The 700 Level's 10 least-favorite Philly losses (and 25 favorite wins) of 2013

The 700 Level's 10 least-favorite Philly losses (and 25 favorite wins) of 2013

It wasn't long ago that our year-end lists of best and worst Philly games of the year were chock full of things like playoff clinchers, post-season upsets, and crushing losses when a championship legitimately seemed in reach. Sad to say, the stakes for sports in the city of Philadelphia were a lot lower in 2013, a calendar year in which none of our professional teams reached the second season, or even came particularly close to doing so.

Still, even in a year with no playoffs (March Madness aside), there were plenty of highs and lows to experience in the City of Brotherly Love--miracle comebacks, fluky beast performances, inspiring wins that made it all worthwhile and gut-punching losses that made you wonder why you even bother. You don't need the post-season to remind you of everything you love and hate about being a Philly sports fan.

That said...you can probably slot Sunday's game against the Cowboys in at #1 on either list pretty automatically, depending on what happens. But until then, here are The 700 Level's top 25 wins and bottom ten losses of the 2013 Philly sports season.

[Top 25 favorite wins post here]

WORST LOSSES:

10. Aaric Murray hangs 48 on Temple, Dec. 18

Lynn Greer is no longer the all-time record holder for the most points scored in a game at the Liacouras Center. That record now belongs to -- of all people -- La Salle/West Virginia/Texas Southern's Aaric Murray. Murray dropped 48 last Wednesday night as Texas Southern beat Temple, 90-89, at the Apollo. He finished 20 of 28 from the field as his team shot an absurd 59 percent. Murray's 48 points not only broke the building record, but also the all-time record for the most points ever scored by a single player in one game against Temple. To date, no one has scored more in a Division I game this season. Here's some perspective: Temple shot 56 percent from the floor and scored 89 points and lost to a team from the SWAC at home. The Owls have gotten progressively worse defensively every year since Lavoy Allen left, and all that bad team defense culminated in an embarrassing outcome last Wednesday night. If the other team has one guy -- maybe make the four other guys beat you. It worked for the other seven schools that beat TSU. Temple, on the other hand, finds itself in the company of Howard, Wiley and Norfolk State. --N.M.

9. Eagles lose to the Andy Reid-led Chiefs, Sep. 19

Every year when the schedule comes out, Eagles fans circle the dates with the Cowboys and/or Giants, but this year there was another big game on the slate. Departed head coach Andy Reid returned to town with the Kansas City Chiefs eight short months after his firing, and much to Philly’s chagrin, Big Red ended up taking a Gatorade shower. The Birds turned the ball over five times en route to a painful 26-16 loss that had Reid kissing members of the local media and everything—seriously. A sickening sight to behold, not to mention a brutal game no matter the opponent. --A.K.

8. Penguins 5, Flyers 4, Mar. 7

Yep, you guessed it--another one of those kooky Flyers/Penguins games. Except this time, it was the good guys who blew the lead and the evil Pittsburgh hockey empire that came out on top, and it was painful to watch. The Flyers couldn’t be stopped as they put up four goals – two by Jake Voracek and one each by Kimmo Timonen and Zac Rinaldo – to take a 4-1 lead into the game’s first intermission, forcing the Penguins to sub goalie Tomas Vokoun for starer Marc-Andre Fleury to start the second period. The second period was much of the same, except it was the Flyers on the other end of the whitewashing this time. The Pens got a trio of goals and before the Flyers knew it, their lead was gone and the game was tied at 4 heading into the third period. Ilya Bryzgalov took a seat to start the third and Brian Boucher – yes, that Brian Boucher – started the third stanza in net for the Flyers and promptly gave up a go-ahead goal to Chris Kunitz just 18 seconds into the period. The Orange and Black never recovered and fell 5-4. It was an embarrassing loss where the Flyers just stopped playing after the first period when they had a big lead. If you’re still wondering why the Flyers missed the playoffs last season, this game is a telling example of why. --G.P.

7. Halladay-led Phils lose 14-2 to the Marlins, May 5

The toughest part of a very tough season for Phillies fans was watching a Roy Halladay who was very obviously not the same guy who had repped for us as one of the most feared pitchers in baseball for his first two seasons in Philadelphia. His velocity was way down, his command was way off, and his general aura of invincibility had all but disappeared. It all came to a head in a May start against the Marlins--a team Doc had traditionally made fish food out of--in which our one-time ace gave up nine runs in three innings, seven of which were driven in by Adeiny Hechavarria, a light-hitting shortstop prospect who'd go on to slug .298 for the season. We may not have admitted it at the time, but we were pretty much all out of excuses--after an incredible, 15-plus-year, Hall-of-Fame-caliber career, the Doctor was finally out. --A.U.

6. Temple's epic collapse vs. No. 15 UCF, Nov. 16

The football Owls didn't just blow late leads in 2013; they turned the process into an art form. They lost on a semi-Hail Mary to FCS Fordham, failed to convert a late 4th-and-1 at Rutgers before giving up a 33-yard game-winning bomb over the top, and blew a 21-0 halftime lead against UConn. They lost four games by a combined nine points. But it never got any worse than the UCF game. Up 36-29 with 2:04 to play, Temple allowed UCF to march 134 yards, complete 5 of 5 passing attempts and score the game's final 10 points. This J.J. Worton diving, one-handed, 30-yard touchdown that tied the game would have been in the running for catch of the year if not for Auburn's miraculous finish against Georgia the week before its miraculous finish against Alabama. Temple lost, 39-36. UCF will meet Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Temple finished 2-10. N.M.

5. Jrue Holiday goes 2-24 in a Bobcats loss, Apr. 3

You know it's a bad night from the field when even Deadspin is posting video montages of all your FG misses. It's always depressing when you lose to the Bobcats, but Jrue made it historic by taking 24 shots on the night and hitting just two of them--a night of gunning futility that not even the likes of Evan Turner have ever matched. The really incredible thing about it was that the Sixers still ended up losing just 88-83, meaning that if only two of those 22 misses had been converted, the game could have turned out totally differently. At least if Charlotte had managed to blow us out, we could have emotionally divested ourselves from whether or not Jrue's shots were falling, but cruel as the game was, we had to hang on every missed layup, every clanged jumper, every errant floater. It was just one of the many indignities inflicted upon Philly fans in the most brutal Sixers season of recent memory. --A.U.

4. 18-inning loss to the Diamondbacks, Aug. 24

Remember Casper Wells? How about John McDonald? No? Well if you do remember them it's probably because both position players ended up making a pitching appearance in the Phillies 18-inning loss to the Diamondbacks this summer which also happened to be the longest game by time in Phillies history. Wells' night was the most memorable with an 0-7 at the plate in addition to letting up 5 runs on the mound. We'll let Casper's dad have the final word on this one, “I looked at the box score, I almost died. That had to be the worst one-game performance by a baseball player ever.” --E.C.

3. Union consecutive 2-2 draws against FC Dallas & Real Salt Lake, June 29 & July 3

OK, so they weren't exactly "losses," but they sure felt like it. At home against FC Dallas, the Union were just six days removed from an emphatic 3-0 win over New York. Amobi Okugo started things off well with an early goal, before the Union gave one back before the half. PPL Park was euphoric in the 87th minute, when rookie Aaron Wheeler headed home what looked like the game-winner. Then things got wild. Sheanon Williams cleared a ball off the goal line in stoppage time to cement the win. Or so we thought. Minutes later, the Union allowed a long free kick, and then the defense and goalie Zac MacMath made an absolute mess of a loose ball, with MacMath screaming for a foul instead of pulling down the ball. Blas Perez poked it home to tie the game and give the Union one point instead of three.

Four days later, the Union went on the road to powerful Real Salt Lake, a team that eventually reached the MLS Cup Final. Sebastien Le Toux stunned the crowd with an early goal, and RSL took until the 75th minute to tie it up. Just one minute later, Conor Casey shook things up again with a goal that looked like it would give the Union a huge win in a stadium where few earn points. But in the seventh minute of stoppage time, the RSL was awarded a penalty kick, and Javier Morales banged it in off the post to finish the game in a 2-2 draw. --S.M.

2. Eagles back-to-back futility against Cowboys and Giants, Oct. 20 & 27

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a point in the Eagles’ season where serious doubts were beginning to spring up about the viability of Chip Kelly’s offense in the NFL. In back-to-back weeks against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, Nick Foles, Mike Vick and Matt Barkley managed to lead the Eagles to a combined three points. That’s zero offensive touchdowns in 120 minutes. The loss to Dallas was particularly hard, as Foles played the worst game of his pro career, and the Birds missed on their early bid for first place in the NFC East. --A.K.

1. Flyers lose 7-0 to Capitals, Emery starts fight, Nov. 1

Where to even begin here? There’s so much to tackle with this one. The Caps led 1-0 after a rather uneventful period where the only thing of note that happened was that Steve Downie got his face broken in a fight in his first game back as Flyer, an omen of things to come. The Flyers gave up five third period goals and Ray Emery replaced Steve Mason in net. All tolled, it was 6-0 Capitals after 40 minutes. Just over five minutes into the third, Washington kicked the extra point and led 7- 0. After the ensuing faceoff, all hell broke loose when Wayne Simmonds squared off with Washington’s Tom Wilson. While that was going on, Emery raced down the ice and challenged Washington netminder Braden Holtby to a fight. Holtby resisted but Emery didn’t take no for an answer and pummeled Holtby into submission. Brayden Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier found themselves in simultaneous fights and Lecavalier wound up with a facial injury that forced him to miss a game and wear a guard on his helmet for an elongated period.

The Caps won 7-0 but that isn’t what people where talking about afterward. Things were so ugly that even Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak chimed in on twitter. He was greeted with responses like this, this and this (Very NSFW language). Love you, Philadelphia. --G.P.

[Top 25 favorite wins post here]

Thinking man's pitcher, Phillies prospect Cole Irvin enjoying time with Clearwater

Thinking man's pitcher, Phillies prospect Cole Irvin enjoying time with Clearwater

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Clearwater Threshers pitcher Cole Irvin is a student of baseball, but maybe the word “student” – simply stated and in its base meaning – describes the young left-hander best.

A graduate of the University of Oregon who completed his undergraduate degree in sociology in just 3½ years, Irvin has applied a studious, methodical approach to his work on the mound, where he starred as a freshman and senior for the Ducks as a regular Friday night starter.

His 2014 collegiate season was marred by Tommy John surgery, but he reflects on it now as being an important part of him staying in college and obtaining his degree. He remained in Eugene another semester after getting drafted by Pittsburgh in the 32nd round, his second time getting selected.

“I look at it as a positive. I wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree at Oregon if I didn’t have the surgery,” said Irvin, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Phillies last June.

“Sociology covers so many topics. It’s a great degree to have. My studies varied from the population of salmon affecting society to the study of social media. There was so much I learned in so many diverse topics. I like interacting because everyone’s opinion mattered.”

The sociological background also easily translates to the diamond for the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Irvin.

“It’s the same in baseball. The more information you have about the opposing team, our team, if we’re doing the shift and other things… now you have all that collected information. Now you just go do your thing. I think I apply (sociology) to so many different aspects of what I do,” he said.

Sociology aside, Clearwater pitching coach Aaron Fultz has been impressed with the mental approach Irvin has displayed.

“Very (much so),” replied Fultz when asked if the southpaw is the quintessential cerebral pitcher. “He’s a no frills guy and he’s here to work.”

Fultz broke in to MLB and played three seasons with the San Francisco Giants – 2000 to 2002 – and the former big leaguer said Irvin reminds him from a work ethic standpoint of a Bay Area teammate of his.

“He kind of reminds me of Jeff Kent. He comes here and he wants to work and get better,” said Fultz of Irvin, who also bears a slight resemblance to the five-time all-star and 2000 NL MVP of the Giants.

That industrious attitude worked well for Irvin in his first spring training camp in the Grapefruit League in February. He broke camp by bypassing Low A Lakewood and joining the Threshers. Then he proceeded to overwhelm hitters in the Florida State League.

Irvin, 23, was 3-1 in four starts in April, posting a 1.04 ERA. In 26 innings, he allowed 22 hits, struck out 20 and walked just three. His WHIP stood at 0.96.

“His first four or five starts, I thought he was the best pitcher in the league,” Fultz said. “Since then, we’ve had a little hiccup here and there about location and just giving up some hits. He’s had some bad luck, too.

“But I love the way he goes about his business. He gets the ball and he’s ready to pitch. He has a very good idea and is a smart kid. He doesn’t throw 95, but he’s left-handed – that helps – and he has a really good change-up. His stuff is better than average, but his tenacity and the way he goes after hitters is a really good selling point for him.”

Irvin said he tries not read what is written about him or the multitude of numbers baseball produces.

“The past three outings haven’t gone the way I’ve anticipated, especially after the first five starts of the year,” said Irvin, who is 3-5 with a 3.20 ERA after four straight losses starting on May 4 against Jupiter.

He will try to break that winless skid on Tuesday when he faces Florida back in Clearwater.

Of his standout first pro season at short-season Williamsport last year (5-1, 1.97 in 10 games), Irvin admitted he doesn’t look at the stats, saying, “Honestly, I don’t know the numbers. I don’t get ahead of myself and look at stats. Every once in a while, I’ll look at media stuff, but I try not to follow that stuff.

“Once it gets in your head, you start to get anxious about moving up and thinking about things you’re not supposed to be thinking about. I’m supposed to be thinking right now, ‘What can I do to get better and get to the big leagues?’ It’s not about being in the minor leagues; it’s about being in the big leagues.”

Irvin has enjoyed his season so far and, like a good sociology student, is harvesting his own data.

“There’s a lot to build off of. It’s my first full season, so it’s exciting to spend a whole year playing baseball and doing something you love and is fun. It’s something I’ve dreamed of as a kid,” he said.

“I never thought I’d be here this quick, so I’m taking it one day at a time. I can only focus on this day, and tomorrow will come tomorrow.”
 
Three questions with Cole Irvin

You throw a one-seam fastball. What does it do?

“It’s literally across one seam, holding it with one finger. It depends on the wrist. If it’s on the side of the ball, it’s going to fade (versus righty batters). But if your wrist is more on the inside toward your body, it’s going to cut. I only use it as a strikeout pitch. [Laughing] I’d say it’s a wipe-out pitch, but I don’t have wipe-out stuff like most of the guys on this team. It’s an effect pitch, where there’s a little uncertainty where it’ll go.”

You’re from Yorba Linda, CA, the birthplace of Richard Nixon and home of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Have any good Nixon stories?

“Actually, I do. When I was 12, I had to do community service for the high school I was going to go to. I had to have so many hours. The library was looking for someone to clean the helicopter – Air Force One helicopter or whatever it was called. Every Sunday morning I’d show up at 5:30 a.m. to clean that helicopter. I had to go through the Secret Service back door and security checks. I was 12, so there wasn’t much information on me. I spent four or five Sundays cleaning that helicopter. It was so much fun.”

As an Oregon Duck, you were able to play in the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers and New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto. Any success?

“My senior year was the first time we’ve ever gone to Goss Stadium and won a series at Oregon State. I pitched against Conforto and also played with him on the Team USA collegiate team that had (Chicago Cubs star Kyle) Schwarber. Honestly, Michael’s one of the great guys to know and talk to. He’s just a world-class, awesome guy.”