Archive | July, 2013

Torn ACL Ends Jeremy Maclin’s 2013 Season

28 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL during practice on Saturday and is out for the season. Photo by Chris Murray.

Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL during practice on Saturday and is out for the season. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—In a stunning development that does not involve the Eagles quarterback race, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was carted off the practice field with an injury to his right knee during seven-on-seven drills and is done for the season.

“He just came off the line of scrimmage and his knee buckled a little bit,” said wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

A couple of hours after practice, Eagles team officials confirmed that Maclin had indeed torn the anterior-cruiciate ligament in his right knee.  It was definitely worst case scenario for Maclin and the Birds.

On Twitter, Maclin said thanked his fans for their support and said he’s going to get through what is a difficult time for him:

“Appreciate all the love and support twitter fam….sad day but I have setbacks my entire life. Minor setback …”

Maclin was in the last year of a five-year $12.775 million rookie contract. He in scheduled to make $1.6 million this season.

“I think he was going to be a big part of our offense and a big part of what we do,” Vick said. “I was going to get him involved. We had some great plays designed for him.”

With full contact drills less than 24 hours away and the team still in the process of learning the offense, Maclin will be missed by his teammates.  That said, the team has to move forward.

“It’s tough, but unfortunately when something like this happens other guys have to step up,” said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. “It’s the nature of the game. Injuries are going to happen and they can happen to anybody.”

While Maclin is not necessarily that superstar game-breaking receiver, but he has been consistent during his time in Philadelphia. Last season, Maclin led the Eagles in receiving with 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven touchdowns.

“You hate it more for that individual than for its impact on the team because you know how much, especially someone like Mac, who was all-in, eat, breathe, drink, sleeps football and has done a lot for this team and wants to do a lot more. It’s going to be hard on him mentally if it’s bad,” said Eagles guard Evan Mathis.

Over the last four years, Maclin has caught 258 passes, the most in team history for a wide receiver in his first four years in the league.  Maclin was the Eagles No. 1 draft pick out of Missouri back in 2009.

“That’s one thing that anybody hates to see happen in training camp, to see one of our major contributors go down,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce, who missed of last season with a torn ACL”

With Maclin out, backup wide receiver Riley Cooper took his share of the reps during Saturday’s practice.  The Eagles already had wide receiver Arrelious Benn on the sideline on an exercise bike rehabbing an injured left knee.

Before Maclin’s injury, the Eagles signed former New Hampshire star wide receiver David Ball, who played under Chip Kelly when he was an assistant coach at the school.

During his collegiate career, the six-foot-one-inch Ball put up some impressive numbers. He holds the Football Championship Subdivision record for most career touchdowns. Only Jerry Rice has more  career yards receiving than Ball.

Unfortunately, Ball’s NFL career hasn’t been quite that fortunate. He has been nothing more than  a practice squad player with the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets.

More Opportunities: WABA Seeks to Give More Women A Chance to Play Pro Basketball

28 Jul
The WABA hopes to increase opportunities for women to play professional basketball.

The WABA hopes to be a successful compliment to the WNBA.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

When Sonya Nichols was a basketball player at James Madison in the mid-1990s, she struggled with knee injuries and didn’t have much of a chance to showcase her skills enough to get an opportunity to play professional basketball.

Nichols didn’t get any calls from the European professional leagues, the newly formed WNBA or the former American Basketball League. Not having a venue to showcase her talents was something that still sticks with her.

“After my collegiate career when my knees were ready to go, I didn’t have a platform to play,” Nichols said. “I took that personally. I knew that one day that I would like to be a part of helping women who are displaced and not able to go overseas or not interested in going overseas, for that matter to be in some type of league that’s available for us just to showcase and demonstrate the talent we have because we didn’t’ make it to that next level for one reason or another.”

As the chief executive officer of the newly formed Women’s American Basketball Association, Nichols wants to give women basketball players that opportunity to play at the professional level.   The league; which is a part of the Indianapolis-based American Basketball Association, is scheduled to begin play in April, 2014.

WABA chief operations officer  and Philadelphia sports agent Sporty Smith will be the owner of the WABA’s Philadelphia Philly Love. The league hopes to have 24 teams in place by the time play begins next April, he said.

Former WNBAers, collegiate players, players who have spent time in the European leagues and coaches from those ranks will make up the WABA, Smith said.

But what makes this league different is that it will also offer local stars, women who played for local colleges and high schools that might have name recognition in the cities in which the league has teams, the chance to show they’ve still got it, Smith said.

“The difference between us and the WNBA is that a lot of the players that would be on those teams would be local and so they’ll have their families readily available to watch them play,” Smith said.

There are currently nine teams in the league, according to the WABA’s website. These teams are:  The New Jersey Express, which will play out of Newark, N.J.; The New England Stormers, which will play out of Boston; The Hampton Roads Lightning (Norfolk, Va.); and the Philadelphia Love. Once the league is fully formed these teams will make up the Northeast Division.

The Midwest Division is comprised of only one team so far, the Chicago Lady Steam. The South Division will be made up of the Lake City Kingdom Riderettes (Lake Charles, La.); The Lady Cadets of Fayetteville, NC; The Lady Roadrunners of Columbus, Ga.; and the McAllen Queens of McAllen, Tex.

Going into markets big and small is an important part of the new league’s strategy for growth.

“That’s an opportunity for us,” Sonya Nichols said. “That’s pretty much the standard model of the ABA since it’s inception. We’re going take a page from their book and really tap in those markets. People in those towns want to come out and support a professional team because they don’t have them.”

While giving women’s basketball players another venue to play professional basketball sounds like a good idea, the WABA will have to convince an audience in an over saturated sports market that their league will be as good as the WNBA, which has its own struggles in its 17 years of existence.

With the addition of new WNBA players like Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, Skyler Diggins who plays for the Tulsa Shock and of course, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who dominated women’s college basketball with her size and ability to dunk, interest in the WNBA is actually growing.

Attendance, WNBA merchandise and TV ratings on ESPN 2 have gone up this year thanks to Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins.  In the season-opener featuring all three players, ESPN 2 had it highest regular-season ratings in nine years.

Nichols said the recent success of the WNBA and the popularity of women’s college basketball bode well for her upstart league.

“People are very interested in women’s sports now, “ Nichols said. “Those three players of that caliber have really sparked an interest.  …We definitely feel that we’ll be able to stay in it and we will sustain just as the WNBA has.”

One of the things that could help the WABA is having a television deal to broadcast their games. To that end, Nichols said that she has worked out a deal to televise their games with the New York-based Urban Broadcasting Company, which is scheduled to launch in the fall and is supposed to reach 40 million homes on Comcast, Time Warner and Dish Network.

Nichols said the new league is also in negotiations with another network, but will not announce anything until a deal is done.

Meanwhile, Nichols and Smith are also trying to find arenas to play their games. If they’re going not to going to play in places like the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia or New York’s Madison Square Garden, collegiate arenas will be the venue of choice.

For his team, Smith has found a practice facility in Northeast Philadelphia.  He said he is negotiating with local colleges for a regular place to play their games.

As for player salaries, the WABA will not be doling out millions right away. Smith said that will happen as the league grows and continues to get sponsorship. The league minimum for players will be $50 per game.

Both Nichols and Smith said the main thrust of their local marketing strategy is to be involved in community service efforts by partnering with local charities and also having community organizations such as children’s dance groups perform at halftime.

“Our service projects will garner a lot of attention,” Nichols said. “Some of the community service initiatives that we have include tutoring, women’s shelters and other projects that we’re working on now.”

In the spirit of the old men’s ABA from the 1970s, Nichols said there will be some interesting wrinkles such as the red, white and blue basketball and points to award outstanding defense and hustle as a way of making the game fun for fans.

For example, if a team makes a steal near their own basket, a team will get two points for the steal and two or three additional points if they hit a two-point bucket or a three-pointer.

“If you play good basketball, they’ll keep coming back,” Nichols said.

ABA CEO Joe Newman the thing he likes about the new league is that it opens a door of opportunities for people who want to be employed in the sport.

“It’s an opportunity to do what they’ve dreamed about in their careers and that is to play at the professional level,” Newman said. “It’s also off the court to develop the potential middle managers and marketing people, press media people and community people, and radio and TV people who will pursue what they studied in college… It’s a place to achieve your dreams.”

Mid-Season Report: Phils Believe They Can Contend in Second Half

14 Jul
Phillies need a centerfielder  to replace Ben Revere, who broke his right foot during Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies need a centerfielder to replace Ben Revere, who broke his right foot during Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—In spite of injuries to key players like Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and now centerfielder Ben Revere who is on the 15-day disabled list because of a broken right foot, the Phillies (48-48) believe they can make a run in the second half of the season.

“If you come to the ball park and you got 25 guys and the biggest part of them want to play and they’re concentrating on playing the game right way and getting after it, you’d be surprised at what you can do,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

Perhaps an even more daunting issue for the Phillies is whether they can be consistent enough to get beyond the .500 mark, something they weren’t able to do during the first half of the season.

“Obviously, You need to have some luck, but things are starting to bounce our way,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.

Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox put the Phillies at .500 mark for the first time since June 7. They have won eight of their last 12 and have won their last four series coming into the All-Star Break.  They are in third place, six and a half games behind the first place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

“What’s meaningful is that we’re not out of the race,” said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. “We have 60-something games left and that’s going to determine the season. It’s going to come down to the last week of the season and hopefully we’re popping bottles.”

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. likes where the Phillies are at this point of the season. At the very least, they are within striking distance.

“It’s pretty exciting actually for us to have gotten ourselves back into race and play a little bit better baseball,” Amaro said.  “Ben Revere has given us a lift, Michael Young has come up with some game-winning base hits for us.  (John) Lannan has pitched great. Delmon Young has come up with some big hits for us.”

Manuel said he’s still trying figure out how good his team can be even with all the injuries that the team has had this season.

“We’re still playing to see how good we really are,” Manuel said. “That’s how I look at it.”

On offense, the biggest stars on the Phillies have been Domonic Brown who leads the team in home runs with 23 and runs batted in with 65. With Howard suffering from a sore left knee throughout much of the season, Brown became the Phillies main source of power.

“He’s picked us up and he’s been getting his hits and he’s hit a lot of balls hard,” Manuel said. “He’s been consistent. He’s been out here and everyday and he’s been healthy. He’s developed into a heck of a player.”

Because of his outstanding performance in the first half, Brown is headed to his first All-Star game. A tremendous honor considering how fans and more than a few sports media people were calling for the team to trade him.

“I always set my goals and this definitely was one of them,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to keep moving forward and keep improving everyday.”

Before Revere hurt his foot on a foul ball in the 10th inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, he was hitting the ball well and establishing himself as a pure leadoff hitter.

After batting .200 for the first month of the season, Revere has been on a tear.  Since May 1, he has batted 347. His current batting average is .305.  Before being placed on the disabled list, Revere had hit safely in 14 out of his last 15 games including 10 games.

“He was our hottest hitter,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “He and Jimmy Rollins are our speed. He gave us a chance to play little ball at times. He was very important to our lineup and it’s a big blow.”

One thing likely to happen with Revere out is that Rollins might be moved back to the leadoff spot. Rollins said that he doesn’t care either or way, but if he is hitting at the No. 1 spot in the line he certainly help his team.

“Obviously if I’m up there and I can score on a lot of balls that some guys can’t,” Rollins said.  “That will help, but I really don’t care.”

With Halladay on the DL, the Phillies have had surprisingly decent starting pitching. Cliff Lee is having an All-Star year with a 10-3 record and a 2.86 ERA.  Jonathan Pettibone has secured a spot in the rotation in Halladay’s absence compiling a 5-3 record with a 3.89 ERA. John Lannen (2-3) has also been a big contributor in the Phillies rotation. Kyle Kcndrick (8-6, 3.86 ERA) has also been a consistent element among the starters.

After a horrendous start to the season, lefthander Cole Hamels in his last three outings is starting to find his groove.  In Sunday’s win over the Chicago White Sox, Hamels pitched eight and allowed two runs on eight hits, but get the decision.

“Hopefully, he’s gotten through his struggles and he is on a roll. That’s big for us. That’s real big for us,” Manuel said. “The last three games, I’m pleased with it. He’s definitely been very good the last two games. He’s had all the pitches and his command has been good.”

While the bullpen has pitched well in the series against the White Sox, it has struggled throughout much of the first half of the season. It ranks at the bottom of the National League in earned run average. Finding a good reliever at the July 31st- trade-deadline is priority for Amaro.

“We’ve got to pitch. If we don’t pitch well we don’t have a shot,” Amaro said.

Phillies Overcome Miscues to Win Series over Washington

12 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Kyle Kendrick had seven strong innings in win over Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Kyle Kendrick had seven strong innings in win over Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—On nights when the Phillies commit more than one error, it usually results in a win for the other team.

Thursday night, the Phillies committed four errors, but they somehow figured out a way to overcome their miscues and score enough runs to come away with a 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals in front of 40, 086 fans  at Citizen’s Bank Park

For the Phillies (46-47), it was their third straight series win as they took three out of four games from the second-place Nationals (47-45). The Phils are one game below that elusive .500 mark once again.

“We’re able to win some games,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “Right now, we’re having a good homestand. We’ve got Chicago (White Sox) coming in. We’ve got three games before the (All-Star) break. Our main priority is to win tomorrow’s game. “

Starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (8-6) had a strong performance on the mound. In seven innings, he allowed just one on five hits with two strikeouts and just one walk.  Manuel said Kendrick did a good job of fighting his way out of some rough spots.

“I thought he really had to battle because we made some mistakes, there was some sloppy play and he was the guy that got us of out of some jams,” Manuel said.  “He made pitches when he had to. He did a super job.”

Somewhere sandwiched between some of the gaffes in the field, there was an outstanding defensive play in the first inning that helped Kendrick and prevented Washington from taking an early lead.

Nationals rightfielder Jayson Werth poked a two-out single to left. Bryce Harper tried to score from second base but was gunned down at home plate by Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown.

“It was huge,” said Kendrick. “Obviously in the first inning, we didn’t want to get down there. He made a great throw. It could have been a big game-changer for sure. …It was big.”

Every time the Phillies committed an error or there was a wild pitch, Kendrick would get out of it with a double play. In the first, a dropped fly ball Chase Utley, who committed three errors, was followed up by an outstanding throw to get Harper out at the plate.

A two errors by Utley in the fourth put Werth on third base with two outs. Kendrick got second baseman Anthony Rendon to fly out to right to end the threat.

In the fifth, a throwing error by third baseman Michael Young allowed Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki enabled him to reach second. But the Phillies survived that inning because Ruiz fielded Jordan Zimmerman’s bunt attempt and threw out Suzuki at third.

Kendrick got Denard Span to hit into an inning-ending double play that went from Ruf, who stepped on the bag at first get Span and then threw to Rollins covering second to get Jordan Zimmerman.

With the Nationals All-Star pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (12-4) on the mound, the Phillies were going to have to figure out ways to get some runs and they did just that. The Phillies got eight hits off Zimmerman and scored two runs. The Nats best pitcher had six strikeouts.

“It was good pitching on both sides,” Manuel said. “Zimmerman was good. He was real good. Kendrick was right there with him and rose to the occasion. Zimmerman did a good job. We were to score on him.”

The Phillies broke open a scoreless game in their half of the fifth inning and took a 1-0 lead on RBI single by center fielder Ben Revere that drove home Ruiz who reached on an infield and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kendrick.

Washington evened the game in the top of the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman that drove home Harper, who reached on a one-out triple to right.

The Phillies took the lead for good in their have of the seventh inning.  First baseman Darin Ruf doubled to center. He was replaced at second John McDonald, who scored the go-ahead run on a 0-2 pinch-hit double to right center by Kevin Frandson.

“It was just choke and poke right there,” Frandsen said. “Seriously. I’m not a big strikeout guy. I was just going to put in play. You never know you put a ball in play, good things happen.”

The Phillies bullpen tandem of Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon kept the Nationals hitless and scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings. Papelbon got his 20th save of the year.

 

Rejuvenated Ray Emery Returns to Philly Ready to Win

11 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

http://www.thechrismurrayreport.org

Flyers Goalie Ray Emery  will be competing for starting spot at goaltender this upcoming season. Photo by Chris Murray

Flyers Goalie Ray Emery will be competing for starting spot at goaltender this upcoming season. Photo by Chris Murray

PHILADELPHIA-Flyers goalie Ray Emery returns to the City of the Brotherly Love with a better understanding of what means to keep fighting on in the face of difficult circumstances.

During his last stint with the Flyers in 2010, he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis or AVN in his right hip and it nearly ended his career.  Luckily, the doctors caught the disease before it spread and did a bone graft to repair it.

“It was a shock to me,” Emery said. “Being an athlete you feel invincible. When somebody gives you news like that, you almost don’t believe it.  I’m very fortunate that I had that operation. It stopped the deterioration of my hip and the function came back to 100 percent.

“I was that close to not being able to play the sport.”

The 30-year-old Emery said coming that close to seeing his career end has given him the confidence to get through difficult stretches of games during the course of a season.

“You gain confidence just because of past experiences,” said Emery, who credits the Flyers with helping him find the doctors needed to treat his condition. “It’s just kind of a process involved when overcoming things that pop up.”

A rejuvenated Emery comes back to the Flyers after helping to lead the Chicago Black Hawks to the 2013 Stanley Cup title.  He signed a one-year contract with the Flyers last week worth $1.65 million.  The Flyers also signed former New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit and former Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent LeCavalier.

Emery is coming off a regular season where he went 17-1 backing up fellow Black Hawks goal tender Corey Crawford.   Emery also had an average of 1.94 in goals against (number of goals scored on him) and a .920 save percentage.

To start the 2013 season, Emery set an NHL record by winning 12 straight games as the goalie for the Black Hawks.  During his first stint with the Flyers in the 2009-2010 season, he was 16-11. He had a 2.64 goals against average and .908 save percentage.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren believes the Flyers are a better team with (from left to right) former New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, goalie Ray Emery and former Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent LeCavalier. Photo by Chris Murray.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren believes the Flyers are a better team with (from left to right) former New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, goalie Ray Emery and former Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent LeCavalier. Photo by Chris Murray.

Emery’s hip injury in March of 2010 kept him out of the Flyers run to the Stanley Cup finals. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he’s glad to have him back, but still wonders what would have happened if he had Emery in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

“He’s one of the better goalies in the league,” said Holmgren. “If you look at Ray’s record since he’s been in the NHL all he does is win. You can even go back to the short time he was here. I remember his last game, he shutout Calgary 3-0 (in 2010) and then we got that phone call that his hip was bad.

“Everybody remembers our goaltending situation after that. Who didn’t we have playing after that? If we had Ray Emery that year, who knows? It’s easy to look back and say who knows, I guess.”

Oddly enough, during the Black Hawks march to the Stanley Cup, Emery was on the bench mainly because he had a groin injury prior to the playoffs and because Crawford was hot and Chicago was winning.

“That’s how it goes. Like I said there’s a certain part of you that wants to be in there,” Emery said. “But it’s your team. It was so exciting watching your team and being part of it.”

Coming to the Flyers, Emery will be competing for the starting goalie position with Steve Mason.  Even with the possibility of having to split time, Emery said he’s willing to do his part help the team to win.

“It’s more about the relationship,” Emery said. “It’s more about making it comfortable and getting the most out of both guys.”

Since starting his NHL career with the Ottawa Senators in 2002-2003, he has   compiled a 126-63 record. He was the goalie for the Senators when they lost to Anaheim in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

Emery is one of 22 Black players currently playing in the NHL.

At this year’s NHL Draft, two Black players—Seth Jones, taken fourth by the Nashville Predators, and Darnell Nurse who was the seventh pick by the Edmonton Oilers-are the first to be taken in the top 10 of the NHL Draft.

Emery said he doesn’t mind being a role model to get more Black kids interested in the sport.

“It exciting when you’re a kid to have someone that if you’re interested in hockey and you’re a Black kid to have someone to look up to,” Emery said. “When I was a kid I had Grant Fuhr and Tony McKegney, a select few guys to look up to. I hope we can expand the game to different demographics. I think that’s a good thing.”

 

Getting His Groove Back: Cole Hamels leads Phillies Past Washington

10 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Cole Hamels had a solid performance against Washington Tuesday night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cole Hamels had a solid performance against Washington Tuesday night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that Cole Hamels has won his last two starts, is it now safe to say that the Phillies lefthander has his mojo back?

If you’re looking for proof of that, all you need to do is look at how Hamels pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth against the Washington Nationals.

First, Hamels struck out Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman swinging at a 93-mile an hour fast-ball.  After manager Charlie Manuel visited him on the mound, Hamels then retired the dangerous Jayson Werth on a long flyball to center to end the Washington threat in the eighth.

“I just said, ‘I’m not here to take you out, I just came out here to look at you’,” Manuel said. “I said, ‘you got him and he smiled and said, ‘I got him.’”  …It was a big time battle. That’s what baseball is all about. Werth came close, but no cigar.”

In eight innings of work, Hamels allowed just one run on six hits with four strikeouts and the Phillies came away with a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals in front of 33, 502 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“What I was able to do early on was to get the quick outs,” said Hamels, who threw 110 pitches. “I know it’s hot, but I was still able to maintain the energy and intensity level. That was the most exciting eighth inning I have had in a long time, especially with it not being a sell-out, it seemed like 60,000 fans. That was awesome to see that from the fans. It definitely brought the energy back.”

Considering how Hamels has struggled in 11 losses this season, getting two straight solid performances from him is like manna from heaven for a Phillies team trying to scrap their way back into the pennant race.

“Stuff-wise he’s been there the whole time,” said third baseman Michael Young, who drove in a pair of runs with an RBI-double in the sixth. “It’s a matter of just letting the game come to him. We know that in time, Cole is going to be one of the best pitchers in the league. It’s just who he is. It would be nice to have Cole and Cliff (Lee), those two guys at the top of our rotation to set us up.”

It was the Phillies third straight win and their fourth in their last five games. The Phils (45-46) moved to within one game of .500.  Antonio Bastardo got the save for the Phillies, allowing one hit, one run and a walk.

Getting beyond the .500 mark has been a challenge for the Phillies all year. But Young said the Phillies have to focus on winning the next game and instead of thinking about going on a “hot streak.”

“We’re putting too much on our plate. We’re thinking about a game that is maybe a week and a half away instead of bearing down on the one in front of us, especially when we’re playing a good club,” Young said.

As well as Hamels pitched against the Nationals, the Phillies offense scored enough runs to support his solid effort.

After the Nationals had taken a 1-0 lead on a solo home run by Werth in the second inning, the Phillies tied the game in the fourth on a RBI single by Domonic Brown that scored Chase Utley who reached on a two-out double.

The Phillies broke the game open in the sixth.  After singles by Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins, Utley hit a ground ball to first baseman Adam LaRoche who tried to cut Rollins down at second. But the ball got ball got past shortstop Ian Desmond and into center field enabling Revere to score from second.

Young’s double scored Rollins and Utley to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead. The Nationals scored a run in the ninth on an RBI double by pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos that scored Anthony Rendon.

Phillies Look to Move Forward With Ryan Howard Out of the Lineup

9 Jul

Howard Will Miss 6-8 Weeks Because of a Torn Meniscus in His Left Knee

By Chris Murray

Ryan Howard will be having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Photo by Webster Riddick

Ryan Howard will be having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Photo by Webster Riddick

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If  Phillies fans can find any silver lining to the news that slugging first baseman Ryan Howard will be getting surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee is that he and possibly Roy Halladay may  be available by sometime around  late August or September for the Phillies to make a late run for a division title or a playoff berth.

Ah, but that’s the rub. Will the Phillies be in the pennant race by the time Howard or Halladay are healthy enough to return to the Phillies lineup? Will Howard or Halladay be 100 percent and back their old selves even if they are in contention?  If the Phils aren’t in the race,  Howard and Halladay should probably just shut it down until next year.

Considering how they struggled last season when Howard was out of the lineup, getting back into the pennant chase is going to be a tall order for the Phillies. Even with him struggling with a sore knee, Howard still drove in 43 runs and hit 11 home runs. He had one 10-game stretch back in June where he batted .400. In his last game on Friday, July 5 against the Atlanta Braves, he went 1-for-4 with a tape measure home run. He will be out for six to eight weeks.

“That’s a big blow,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “It’s different with him not in there. His presence means something to us. He’s still a threat he’s got (43) RBI. We need Ryan in our lineup. At the same time, we’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got guys that can definitely perform better and help us win some games.

With a healthy mix of veterans and young players in the lineup, the Phillies certainly have the tools to make a go of it without the “Big Piece” in the lineup. One thing that has kept the Phils within reasonable striking distance of the Braves has been the sudden success of All-Star leftfielder Domonic Brown, who has had a whale of a first half of the season.

Coming into Monday’s game against the Nationals, Brown was batting .281 with 23 home runs and 62 runs batted in. He had an incredible month of May in which he hit .303 with home runs, 25 runs batted in, four doubles and a triple. He was named the National League Player of the Month after being named National League Player of the Week twice.

“He’s hit a lot of balls harder and he’s been consistent,” Manuel said. “He’s been healthy and he’s developed into a heck of a player.”

Centerfielder Ben Rivera has also been swinging a hot bat lately. He is hitting .337 (68-for-202) with nine doubles, two triples,  15 stolen bases, 12 runs batted  and 12 walks since May 1. In Monday’s 3-2 win over Washington, Rivera was 3-for-5 including a double with two runs scored and a stolen base. He moved his batting average up to .300 for the first time this season after hitting .200 in April.

With the win over the Nationals, the Phillies have won three of their four games on a homestand that the team is saying is the more important of the year in determining the course of the season.

But where the Phillies have struggled this season is that they have been inconsistent. One night they will hit the ball well or good get a good outing from a starting pitcher only to have the bullpen blow a lead or let deficit grow so large that the game is out of reach. There have been nights where the offense has been absent or the starting pitching is missing.

In early June, the Phillies had a five-game winning streak that pushed them over .500 for the first time this season only to go on a five-game losing streak and fall back under .500 again.

In Monday’s 3-2 win over the Nationals, lefthander John Lannan went eight innings and allowed just four hit with four strikeouts. Closer Jonathan Papelbon got the save but gave up two runs on two hits in the process. It came perilously close to being a blown save.

With Howard out of the lineup, Brown said he expects his teammates to do their part and contribute to fill the void of Howard’s absence in the Phillies lineup.

“We’re looking for guys to step, whoever that might be,” Brown said. “Ben Revere had another great night. John Lannan pitched his butt off we just have to keep doing the little things, especially with Howard out of the lineup.”

Without their best slugger in the lineup, the Phillies will get a good look at Darin Ruf, who was recently called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. So far, he is batting .429 (3-for-7) in his first two games with the big league club. Manuel said there will be a lot of young players that will get a chance to play.

“I think it’s give us chance to put some guys out there and to see them,” Manuel said. “They’re going to get a chance like Ruf and those guys. As far as our line up goes, we’re going to get to see if different. We just got to keep playing like I say all the time. We gotta stay with it, grind it out. “