Cole Hamels Is Pretty Good, Pitching Tonight

Cole Hamels Is Pretty Good, Pitching Tonight

When all this Four Aces stuff first started, there is one guy who I felt maybe flew under the radar, and it's not Joe Blanton. Cole Hamels was number four, not just in the rotation, but with the hype machine as well, and that didn't seem right. After all, the 27 year old is the only World Series MVP of the bunch, and it was entirely possible—if not likely—his best baseball was still ahead of him.

Fast forward to June 14, when if Cole was ever in fact taken for granted, he certainly is not now. Hamels has arguably taken over the lead as the Phillies' most dominant pitcher in 2011, or at the very least a close second. He's 8-2 with a 2.58 ERA, and a win tonight would tie him with teammate Roy Halladay and Boston's Jon Lester for the most in the Majors.

Hamels has been nothing short of magnificent from his second start on this season. He's lasted a minimum of six innings in every outing, and gone seven or later in all but two, while allowing more than three runs on only one occasion. The Phils are 10-2 over those twelve appearances, and Cole hasn't lost a decision since May 8.

Hamels is also eighth in MLB with 91 strikeouts, and leads the NL in the somewhat underutilized WHIP statistic—walks and hits per innings pitched.

While King Cole will try to keep pace with both his teammate and the rest of the league, the Phillies begin a four-game series over the next three days at home versus the Florida Marlins tonight, before hopping a plane after Thursday's day game for a brutal trip to Seattle. The Fightins defeated the Marlins 3-2 in Hamels' last meeting with the Fish on April 17, allowing two earned runs over seven innings to work a no decision.

Taking the hill for Florida is big righty Chris Volstad (2-6, 5.51), who has struggled mightily against the Phils for most of his four-year career. Volstad last picked up a W over the good guys on May 25, 2009, and is a miserable 0-5 with a 5.60 ERA in eight starts since.

Volstad's last start versus the Phils came on September 7, 2010. The former first round pick allowed nine hits and five runs over five, including three bombs. Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Howard each took the 24 year old deep in an 8-7 win.

Indeed, Ibanez and Howard have experienced great success at the plate against Volstad. Raul is 10-for-19 with three home runs lifetime, while The Big Piece is 11-23 and has gone yard an astounding six times. With Hamels on the hill, you figure if either of those two can connect tonight, the odds on a Phillies win are pretty good.

Instant Replay: Flyers 6, Hurricanes 3

Instant Replay: Flyers 6, Hurricanes 3


A four-goal outburst in the second period enabled the Flyers to overcome a two-goal deficit en route to a 6-3 victory Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The win – first at home this season -- snapped a three-game losing skid.
Matt Read scored his fifth goal in as many games which ties him for the NHL goal lead while four other players had two points.
Defensemen Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere both had strong rebound games after struggling earlier this week.
Wayne Simmonds gave goalie Steve Mason some breathing room late in the third period with a power play goal to make it 5-3.
Notable goals
Jakub Voracek’s first goal of the season: a redirect in the paint off  Provorov’s point drive to make it 2-2 in the second period. He had a goal late, as well.
Goalie report
Mason needs to get some help in front. It’s not all on the defense, either. The forwards are being slack in coming back up ice. Too much room in the slot for guys to tee it up on Mason.
Power play
More entry problems and not enough quality shots on Eddie Lack at the outset. Read’s goal late in the second period off a Provorov drive came one second after a power play ended and it gave the Flyers their first lead at 3-2. Provorov had a very strong game, springing Read for a breakaway in the third period that resulted in a power play (tripping) leading to Simmonds' goal. The Flyers were 1 of 4 on the man advantage overall.
Penalty kill
Despite traffic in front, Carolina’s Justin Faulk found all net with a point shot on the Canes' carryover power play in the second period.
Strange call
I can’t remember ever seeing a charging call at center ice. Almost always happens along the boards. Yet Konecny was given one on Joakim Nordstrom, who’s four inches taller. That aside, it was a clean shoulder hit. Konecny never made contact with the head.
Flyers again having trouble, losing 60 percent of them in the first period.
Radko Gudas (suspended) and Dale Weise (suspended); Scott Laughton (knee), Michael Del Zotto (knee), and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull).  
Up next
The Flyers will practice Sunday at Skate Zone, then travel immediately to Montreal for Monday’s game against the Canadiens.

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are coming off two straight losses and the slate doesn't get any easier with the 5-0 Vikings coming to town.

It also marks the return of Sam Bradford, who was traded just before Week 1, paving the way for rookie Carson Wentz to start.

The Eagles kick off against Minnesota at the Linc on Sunday at 1 p.m., so it's time for our (cough) experts' predictions for the Week 7 matchup.

Dave Zangaro (2-3)
I'll admit, this game just has a weird feel. It has the feeling like the Eagles might be able to catch the Vikings sleeping after their bye week and hand them their first loss of the season.

I was almost tempted to pick the Birds in this one.

But I'm not.

Ultimately, the Vikings are just the better team. I'm not sure how the Eagles are going to put up points against them. And I'm not convinced the Eagles' defense will be able to stop anyone after what we saw last weekend.

They keep it close, but the Birds fall to 3-3.

Vikings 20, Eagles 17

Derrick Gunn (2-3)
The good news is Minnesota's offense is ranked 30th in the league and the Vikings' run game is dead last averaging 70.6 yards per game. 

The bad news is the Vikings' defense is a monster, ranked 2nd overall and first in points allowed at 12.6.

There is not a weak link in the Vikings' D and they are fundamentally sound across the board. The Eagles' defense vows that what happened to them at Washington — allowing 230 rushing yards — won't happen again. 

Carson Wentz got roughed up by the Redskins' pass rush, and unless the Eagles' offensive line plugs the leaks, more of the same could happen this Sunday. The Birds have every reason to rebound at home, but I just don't like the overall matchup. 

Vikings 20, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (2-3)
The Vikings aren't going undefeated. You don't go 16-0 in the NFL with a 30th ranked offense which is what the Vikings have. Yes, their defense is very good. Going back to last season they have held each of their last nine opponents to 17 points or less. They are deep, fast and well-coached by Mike Zimmer. But the offense led by Sam Bradford coughs and sputters a lot.
As a result, the Vikings will play a lot of close, low-scoring games and somewhere along the line they are going to lose. It could even happen this week when they play the Eagles. Special teams could be huge. The Eagles have a big edge with kicker Caleb Sturgis. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has already missed three field goals and two PATs. However, the Vikings return men -- Marcus Sherels on punts, Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs -- are very dangerous. I expect the Eagles to keep it close but in the end I have to go with the superior defense.
Vikings 21, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (2-3)
Which Eagles defense shows up on Sunday? If they can limit Minnesota's anemic ground attack, which ranks dead last in the NFL, this should be a close game. Sam Bradford is playing really well, but it's not like he's airing it out all over the place.

Then it becomes a question of how Halapoulivaati Vaitai responds to a rough debut. The Vikings pass-rush is fierce, so it doesn't get any easier this week. As long as the protection gives Carson Wentz a chance, that will at least give the rookie signal-caller a shot at making a few big plays.

For some reason, I like their chances at both. It's going to be another ugly one, but the Eagles do just enough to squeak by.

Eagles 20, Vikings 19

Corey Seidman (2-3)
I foresee a low-scoring game in which the Eagles are more competitive than some might think.

But in the end, the Vikings have the personnel and the defensive-minded head coach (Mike Zimmer) to get key stops down the stretch.

Vikings 20, Eagles 16

Andy Schwartz (1-4)
You’re still reading? 

Well good for you. Much appreciated. 

Because clearly I certainly don’t know what to expect from this team. 

But let’s forget all that for the moment and look at the Bradford Bowl. 

The Vikings’ offense is hardly scary (30th in the league in yards per game behind the Rams and Niners), but their defense is (second in yards per game behind Seattle).

The Eagles’ offense is hardly scary (22nd in yards per game), and their defense (sixth in yards per game) was pretty scary a few weeks ago.

So let’s look at the intangibles. Which team needs this game more? The Eagles. And they’re at home. 

But given the outcomes the last two weeks and that Minnesota is unbeaten and coming off a bye, it certainly makes sense to pick the Vikes, who are favored by 2.5.

Then again, the Eagles not too long ago were unbeaten and coming off a bye … and we all know what happened.

So I’ll say the Birds pull off another upset and remain unbeaten at the Linc. 

Just don’t bet on it.

Eagles 6, Vikings 5