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Can Phillies stay in the race? A look at their daunting upcoming schedule

Can Phillies stay in the race? A look at their daunting upcoming schedule

When it's Aug. 13 and you're heavily involved in both the division and wild-card races, every game left is huge. There is no one game — aside from the head-to-head Braves matchups — among the Phillies' remaining 45 that carries more importance than another. 

But looking at the upcoming schedule, if the Phils don't survive these next 19, those late-September games against the Braves might not end up meaning a ton.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Phillies host the Red Sox, who are a ludicrous 50 games over .500 at 85-35. Tuesday, the Phils will face former AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.

Following the Red Sox is a five-game home series against the Mets, which includes a doubleheader Thursday. The Mets are terrible, but Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are not. On Friday, the Phils face Syndergaard. On Saturday, they face deGrom, who's had the lowest ERA in baseball most of the season.

It gets no easier from there, with a road series against the Nationals. In the final game of the Nats series, the Phils will face Max Scherzer. Five days later, they'll face Scherzer again.

Washington's offense is rounding into form and the Nats could be a very dangerous team down the stretch after months of underperformance. 

Bryce Harper has hit .343/.464/.657 with six doubles and five homers over his last 20 games.

Daniel Murphy is finally all the way back from offseason microfracture surgery. In his last 15 games, he's hit .411 with a 1.111 OPS.

Ryan Zimmerman is also finally healthy. He's hit .386/.462/.795 with 10 extra-base hits and 18 RBI over his last 13 games.

The tough stretch ends Aug. 31-Sept. 2 with a three-game series against the Cubs, who have the best record in the NL.

After that is a respite on the road against the Marlins and Mets.

The Braves' upcoming schedule is a bit softer, but they do have 30 games in the next 30 days because of so many early postponements. These are the dog days and it's worth keeping an eye on how young pitchers like Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb hold up late in a pressure-packed season.

Newcomb has a 5.06 ERA in his last eight starts. Foltynewicz has a 5.40 ERA with eight home runs allowed over his last six.

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ESPN overlooks Phillies and Rhys Hoskins reminds it of last Philly underdog

ESPN overlooks Phillies and Rhys Hoskins reminds it of last Philly underdog

The Phillies just keep plugging away, winning games, and staying atop the NL East standings.

Nobody must have told the folks over at ESPN, which put together its MLB Power Rankings this week and had the Phillies actually fall a spot.

Its top 10 forgot about the first-place Phillies but included the Atlanta Braves at No. 10.

Philly fans were rightfully upset. The Phils were ahead of the Braves in the previous version of the ESPN rankings, but for some reason, they've now flipped. The Nationals are right behind at No. 12.

But it wasn't just the fans in town who took note. Rhys Hoskins took to Twitter to remind the sporting world of the last time a Philly sports team was the underdog.

Hoskins has taken on a leadership role with the Phils, as we wrote a few weeks ago. There's no longer a need to doubt this team. It has shown it over and over.

"I think we're past the narrative of, 'Are we a good team?'" Hoskins said after the Dodgers series. "I think to be able to take two of three from the Dodgers, take two of three from the Padres as well, I think we're here to stay and it's exciting."

And Hoskins has a point. The Phillies could find themselves with the best record in the NL if the out-of-town scoreboard falls the right way tonight. Then you'd have to include them in the MLB top 10.


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Braves' broadcasters call Chase Utley, Dodgers 'unprofessional'

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Braves' broadcasters call Chase Utley, Dodgers 'unprofessional'

Updated: Monday, 9:23 p.m.

I'm not sure anyone has ever accused Chase Utley of being "unprofessional."

Until the Braves broadcasters bashed Utley and the Dodgers on Saturday because they say he didn't take batting practice in the appropriate attire ...

Joe Simpson, who played in the big leagues from 1975 to 1983, had a major issue with the Dodgers' BP session.

"You know that I grew up in the Dodger organization and certainly was taught how to play professional baseball and do things the right way," Simpson began. "I want you to look at some things that were going on today in batting practice here with the Dodgers. What do you see? T-shirts. You see Chase Utley with no socks and pants up over his knees, and a T-shirt. This was prevalent with their whole team. And I think about fans that come to SunTrust Park who are Dodgers fans and want to see their players. They had no idea who any of them were."

Let's stop for a second. It's hard to imagine that there are people out there who would have no idea who Chase Utley, or Manny Machado, or Matt Kemp were unless they had their name on the back of their shirts. 

Simpson continued, making it a point to specifically target Utley.

"Chase Utley, I've had nothing but respect for him his whole career," Simpson said. "I think he's a great player, thought he always played the game the right way. That was an embarrasment what he had on today during batting practice."

By the way, Utley was wearing a KCancer shirt in a show of support for Strike Out Cancer Day and the Jason Motte Foundation. Motte, a former big-league reliever, started the foundation in 2010 to provide support for cancer patients, and the first Strike Out Cancer Day was in 2014. Those shirts will be worn around major league baseball on Sep. 2, which is Strike Out Cancer Day.

Like so many, Utley's teammate, Kike Hernandez, has a personal connection with cancer — his dad is a cancer survivor. Utley was wearing a version of the KCancer shirt that Hernandez modeled. Unsurprisingly, it seems like it's been selling pretty well since Saturday night.

Also, the connection between playing the game the right way and what you wear in batting practice is ...? 

Simpson didn't seem to have much of an answer, though his broadcast partner, Chip Caray, chimed in with an interesting point.

"You think of all the merchandising major league baseball does with their practice uniform and their batting practice jerseys," Caray said. "It's called a uniform for a reason."

As you know if you were at Citizens Bank Park last week, major league baseball has sold a decent number of Chase Utley uniforms over his 16-year career. I'm not sure Utley or the Dodgers are losing many fans or possible BP jersey sales because of what they wear before the game.

Simpson wrapped it up with a classic appeal to tradition: 

I think of Walter Alston, even Tommy Lasorda. Walter Alston would roll over in his grave if he saw that. Walter O'Malley would never allow such things. And I know it's a different age, a different era. But that's a complete lack of respect for the fans and for the game, and as I said, an embarrasment. Bobby Cox never allowed anyone in a Braves uniform to take the field for batting practice or anything else until they had their uniform on. And for batting practice, you had to have your batting practice uniform on that has your name on it, so the fans know who you are as you're taking batting practice.

That sort of argument — the kind that insists the old way is the right way, and everything else is disrespectful and unacceptable — draws more people away from baseball than whatever the players wear during batting practice.

By the way, the Braves lost their third straight game to the Dodgers on Saturday, 5-1. 

Check out the full video of Simpson and Caray's exchange here

Hernandez, who calls Utley "dad," responded on Twitter to Simpson and Caray's comments.

On Monday, Simpson apologized for his remarks.