Southern California feeling just like home for Eagles

Southern California feeling just like home for Eagles

ANAHEIM, Calif. — For Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive end Chris Long, their game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday represents a sort of homecoming. For the rest of the team, Angel Stadium represents a pretty good facsimile of the trappings of home.

The Eagles held their first practice at the Big A on Wednesday (see story), preparing for the showdown against a fellow NFC division leader, and were surprised how similar it was to their NovaCare complex back in Philadelphia. 

“They did a great job of throwing this thing together. This is unorthodox, but it’s worked out pretty well,” Long said.

“We just made it into the NovaCare the best way we can,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “That’s what makes it even more interesting, just by bringing what we have and making it like a home.”

It did take some time to adjust to the grass of a baseball diamond. Safety Rodney McLeod said the field was a bit slippery at first, but everyone quickly settled in, especially to a locker room with more space and trappings than are typically associated with football. 

“Oh man, it’s nice,” McLeod said. “This is probably my first time inside a baseball locker room and pretty impressed. Those guys live a nice lifestyle so I appreciate them lending us their locker room.”       

Each locker had a bobblehead of Angels outfielder Mike Trout in it as a welcome gift, but Bradham gets to use the slugger’s space for the week (see story). Mychal Kendricks received the adjacent locker, where Trout usually stores extra items such as signed jerseys from visiting players and his clothes.

“I just grabbed a locker for the week,” Bradham said. “But that is nice though, to be able to have a guy of that caliber and share the same locker as him. Glad he's letting me rent it for the week.“

Bradham was even more pleased he got a hotel room all to himself. He had to put up with a roommate last season as solo stays are granted only to players with at least six years experience. There are no such issues this time around, but he does view the extended stay as a valuable chance to continue to refine team rapport for the stretch run. 

“You get used to being able to be on schedule, not be jet-lagged, I think that’s the advantage,” Bradham said. “Spend time with the boys and build that chemistry, to continue to build it, and study, that’s the main thing. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to get a win.”

Winning is something Agholor did plenty during his three seasons in college at USC, and he is looking forward to being back in the Coliseum as he continues a breakout campaign. Agholor has set career highs with 40 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns, looking more like the star he was with the Trojans. 

Agholor had 12 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown in his last game at the Coliseum, a 49-14 win over Notre Dame in 2014. His favorite moment there, however, was in his first game in the stadium that hosted the first Super Bowl.

Marqise Lee had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown in the third quarter of a 49-10 win over Hawaii in 2012, with Agholor serving as the lead blocker coming out of the end zone.

“I got to chip a guy, then I chipped the kicker,” Agholor said. “You would have thought I returned the kickoff return, that’s how hyped I was. That was my earliest and one of the memories that lasts the most.”     

Long’s earliest memories of the Coliseum are a bit fuzzier, a young boy when his father Howie was wreaking havoc for the then-Los Angeles Raiders.

Still, Long is excited to have a chance to play in the Coliseum. The venue opened in 1923, which technically makes it the oldest stadium in the NFL while hosting the Rams until their new home in Inglewood, California, is completed in 2020. Chicago’s Soldier Field opened one year after the Coliseum in 1924.  

“Definitely even if my dad didn’t play there some, I would appreciate the history of it,” Long said. “I love playing in these old stadiums. There’s only a few left, so it’s going to be a great experience and I’m sure a couple memories will come back.” 

Despite wild loss, Phillies' Eickhoff and Williams continue to show promise

Despite wild loss, Phillies' Eickhoff and Williams continue to show promise

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nick Williams and Jerad Eickhoff gave Phillies manager Pete Mackanin everything he was hoping to see Thursday night, except a win.

Hours before a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in which Luis Garcia allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch (see Instant Replay), Mackanin was in the tiny visiting manager’s office discussing how Williams needed to be more selective as a hitter and Eickhoff more precise in his pitching. 

Both areas were addressed. Williams’ patience led to a two-run home run to start his strong 3-for-4 outing, while Eickhoff responded well after a poor start.

Eickhoff knew he was asking for trouble after starting the game with a walk, bringing up Mike Trout in a most undesirable situation for even the best pitcher. The right-hander was trying to test Trout in their first-ever duel, opening with two fastballs followed by four curveballs. The last pitch broke at the thighs, and the only question left was where the ball would land.

It ended up in left-center between the bullpen and faux rock work.

“It didn’t look good,” Mackanin said. “He wasn’t pitching well, springing the ball all over the place. But, boy, did he settle down and did a heck of a job after that.”

Over his final five innings of work, Eickhoff gave up just one more earned run, though Odubel Herrera helped out to prevent a two-run homer with a leaping grab in the fourth inning. When Kaleb Cowart doubled to lead off the fourth, it was two fly ball outs that brought him home. Eickhoff did not compound the problem by letting more men reach base.   

His control became infectious.

“I was trying to force it instead of just letting things happen,” Eickhoff said. “I was just missing with the fastball there, just missing with the slider, so it was kind of those things where you’ve got to make adjustments and I think I was able to do that for the most part in the last two or three innings.”

Mackanin likened the learning curve for Eickhoff to what Aaron Nola has gone through since last season.

“You know how good Nola was and then he wasn’t very good, and now he’s really good,” Mackanin said before the game.

Eickhoff showed signs of the same maturation.

And what was able to help Eickhoff settle back into the game was an immediate response in the second inning by Williams. 

Used as the designated hitter for the first time, the 23-year-old showed he can hit more than a fastball. It was an 84-mph changeup that Williams deposited in left-center for his fifth career homer. 

Williams got to see some fastballs after that, adding doubles in the sixth and eighth innings. It was his ninth multi-hit game in 27 appearances at the major-league level.

“You prove you can hit it, they’ve got to go to something else,” Williams said. “It bothered me yesterday, I guess that they didn’t think I could hit off-speed. Made the adjustment.” 

Mackanin, a self-admitted “overly aggressive” hitter who only figured out what he needed to do near the end of a nine-year MLB career, understands how challenging that adjustment can be. He believes it can’t be taught. Either a player figures it out or he busts out.

“You have to get to a point where you learn how to do it, and it’s hard to do,” Mackanin said before the game. “That’s the $64,000 — $64 million these days — question is how do you get a guy to understand that?”

Freddy Galvis added two more RBIs, and Eickhoff left after six innings in position to get the win.  

The Phillies didn’t get the victory because of a bullpen breakdown. 

If Williams and Eickhoff keep improving and can harness what they showed at Angel Stadium on a consistent basis, Mackanin should see everything he is hoping to see, including the win. 

Instant Replay: Angels 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Angels 5, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM, Calif. — An eighth-inning meltdown by Luis Garcia resulted in a dubious bit of history for the Phillies, as the 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday set a new record for longest losing streak to one opponent in interleague play. 

The Phillies dropped their 12th straight to the Angels, passing the previous mark held by the Pittsburgh Pirates (11 consecutive losses to the Oakland A’s from 2002-2013) and Seattle Mariners (11 consecutive losses to the Washington Nationals from 2005-2014).  

It is also the Phillies’ longest losing streak to any one opponent since dropping 12 in a row against the Houston Astros from 2004-2005.

The Phillies have not defeated the Angels since June 9, 2003.

Andrelton Simmons gave the Angels the lead by scoring on a wild pitch that sailed well over catcher Cameron Rupp. Rupp made a nice recovery to get the ball off the backstop, but Garcia’s tag was not in time.  

Garcia gave up an 11-pitch walk to Luis Valbuena to start the inning, and Simmons followed it up with a double. C.J. Cron grounded out, but it was enough for pinch-runner Cliff Pennington to tie the game at 4-4.  

The bullpen blues squandered a sensational game by Nick Williams. Williams hit his fifth career homer in the second inning to cancel out Mike Trout’s two-run shot in the first despite the two-time American League MVP’s sensational defensive effort. Trout timed his jump at the wall perfectly, but the trajectory of the ball put it inches over his outstretched glove.

Freddy Galvis followed it up with a sharp base hit to right that drove in Hyun Soo Kim and Cesar Hernandez.    

Odubel Herrera denied Martin Maldonado a two-run homer in the fourth inning. With a leaping grab, Herrera was able to do what Trout had barely missed out on earlier. The Angels were able to push one run across in the inning. 

Starting pitching report
Jerad Eickhoff gave up three runs on three hits in six innings, striking out five and walking four.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin noted before the game that Eickhoff has struggled with his curveball this season, and that observation proved to be prescient. It was a 77.8 mph, thigh-high curve that Trout parked in left-center between the bullpen and faux rock work.

But Eickhoff settled down. Getting Albert Pujols to strike out with two runners on to end the second inning helped the right-hander find a groove, and he gave up only one walk over his final five innings of work. 

Parker Bridwell went five innings, giving up four runs on six hits. He had four strikeouts and three walks.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos made his first appearance since being recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley. The Angels put runners on the corners with two outs in the seventh inning, but Ramos got Pujols to hit a pop fly to right field that ended his outing without giving up a run.

Mackanin said on Tuesday before the start of the three-game series that closer Hector Neris made him nervous with his penchant for getting into trouble, but it was Garcia (1-2, 2.49) who left the skipper in shock.  

Yusmeiro Petit (3-0, 2.44) got the win for his one inning in relief, while Bud Norris picked up his 17th save.

At the plate
Williams added doubles in the sixth and eighth innings. The promising 23-year-old ended the evening 3 for 4 in his first-ever start as a designated hitter. Making just his 27th career appearance in the major leagues, Williams has nine multi-hit games.

Hernandez extended his hitting streak to eight games, and has reached base in 15 of his last 16 games since coming off the disabled list. Hernandez is hitting .412 (14 for 34) during the streak. 

Kim went 1 for 3 and has reached base in seven of 16 plate appearances since joining the Phillies.

In the field
Andrew Knapp left the game in the second inning after he was hit in the right hand by a foul tip. Knapp was examined by a trainer and tried a couple of soft tosses before departing. 

Rupp replaced Knapp at catcher. 

The injury was officially termed a contusion.

Roster move
Shortly after the game, the Phillies optioned right-handed starter Jake Thompson to Triple A Lehigh Valley. A corresponding roster move will be made Friday.

Up next
The Phillies’ eight-game road trip continues against the Colorado Rockies, who took three of four earlier this season in Philadelphia. Stopping the Rockies’ offense was a challenge before it could benefit from the thin air in Denver, as Colorado scored 24 runs in the late-May series.

Here are the probable pitching matchups:

Friday — Vince Velasquez (2-6, 4.91) vs. Kyle Freeland (11-7, 3.71)

Saturday — Nick Pivetta (4-6, 5.42) vs. Jon Gray (3-2, 5.52)

Sunday — Aaron Nola (8-7, 3.16) vs. Jeff Hoffman (3-2, 5.38)

Friday’s game starts at 8:40 p.m., Saturday’s at 8:10 p.m. and Sunday’s matinee finale is at 3:10 p.m.