Monday, September 15, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Linc Turf Report

Updating throughout the biggest weekend of 2008 in Philadelphia sports.

Linc Turf Report


It's about 10 am here at the Linc, the sun bright, the temperatures cool. And looking down from the press box, at the turf itself and at people walking around, it appears as if the field has survived Temple, Connecticut and Hanna in good shape.

But could appearances be deceiving? Yes. The real test will come a few hours from now. Still, from a distance, the turf looks a lot better than I expected it would. It looks like a game has been played on the field but that's really it. There are a healthy number of divots between the hash marks, and it's fair to wonder how it will hold up. There is no way  you want to stress a field like this right at the start of the season, with two games within 24 hours combined with a bunch of rain.

We'll see. But it looks OK.

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Was wondering for a while which station would pick up the suddenly-available Phillies game on Sunday afternoon at 2:15 pm. As it turns out, it will be Channel 57.

Dave Murphy has already given the High Cheese treatment to the question of what strategies a viewer might employ, bouncing between the Eagles and Phillies. My problem is a little different. My professional responsibility, for which they pay me good money, will be to give my undivided attention to Donovan McNabb and the fellas. But this Phillies game is so ridiculously pivotal that,  well,  undivided will be impossible.

Somewhere in the Linc press box, home to about a hundred televisions, there will be a TV tuned to the  Phillies. But how many times can you get up to sneak a peek before the people around you begin to suspect a bladder problem? Following the game online will probably be the way to go, but it is a poor substitute for the real thing.

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Well, all the worrying and calculation in the world doesn't matter. In anticipation of the rain, the Mets have postponed Saturday's game and scheduled a day-night doubleheader for Sunday.  First game, 2:15 pm. Second game, 8:05 pm.

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It's the kind of morning where you open the door from your air-conditioned house and walk outside to scoop up the newspapers off of the walk and your glasses fog up. (People still do that, right? You know, go out and get the papers? Right?)

The big rain is still hours away, per the forecasters. It has seemed obvious to me that the deluge predicted for Shea Stadium would not the the Phillies' friend. Presumably, what they would do is reschedule for a day-night doubleheader on Sunday and, for a team looking to sweep a series, that just adds a layer of complication. It's always been hard to sweep doubleheaders, no less series. It makes no sense, in a way, but winning twice in a day has always been seen as tougher than winning on consecutive days.

But, now, here is the complication: 26. That is the number of pitches Brad Lidge threw in the ninth inning Friday night to get the save in Game 1 against the Mets. He has never thrown more than 29 pitches in an inning this season. (Also, 28 twice, 27 once and 26 a couple of times.) It isn't an inordinate number but it is real stress, especially in September. And while he undoubtedly would take the ball under any circumstances, you wonder.

In August, Lidge had a 28-pitch inning against Florida and then, the next night, was needed in a game against Pittsburgh. It took him 24 pitches to get the final out of the 10th inning (the Phils lost in 12). He faced four batters and three reached base, two on walks. It wasn't a disaster but it was messier than usual.

So, the question: might the day off be worth it for the Phillies just because it will give Lidge the extra rest?

The things you wonder about, waiting for the rain.

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Well, that's one. In the biggest game of the season for the Phils -- the first of three biggest games -- Brett Myers pitched eight innings and struck out 10, and Greg Dobbs hit a two-run homer that just cleared the outstretched glove of Mets rightfielder Ryan Church. Myers is a stone killer right now. Who else in baseball would you want pitching a big game at this time of year?

But because this is Philadelphia, and because you are a Philadelphia fan, your destiny is to sweat blood. That was the ninth inning, when Brad Lidge struggled in a very big way but still held it together long enough to get his 34th save in 34 save opportunities. If Lidge had coughed it up, for the first time all season -- and there were two runners on base and a couple of very hard-hit outs along the way; the final out went about 400 feet before centerfielder Shane Victorino hauled it in -- the psychic effect on a baseball city would have been devastating. Oh, and the Phils might very well have not been able to recover.

Such is the thread by which this thing currently dangles. But that's one.

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Through five innings at Shea Stadium, Brett Myers has been ridiculously good. His curveball is paralyzing people. He has eight strikeouts. The home plate umpire has a strike zone approximately the size of Rhode Island, and Myers is taking advantage.

But the Phils are only up by 1-0 on an unearned run -- Chase Utley drove it in on a professional ground ball to the right side.

There is no relaxing going on.

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Was just on "Daily News Live" with Brandon Lang, the gambling guy. He says he likes the Eagles and is willing to give the 8 points. He says the key matchup will be the Eagles' defense against the Rams' offense, and that the Eagles will win it there, and that concerns about lots of weather or a sloppy field will  just work to reinforce that advantage.

All of which means, pretty clearly, that it's time to bet the house.

Your house.

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Here we are. Some people might disagree but this certainly feels like the biggest weekend of the year in Philadelphia sports. I will be updating throughout. I will be doing it randomly, which is the best way when you are talking about the work product of a disorganized mind.

We begin with the news that Eagles wide receiver Reggie Brown and his sore hamstring are doubtful now for Sunday's opener against the Rams. This is not a surprise, given everything. The result will be an immediate test of everything the Eagles have been saying about the overall quality of their wide receiving corps. It is rare when we get such opportunities for clarity, if that's what you want to call it.

But I'm reluctant to do that because openers in the NFL have become difficult days for offenses in recent seasons, mostly because of how little the good players get to play in the pre-season anymore. Most years, scoring is noticeably down in the first week of the season (I'm too lazy to look it up now, but I did it a year or two ago and there was a clear trend). Just watching the Giants and Redskins on Thursday night gives you an idea of how the defenses almost always start out ahead of the offenses.

So, I'll say this before we begin: do not judge the Eagles' passing game on one week. Don't go crazy if DeSean Jackson has a nice day and, especially, don't go crazy if the passing game struggles. Give it three games. Then you can panic with a clear conscience.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com Reach Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
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