Week 2 Preview: Los Angeles Rams (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Where oh where do I start.

The Eagles (0-1) will play their home opener on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Rams (1-0). The two teams are coming into this one off of vastly different outcomes in week one.

The Rams defeated the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football to open up their crown jewel of a stadium and looked pretty solid all the way around.

The Eagles, meanwhile, blew a 17-point lead to a team that doesn’t even have a real name and had scandal after scandal all offseason.

Like I said, vastly different outcomes. The good news is that was only one game, and the Eagles can make up for it. On a much more pessimistic viewpoint, the Eagles have already been ravaged by the ever-present injury bug.

With that being said, it appears as though many Eagles will be making their way back to the game field for Sunday’s game. Derek Barnett, Miles Sanders, and Lane Johnson are all expected to play this weekend after missing last week’s contest. Furthermore, Jason Peters and Brandon Graham are also expected to play after suffering injuries on Sunday. Thank the heavens.

With those guys now in the lineup, does that make me more confident for Sunday? Yes, but that really isn’t saying much, considering where my confidence levels were at around 4 p.m. last Sunday.

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Week 1 Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

We’ve made it. Eagles football is finally back, and while it may look a little different with fans in the stands an unlikely scenario for this season, all that means is more people will join me in screaming at their televisions.

Oh how I’ve missed Zach Ertz’s inability to break tackles, Nathan Gerry getting juked out of his cleats, and the Eagles secondary getting burnt to a crisp.

And don’t you fret Eagles fans! We get to see the majesty that is Jason Peters’ half-second too early false starts for at least one more season. I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

For the third time in four seasons, the Eagles opening day game will be against the Washington Re-- ...I mean Football Team. As we all know by now, after many years of outside pressure, the Washington franchise was finally forced to change their nickname by the league.

They clearly had the creative juices flowing when they came up with this name.

My oh my, the things I would sacrifice to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting.

All joking aside, the Eagles and Washington have played in some really close contests over the past few years. Despite the narrow margins, the Eagles have come out on top in each of the last six meetings. Many of those games have provided some great memories for Philly fans.

Doug Pederson will be coaching against Ron Rivera, who will be making his head coaching debut for Washington (prayers to him, as he was recently diagnosed with cancer). The Eagles enter Sunday afternoon’s game in Landover as 5.5 point favorites.

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The Top Ten Games In Eagles-Redskins History

(Carson Wentz threw a touchdown on this play. More on that later.)

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

With the era of Washington “Redskins” football officially over, and the Eagles being the first opponent of the new, but not improved, “Washington Football Team,” it seems like as good a time as ever to take a stroll down memory lane and remember the best moments from the Eagles-Redskins rivalry.

The two teams first matchup occurred in October of 1934 and they have had plenty of memorable moments since then.

Washington leads the all-time series with a record of 86-79-5 against the Birds. The Redskins also won the only postseason game between the two rivals in the 1990 Wild Card round by a score of 20-6.

Yet, that is not the most remembered Eagles-Redskins game from that season.

Since the turn of the century, the Eagles have won 25 of the 40 matchups, including each of the last six games. Three of those six games will be mentioned in this top ten, which proves how wild this rivalry has been as of late.

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Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (10-14) at Washington Nationals (11-15)

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Phillies travel to the nation’s capital Tuesday night to take on the defending World Series champions for the first time this season.

Both teams have severely underwhelmed thus far, as they both sit at the bottom of the NL East standings with records under .500.

The Phillies come into this series with the same issue they’ve had all season: the bullpen. Before Sunday night’s victory by the narrowest of margins, the Phils had lost five consecutive games. In three of those five games, the Phils held a late lead that would be ultimately blown by numerous characters in the bullpen.

Even the new guy the Phillies acquired, closer Brandon Workman, promptly blew a save against Atlanta in his debut as a Phil. Had it not been for a phenomenal relay by the unlikely trio of Roman Quinn, Didi Gregorius, and Andrew Knapp on Sunday night, Workman would have blown the lead in that game too. Not great!

Meanwhile, the Nationals come into this series off of a rare five game series against Miami, where they lost three of five. The Nationals have underperformed, largely due to their pitching as well. While they have one of the better offenses in the league, the pitching ranks toward the bottom. As a team, they have even had some of the same issues the Phillies have had on the mound and at the plate.

Essentially, this series is going to come down to which team’s pitching staff implodes first.

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Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (9-9) at Boston Red Sox (6-18)

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The first installment of Philadelphia vs. Boston today will be the baseball variety at 1:35. Here’s to hoping that both legs of these matchups go similarly to last night’s Phillies-Red Sox game, a 13-6 drubbing by the Phils.

It’s beginning to appear like the Phillies have turned a corner after struggling to open the season. The Fightin’ Phils have won four in a row and can see their record go over .500 for the first time this season with a win today.

During this four game winning streak, the Phillies have begun to do everything that people complained they didn’t do. The offense is hotter than a fox in a forest fire right now. It seems like everyone is hitting the ball well (except Kingery), as they’ve scored 31 runs over the last four contests.

The pitching staff has looked a lot better, but I still wouldn’t call it good. Eflin did not have his best stuff last night, as he gave up four runs in just four innings of work. However, the bullpen continued their streak of not absolutely imploding, as they gave up just two runs over the final five innings. That’s what we call improvement, folks.

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Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (8-9) at Boston Red Sox (6-17)

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Phillies travel up north to the legendary Fenway Park to play the first of two games against the struggling Boston Red Sox tonight (7:30). Philadelphia sports fans are hoping that this rendition of Philly vs. Boston goes better than last night’s basketball version.

The Phillies are coming off of a timely, yet unprecedented, sweep of the New York Mets. The suddenly hot Phils may have just saved their season this past weekend, as they now find themselves in the thick of the expanded playoff race.

The key to their success over the weekend: starting pitching. The one-two punch of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler gave up just two runs over 13 innings pitched combined. The bullpen even pitched better than they had all season, allowing just three runs over the three games set.

If the bullpen keeps pitching like that, look out. Us Philly fans might mess around and have some confidence.

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Preview: New York Mets (9-11) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-9) 8/14

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Phillies are reeling as they play host to the New York Mets tonight (7:05) for the first time this season. The Phillies are coming off of an uninspiring effort against the Orioles, having been swept, and have lost five of their last six games. The Mets come in with two consecutive wins, having split their most recent series with the Nationals.

The Phillies bullpen has continued to give up runs in bushels, and the offense has become extremely reliant on its stars. To say that the season looks bleak at this point in time is an understatement.

With only 46 games remaining in their schedule and currently in last place in the NL East standings, the Phillies need to turn it around. Fast.

As of right now, even with the postseason expanding to eight teams in each league, the Phillies own the second worst winning percentage in the NL. They’ve got some catching up to do, and it starts tonight.

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Baltimore Orioles (9-7) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-8) Preview 8/13

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Yet another tough loss to the Orioles last night means the Phils head into Thursday afternoon’s (4:05 p.m.) contest just trying to avoid the sweep. The Phillies have lost four of their last five games.

The most frustrating part about the last two nights has been that the Phillies could have easily won either game. They just capitalize so infrequently on big opportunities.

Rhys Hoskins hit into three double plays all by himself last night. Honestly, that’s so hard to do that I can’t help but be a tad bit impressed. I’ll talk more about Hoskins later.

At this point, we have enough of a sample size to know what the Phillies are. They’re an inconsistent team that, to put it simply, just does not have that it factor you always hear people talk about in sports.

Sure, they have a couple of great individual ball players. But as a whole? There’s just way too many holes in this team for them to overcome if things don’t change drastically, and fast.

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Baltimore Orioles (8-7) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-7) Preview 8/12

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Last night was embarrassing.

There is no other way to put it. The fans are embarrassed. The team is embarrassed. United States Representative Brendan Boyle is embarrassed.

Through 12 games, the Phils have had some rough losses. Last night’s loss however, stings the most. They could have won the game, they should have won the game. The offense did it’s job. To no one’s surprise, the bullpen did not. The defense in the final two innings more resembled the Bad News Bears than a professional baseball team.

Jean Segura had no right to call off Rhys Hoskins for the pop up that ultimately cost the Phillies the game in the ninth, given that they scored in the bottom half of that inning. Roman Quinn dove for a ball that landed a good five feet in front of him, leading to an inside-the-park homer that scored two runs. These are mistakes that 11-year-old AAU teams don’t even make.

Speaking of 11-year-old AAU teams, Matt Klentak might want to reach out to a few teams in the area to check the availability of some of their pitchers. Maybe they could swing a deal for about seven of them. For those of you who think that may be too harsh, just know that the Phillies bullpen literally cannot get any worse.

Not one Phillies relief pitcher has an ERA under eight. The bullpen’s ERA as a whole is over ten. Not only is that by far the worst in the league, it is statistically the worst bullpen ever. For reference, Major League Baseball began in 1869, four years after the Civil War ended.

Phillies Lineup vs. Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 6.91 ERA)

1. Andrew McCutchen LF

2. Rhys Hoskins 1B

3. Bryce Harper RF

4. J.T. Realmuto DH

5. Jean Segura 3B

6. Didi Gregorius SS

7. Phil Gosselin 2B

8. Andrew Knapp C

9. Roman Quinn CF

Orioles left-hander Wade LeBlanc will get the start tonight for the Orioles. The 36-year-old has a career 4.50 ERA, so he can be scored on. The Phillies offense has also seemed to hit better against left-handed pitching this season, so expect a good offensive effort again tonight from the Phils offense.

The Phillies bats were pretty dormant through the first seven innings of last night’s game. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Bryce Harper homered to tie the game and Jean Segura gave the Phils the lead with a titanic shot.

In the bottom of the ninth, once again down two, Didi Gregorius tied the game on a bloop two run single with the bases loaded. Try as the might to tie the game in the tenth, yet another two run deficit was too much to overcome. It was just the second time in Phillies history that the Phils lost despite scoring runs in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings, according to Doug Kern on Twitter.

Needless to say, the Phillies offense has hardly been the problem of late. They scored 13 runs on Monday night and nine runs last night, more than enough to secure victories in both games. They lost last night’s contest, and nearly imploded with a 12-run ninth inning cushion on Monday.

Bryce Harper has been hotter than fish grease to start the season, as he’s hitting a smooth .324 with a .479 on base percentage, four home runs (one in each of the last two games), and ten RBI’s. J.T. Realmuto was 0-3 last night, but he has had a fantastic start to the season as well. Didi Gregorius has been clutch and consistent, and the DH platoon of Jay Bruce and Phil Gosselin has proved to be advantageous. Who knew Bruce would be wearing his PF Flyers this season?

Now let’s get to the other guys. Last week, I said that McCutchen, Hoskins, Segura, and Kingery needed to get going for this offense to be successful.

Segura has started to turn it around with home runs in each of the last two games. Therefore, it’s an easy choice to keep him in the lineup. Just remind him that pop-ups on the first base side of the infield are balls he should not be catching, and he’ll be okay.

It’s time to move McCutchen and Hoskins down in the lineup. They both had hits last night, but in watching their at-bats it is clear that neither one of them are seeing the baseball well. The only reason I say keep them in the lineup instead of an outright benching is because both these guys still find ways to get on base via the walk. They're skating on thin ice.

As much as I want to root for the young man, it was time to take Scott Kingery out of the lineup. He looks so uncomfortable at the plate and has just four hits in 40 at-bats. It was about time to put Phil Gosselin in the everyday lineup until he stops swinging a hot bat. Gosselin is a seamless fit at second base, as he has 98 career games at the position and will get the start there tonight. He is my choice to bat leadoff or in the two hole in place of McCutchen or Hoskins. He’s earned it.

Whether Gosselin starting over Kingery tonight is just a one night thing remains to be seen. Regardless of what the future holds, props to Joe Girardi for making this decision today. If Goose hits tonight the way he has all season, I don’t see a way Girardi can justify putting Kingery back in the lineup.

Orioles Lineup vs. Zach Eflin (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

1. Hanser Alberto 2B

2. Anthony Santander RF

3. Jose Iglesias SS

4. Rio Ruiz 3B

5. Renato Nunez DH

6. Dwight Smith LF

7. Austin Hays CF

8. Chris Davis 1B

9. Chance Sisco C

The Orioles had their second best offensive output of the season last night. They managed to muster up three runs against Zack Wheeler, all coming in the sixth inning. They went on to score seven runs in the final 4.1 innings against the Phillies bullpen. Four of those runs were scored due to atrocious fielding by the Phillies, but I’ve ranted about that enough.

Zach Eflin gets the start tonight for the Phils. In his last, and only, start of the season he pitched four innings and gave up only four hits to go along with five punch-outs. He surrendered two unearned runs. Last week, I said that what the Phillies really need from Eflin is consistency. They don’t need him to be an ace, they need him to be a guy who won’t implode and can get through five or six innings while limiting damage. His first start was a good place to begin.

The better Eflin pitches, the longer he stays in the game. The longer he stays in the game, the less jokers Joe Girardi will be forced to summon from behind the center field wall and on to the mound.

If the Phillies bullpen is called into action before the seventh inning, expect some offensive fireworks for Baltimore.

The Orioles lineup has been extremely under-appreciated through their first 15 games. The top five guys in their lineup are all hitting over .260 (must be nice) and as a team they sport the fourth highest batting average in the league. This is the main reason they are over .500 a quarter of a way through their schedule. The Orioles would find themselves in the expanded postseason if the season ended today.

Second baseman Hanser Alberto has the third highest average in the American League and is tied for second in hits with 24. He is the guy that gets their offense going and I think he is the main guy to watch in this game for the O’s. He collected two hits in six at-bats last night to go along with an RBI.

Another guy to look out for is designated hitter Renato Nunez. He is hitting over .300 and has a team-leading five home runs on the season. He is Baltimore's best power threat by far, and playing in a hitter friendly ballpark like Citizens Bank Park is perfect for him. Nunez went 3-4 last night with two RBI's.

My Prediction

Let me start off by saying that both the Sixers and Flyers also play tonight. It may be in this city’s best interest to watch either of them instead, as I think we all need some space from the Phillies after last night.

That being said, I think the Phils will bounce back tonight. The offense roughs up Wade LeBlanc for five runs in the first five innings, and Eflin puts up six solid frames, allowing three runs. The Phillies turn to their bullpen in the seventh, which ultimately fails them yet again, as they surrender the lead. Not to be discouraged, I think the offense saves the day and continues to hit well against Baltimore’s bullpen.

The Phillies retake the lead in the eighth and Neris holds on in the ninth this time. The Phillies win 7-6, proving once and for all they are the most unpredictable team in Major League Baseball.

Broadcast Information

Time: 7:05 p.m.

TV: COZI TV (Channel 248 on Comcast, 460 on FIOS, and no, I have never heard of this channel in my lifetime either.)

Radio: 94.1 FM WIP & WTTM1680

Online: MLB.TV

Preview: New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies 8/6/2020

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Phillies (2-4) play host to the New York Yankees (9-2) for the final game of a four game set on Thursday night at 6:05 p.m. The Yankees have taken two of three from the Phils, as the two squads split Wednesday’s doubleheader.

While splitting a doubleheader against one of the best teams in baseball may seem like good news on the surface, the Phils squandered a sizable opportunity to sweep the twin bill. I propose that every member of the Phillies bullpen, lineup, and Joe Girardi give Aaron Nola their own handwritten apology for last night’s game.

While both Nola and Zack Wheeler pitched phenomenally in their starts yesterday, I think we’ve all underestimated just how horrid this bullpen is. The Phils ‘pen managed to turn an 11-3 blowout into a save situation for Hector Neris, deeming him “unusable” by Joe Girardi for game two even though he threw just one pitch. In game two, Nola pitched six spectacular innings and left the game with the score tied at one. Then Tommy Hunter came in and didn’t record a single out and gave up two runs.

Don’t worry though, Phillies fans, I have some great news. It’s a home Thursday game, so the Phils will be wearing their stupendous powder blues tonight. So while the bullpen will still let up an astronomical amount of runs tonight, at least they’ll be doing it in style.

They Are Who We Thought They Were

For the sake of driving home a point, here are a thread of tweets that show how unbelievably bad the Phillies bullpen has been.

The worst part about this is what Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out: there is no real solution in sight. For a team that really only has two legitimate, proven starters, this smells like a disaster waiting to happen that quite frankly, everyone saw coming. Well, except for the people in charge of putting the team together, apparently.

Phillies Lineup vs. Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 1.59 ERA)

1. Andrew McCutchen LF

2. Rhys Hoskins 1B

3. Bryce Harper RF

4. J.T. Realmuto C

5. Phil Gosselin DH

6. Didi Gregorius SS

7. Scott Kingery 2B

8. Neil Walker 3B

9. Roman Quinn CF

Philadelphia will face left hander Jordan Montgomery, who has made just one start so far this season. He gave up only one run to the struggling Red Sox offense over 5.2 innings pitched last Friday night. The 27-year-old Montgomery has 38 career starts and sports a 3.84 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He appeared in just two games last season for New York due to recovery from Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies offense was the best it has looked all season in the first game of yesterday’s double header. The stars shined the brightest, with Harper and Realmuto both hitting home runs and reaching base a combined six times. The offense followed up that breakout performance with a one run, three hit dud. A true Jekyll and Hyde, if you will.

That leads to the question everyone wants an answer for: which offense shows up tonight? Or, better yet, which Phillies offense is the real offense, Jekyll or Hyde? It may be too early to tell, but they have sure leaned more toward their Hyde ego, as they’ve scored three runs or less in three of their six games (all losses). This is extremely frustrating, given how tantalizing their potential is and how much better the offense would be if they could just hit with runners on base.

With a lefty on the mound for New York, the Phils lineup once again skews more right handed. With the left-handed Montgomery on the mound, Philadelphia folk hero Phil Gosselin and his .625 batting average will get the start at DH and bat fifth. If you had told me I'd type that sentence a month ago, I would have laughed in your face.

Furthermore, the lefty on the mound could conceivably lead to some of the righty bats getting going. Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, and Scott Kingery have been downright dreadful to open the season. These guys need to get going or this offense is not going to be very good. Much like the assembly of the bullpen, the Phillies really don’t have a lot of good options if these guys don’t turn it around.

Yankees Lineup vs. Zach Eflin (0-0, -.-- ERA)

1. Mike Tauchman RF

2. Luke Voit 1B/p>

3. Aaron Hicks CF

4. Giancarlo Stanton DH

5. Gleyber Torres SS

6. Brett Gardner LF

7. Gio Urshela 3B

8. Gary Sanchez C

9. Tyler Wade 2B

Zach Eflin will look to continue the success that Phillies starters have had in this series. Arrieta, Wheeler, and Nola have combined to surrender just seven runs during the first three games against a potent Yankee offense. As I’ve well documented, the issue in this series has been the Phillies bullpen.

Eflin had an extreme up-and-down season last year, as he started his 2019 season fairly strong, looked awful in the summer months, and finished the season well. The big thing for him in this shortened season will be consistency. The Phillies need him to keep the ball in the park, something he struggled with last season.

Above all else, the organization and the fans just want someone else to trust in this pitching rotation that isn’t named Aaron Nola or Zack Wheeler. Consistency leads to trust, because you know what you're going to get. That can't be said about anyone on this pitching staff other than Nola and Wheeler.

As for the Yankees offense, Aaron Judge and D.J. LeMahieu have continued to smash the baseball. They've combined to go 9-22 in the first three games of this series, including two home runs. It's unclear why Aaron Boone took them out of the lineup tonight, likely just a day off, but the Phillies should be happy that they've dodged two pretty significant bullets. I wouldn't be at all surprised if both of them found themselves in a late-game situation.

As for guys that are actually in the lineup, guys like Luke Voit and Brett Gardner are guys to watch as they've each already left their mark on the series so far. Gardner homered in games one and two, while Voit was responsible for the only Yankee run off of Nola in game three. Another guy to watch is Mike Tauchman, as he had the go-ahead RBI double last night.

My Prediction

I think this game will remain fairly close through the early innings. Eflin and Montgomery match each other in mediocrity, as they each give up four runs through five innings. That’s when the game will be turned over to the bullpens.

As has been the case throughout the series, the Phillies bullpen throws batting practice and the Yankees take advantage of that, while the Phillies look utterly confused at the plate against the Yankees dominant bullpen. LeMahieu comes off the bench and gets a clutch RBI knock, and the avalanche will begin. Meanwhile, the Phils score no more runs once Montgomery leaves the game.

The Phillies lose 8-4, but look sweet doing it.