Temple-Miami (OH): German Pop Cover Band Edition

Temple-Miami (OH): German Pop Cover Band Edition

Those of you who troubled yourselves to watch the WWL's mid-week MAC coverage over the past week and a half will attest to having seen some of the most exciting college football played all season. For as much criticism as the MAC tends to catch—some of which is fair, some of which is unfair—it's entertainment level can be and is no doubt equal to any BCS conference.

You either like watching football, or you like pretending to be "discerning." If you fall into the former camp—if you actually like football—welcome to the Mid-American Conference.

Temple hosts Miami (OH) in a battle of two teams who will both take the field with their seasons on the line. Kick-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ESPN / 1210 AM)

How We Got Here:
After an 0-4 start to their season—thanks, in part, to a difficult non-conference schedule featuring (preseason #21) Missouri, Minnesota and Cincinnati—the Miami (OH) Redhawks have won four of their last five and seem to be on the uptick. Temple, meanwhile, is the loser of its last two in a row, losses which may have very well cost the Owls a shot at the MAC Title and even a bowl game.

This evening is a must-win for both teams. By no scenario can Temple win the MAC East at 4-4, while Miami would need a victory over and some serious help from the Ohio Bobcats should they come up short tonight.

Recapping from last week, the Owls best-case MAC scenario features a 5-3 in-conference record and a complete collapse from Ohio. Bowling Green has already done their part by losing to Northern Illinois last evening.

Click here for a full breakdown of Temple's fleeting MAC Title chances. Go Buffalo.

At Quarterback
Temple head coach Steve Addazio confirmed last Friday that Chris Coyer will start under center for the Owls.

Coyer, who was responsible for 307 yards of Temple offense against Ohio—184 yards rushing, 123 receiving—will be making the first start of his college career.

Given the high-rate of success in his first taste of big game action last week, it's clear Coyer isn't the kind of player to become overwhelmed by the situation. His coach has described him as "unflappable," and as an a very even-keeled quarterback, an attitude, Addazio says, that should not be confused with a lack of intensity.

"He's a competitor," says Addazio. "He's a gamer."

After building such high expectations in less than four full quarters of work against Ohio, Coyer needs to find a way to repeat that success. Aside from his cool, calm demeanor, he's also been described by his coach as somewhat of an erratic passer in practice. The question now is whether that will be indicative his performance of the field—throw to throw, series to series, game to game.

Coyer quickly earned himself a great number of supporters with his performance at Ohio. Tonight may go a long way in finding out if those supporters jumped the gun or if the sophomore really is the guy with the immediate ability to lead the Temple offense. The bad news for the sophomore quarterback is that unlike against Ohio, Miami (OH) has had the opportunity to game plan for him and should be able to key on him, especially given the Owls situation at running back.

Bernard Pierce's Concussion
What was an undisclosed "head injury" to star running back Bernard Pierce has now been confirmed as a concussion. Coach Steve Addazio and the rest of the Temple staff make a specific point not to discuss injuries with the media. As such, his status remains unknown at this time and probably will remain so right up to game time.

There's nothing wrong with optimism, but given the way concussions are now being treated, and the fact that there's been very little news regarding his status, it might be imprudent to get your hopes up.

Should Pierce not be able to go, the bulk of the running game will fall on the shoulders of Matt Brown, back-up running back Kenny Harper and, of course, Coyer. With Brown himself battling some nagging injuries and Harper having seen very little time this season, tonight might be really become the "Chris Coyer Show."

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Update: The Inquirer's Keith Pompey is reporting that Matt Brown is currently listed number one on the depth chart, with freshman runner Jaylen Fitzpatrick as his back-up, after he "outperformed Kenny Harper this week at practice."

Fitzpatrick was actually a dual-threat quarterback during his senior of high school, and was converted to wide receiver upon joining the Owls. After nine games with the Owls, Fitzpatrick has a combined total of zero touches on the football. Addazio must have really liked what he saw in practice.

Obviously, this neither guarantees him reps nor precludes Harper from carrying the ball, it's just another testament to Steve Addazio not wanting anyone to get to comfortable in their spot when he has, in his estimation, "a lot of talent" up and down the roster.

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Is Miami for Real?
Good question. Wish I could answer it. Yes, they are winners of four of their last five, but those wins come against teams with a combined record of 9-27.

They've won the games they should have and lost the games in which they've been challenged. Tonight is as big for them as it is for Temple. Whether they're "for real" or not, expect them to be as hungry, if not even hungrier than the Owls.

Mandatory Pop Culture Education
I've done what I could to include as many musical guests as possible over the course of the season. Admittedly, I haven't always kept up with the theme, but I've tried to work them in when possible.

In consideration of the fact that I've had to repeatedly type "(OH)" after "Miami," I've begun to think of the city as somewhat like a cover band for the real Miami.

Accordingly, I present to you "The Baseballs"—a German pop cover band, who takes a whole mess of songs you wouldn't ordinarily associate with one another and tries to make it all sound like the Beach Boys.

And now, Will Smith! ...sort of:

See you post-game.

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

usa-zach-eflin-sad.jpg
USA Today Images

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

For a moment on Sunday afternoon, Citizens Bank Park sprung to life as the Phillies strung together five hits in a four-run second inning.

But four home runs off starter Zach Eflin sent the Phillies to another defeat and Eflin to Lehigh Valley.

Eflin was optioned to Triple A following the Phillies' 8-4 loss to the Reds, in which he allowed seven runs on nine hits in just five innings of work (see Instant Replay)

"His first 2-3 outings were really good," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was keeping the ball down, but his last three, including today, he's elevating his sinker and once you elevate that sinker, it doesn't have the effect that you'd like to have."

The Phillies have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games and handed the Reds their first series win at CBP since Aug. 2006.  

Eflin got off to a rocky start on Sunday with three first-inning singles, allowing one run. He escaped further damage but then proceeded to give up a home run in each of his final four innings. The final home run — Adam Duvall's second on the day — came on an 0-2 pitch and extended Cincinnati's lead to 7-4. All of the Reds' hits off Eflin came on fastballs as their potent lineup feasted on his pitches high in the zone.

Two weeks ago, Eflin's ERA stood at 2.87 as he kept opponents in the ballpark with his hard sinker. However, starting with a May 17 outing in Texas, Eflin has allowed 22 runs in his last 15 innings. He's given up seven homers in his last two starts and at least nine hits in five consecutive outings as his ERA ballooned to 6.13. With Sunday's results, the Phillies were left little choice but to option the 23-year-old righty while he deals with a rough patch.

"There are some things I need to work on," Eflin said. "I need to do a better job of pitching backward, especially in fastball counts. There's a lot of things I need to work on, but at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go down there, work on everything I need to work on and get back as soon as possible."

The Phillies will likely reinstate Howie Kendrick (oblique) off the 10-day disabled list Monday in a corresponding move after the veteran IF/OF completed a four-game rehab stint (see story)

Kendrick could help boost an offense that is scuffling. After a four-run second inning highlighted by Andrew Knapp's 434-foot three-run home run, the Phillies' bats fell silent. They strung together five more hits. However, three double plays and a few untimely strikeouts killed any further rallies.

The Phillies left a potential run stranded on third base in the fifth inning as Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr struck out against starter Scott Feldman, who waded into and out of trouble in five innings of work. Herrera went 0 for 4 with that strikeout, continuing to slump. His average has fallen to .217.

With Kendrick returning, Mackanin indicated he would give Herrera some days off soon to help him relax amid mounting pressure to hit.

"He's scuffling. A couple guys scuffling," Mackanin said. "I'll probably move him down in the lineup. I can't keep him in the two-hole. But he has to fight his way out. 

"We'll see when Kendrick gets here. We're going to have another outfielder. I'm going to mix and match and try to get everybody in there. Kendrick, I'm going to bring along slowly because I want to make sure he's healthy.

"In other words, I don't have a set outfield. I'm going to mix those guys up."

On the infield, Maikel Franco continued his slide on Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a double play. The slugger is hitting .213 this month, just as he did in April, but his power is down with just two home runs. Kendrick, who only played left field in April, played third base while at Triple A, so he could potentially spell Franco as well.

"He hit a ball hard today but he's not giving us consistent at-bats," Mackanin said. "He's searching both physically and mentally. It's not easy for him. I can tell he's down on himself. He's not happy about what's going on."

The Phillies came into this week struggling and were unable to rebound against the Rockies and Reds, losing five of seven. They averaged just 2.42 runs during the homestand.

However, the bigger problem comes in the rotation. The team gave up 5.71 runs per game in their last seven despite a 23 2/3 inning scoreless streak from the bullpen. The rotation's struggles continue to plague the team as they carry the worst record in baseball into Miami for a three-game set starting Monday.

"I certainly expected more out of our starters," Mackanin said. "We've had some issues with Nola's arm and Clay Buchholz going down. Although [Jerad] Eickhoff is going to end up having a good year in my opinion. He's been a little bit hot and cold.

"And Eflin, I counted on him to have a big year this year. I think if he gets himself straightened out down in Triple A, I think he's going to come back strong. But certainly, I can't sit here and say I'm happy with [his performance]."

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

Zach Eflin allowed a career-high four home runs and the Phillies were outslugged by the Cincinnati Reds in an 8-4 defeat Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games. The Reds, who took two of three, picked up their first series win at CBP since August 2006.

Eflin was roughed up for the third consecutive start. The Reds tagged him for seven runs in just five innings. After three hits led to a run in the first inning, he gave up home runs in each of his last four frames. Following the game, Eflin was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Jeanmar Gomez allowed a solo home run in relief. 

Andrew Knapp gave the Phillies an early lead with a three-run homer during a four-run second inning. However, three double plays stifled the Phillies' offense, which was held scoreless after the second inning. 

Scott Feldman improved to 4-4 with the win for the Reds. The Phils dropped to 17-31 while the Reds improved to 24-25. 

Starting pitching report
Eflin stumbled through five innings, allowing nine hits. He had held opponents to just four homers in first six starts but has now has let up seven in his last two appearances. Over his past three starts, Eflin's been tagged for 22 runs in 15 innings. He's given up at least nine hits in all five May starts. 

A poor sign for Eflin: Only two of his outs came on the ground. The Reds were all over his fastball and scored in each of his five innings. His ERA has gone from 2.81 to 6.13 since May 17.

Feldman labored through a 32-pitch second inning in which he gave up four runs. He settled down afterward with a pair of double plays to get through five innings. The veteran righty struck out the last two batters he faced with a man on third and one out.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia threw two shutout innings, striking out one. Jeanmar Gomez gave up rookie Patrick Kivlehan's second home run of the day in the ninth inning, snapping the Phillies' bullpen's scoreless streak at 23 2/3 innings. Gomez allowed three hits and the one run in two innings.

Blake Wood, Wandy Peralta, Drew Storen and Raisel Iglesias each threw shutout innings in relief of Feldman.

At the plate
Manager Pete Mackanin wanted the Phillies to string together 4-5 hits and they did so in the second inning. Tommy Joseph and Michael Saunders led off with back-to-back singles before Knapp drove them in with his 434-foot blast. Knapp laid off two high fastballs after falling behind 0-2 and drilled a curveball into the Phillies' bullpen.

Freddy Galvis followed with a double. Even Eflin aided the cause with his first career RBI on a run-scoring single. 

The top two in the order — Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera — went 0 for 8. Everyone else in the lineup had at least one hit. Saunders and Aaron Altherr each had two hits while Ty Kelly had a pinch-hit double.

Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Kivlehan combined for five home runs with Duvall and Kivlehan notching multi-hit games. Jose Peraza and Zack Cozart extended their hitting streaks to 13 and 11 games, respectively, in the first inning.

Up next
The Phillies head on the road and begin a three-game set with the Miami Marlins, whom they beat twice in April at Citizens Bank Park.

Monday, 7:10 p.m. — Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 4.28) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-7, 4.82)

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.— Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55) vs. Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40)

Wednesday, 1:10 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-2, 4.34) vs. Dan Straily (3.83)