Is Philly getting nervous?

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I was just sort of joking in the recaps this morning when I mused that the Braves could potentially overtake the Phillies for the division, but apparently some people in Philadelphia are a little uneasy. Maybe the Braves fan in me is reading too much into it, but is Charlie Manuel making excuses already?

“The schedule has been perfect for them. That’s definitely not an excuse, because I feel we have the best team in our league,” Manuel said. “But the schedule’s been good for them. [Bobby] Cox might have made that schedule up. He announced his retirement and they let him go ahead and make the schedule.”

Blaming the schedule. The last refuge of a scoundrel. And maybe a choker. But here’s a couple of things about the schedule: (1) Philly and Atlanta play in the same division, so they have basically the same schedule; (2) the only difference in interleague schedules is that rather than play the Rays like the Phillies did, the Braves were stuck with three extra games against Boston; and (3) if you really wanted to make this last week meaningless, Charlie, you should have done better than 8-10 head-to-head against Atlanta.

The upshot: If Philly somehow loses this thing — and the odds are still really stacked in the Phillies favor, I don’t deny it — they only have themselves to blame. 

In the meantime, here is some reading material to tide you over until tonight’s game.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.