. 

Moyer would pitch masterfully, going eight strong and allowing just two earned runs on three Yankee hits, two of which were homers. At age 47, he pitched better tonight than he had 24 years ago as a rookie, earning his 265th career win on the same date he'd earned his first. Also putting up a historic number tonight was Charlie Manuel, who notched his 700th career win as a manager. 

The Phillies made the most of their six hits and five walks drawn, scoring six times to beat the Yankees by a 6-3 count. Everyone's favorite Yankees starter, AJ Burnett, was chased from the mound in the fourth inning, or it might have been much worse. Burnett was tagged for all of the Phillies' runs and hits, and all but one of their walks. The Yanks' relievers put in a great effort in triage, silencing the Phils for the rest of the game.

Some recently maligned Phillies hitters seemed particularly charged up early tonight though. Raul Ibanez drew a walk in the second inning, then stole second base. The lineup has been missing Jimmy Rollins' speed for most of the season, so it was great to see a guy not known for his speed haul ass to scoring position hoping to ignite a rally. Greg Dobbs then lined a single to right, scoring Raul, after which an unnerved Burnett walked Brian Schneider and then had a Wilson Valdez dribbler bounce off his foot. With the 7-8-9 hitters all on base, leadoff man Shane Victorino nailed a triple to the right center gap to put the Phils up 4-0. Burnett would get out of the inning without further damage, but his night wouldn't last much longer.

When the Phils came back to the plate in the third, Ryan Howard led off by crushing a Burnett mistake over the wal in center, after which the increasingly bearded Jayson Werth answered with a homer of his own. 

After small-balling their way to four runs in the second, what better time for the heavy hitters to go back-to-back (marking the first time the Phils have done so all season)? Howard and Werth are now at 11 HR apiece and have each reached the 40-RBI mark on the season.

One win may be a little early to read much into it, but I'm pretty sure science would prove that Utley's voodoo charms were at play here. All that was missing was Burnett getting nailed with a thrown bat. 

The question now is how the Phillies will respond tomorrow night with a chance to win a series in the Bronx.  

Moyer's last three starts alone speak to how unpredictable this team is right now. Mostly, this trait hasn't been a positive lately. But tonight's win could prove to be just what they need to turn things around. The often stoic Utley lightening the mood in the locker room before the game appears to have helped the team come out loose and ready to capitalize on a poor-control night for Burnett. Brad Lidge made things a little too interesting in the ninth, allowing a run on two hits and a walk, filling the Phillies fans in attendance with his trademark brand of nervous anticipation.
But they'd be able to head home happy as Lidge struck out three batters in the frame to preserve the win for Moyer. 

Kind of amazing what one decisive win over the Yankees in their park can do for your feelings about this team. 

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he runs aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

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USA Today inage

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

Temple head coach Geoff Collins on Monday added two new members to his coaching staff.

Keith Gaither will take over as the wide receivers’ coach and Kyle Lane is the new video coordinator. 

Gaither comes to Temple with 21 years of coaching experience. He spent last season as Army's wide receivers coach. Prior to that, he spent time with Tusculum College (1998-99), Thomasville City Schools (2000-04), Winston-Salem State (2005-08), Elon (2009-10) and Ball State (2010-14).

Gaither spent his collegiate career at Elon, where he was a four-year starter and voted all-region at defensive end before graduating in 1997. Collins originally had retained Frisman Jackson from the 2016 staff, but Jackson was hired by the Tennessee Titans. 

Lane is a Temple alum who spent time with Kansas during the 2016 season as its assistant video coordinator.