Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies' Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies' Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

We've gotten so used to crappy development after crappy development with our teams this past year that it's almost unsettling when something unreservedly positive happens with one of them. But in case you were too busy this weekend watching game film on Matt Barkley or celebrating the historic demise of the Lakers and Celtics, the rumors are true--the Phillies swept the Mets at Citi Field this weekend, winning three games by a combined score of 18-5. If it was five years ago, this would have been cause for rioting in the streets; even in 2013, it's a pretty cool thing.

None of the three games were even particularly close--yesterday afternoon's game was knotted for a while, but the Phils broke it open in the seventh and the Mets never really fought back. And in the meantime, a whole bunch of our guys who had been struggling some got to get back on track. Some of the positives include:

1. Cole's first win of the season. Hamels had gone a dispiriting five starts without earning a W, despite going at least six innings while allowing  three runs or fewer in his last three starts. He finally got one yesterday, although it wasn't Cole's sharpest performance--he walked an uncharacteristic six batters, his most since July of last year. But he managed to get out of trouble and only let up two hits all game, and after giving the Mets one in the first, went five more scoreless before turning the game over to the bullpen.

2. The Bullpen holding tight. Speaking of which. After being about as secure as a Playskool piggy bank for four games against the Pirates, the bullpen was actually on lockdown for this series, letting up only two hits and one run in seven innings of combined work, the lone damage courtesy of a John Buck solo blast off Jeremy Horst in a game the Phils were already leading 9-3. The bullpen on this team was supposed to be a strength, so it's good to see that the Pittsburgh disaster situation does not appear to be a continuing crisis.

3. Ryan getting on track. Ryan Howard only had one hit in each of the three games--he was just a pinch-hitter in the third game anyway--but he made them count, with a game-breaking three-run homer in the first, a floodgate-opening RBI single in the second, and a huge, go-ahead two-run double in the third. He ended with seven RBIs on the series, awesome production from our hot-and-cold cleanup hitter. Ryan's clearly still not the MVP candidate he was a half-decade ago, with more of his one-time home runs dying at the wall and his walk rate diminishing to near non-existence, but if he can at least stay a net positive on offense, we won't be kept up at nights thinking about the four years, nearly $100 mil left on his contract.

4. Dom and JMJ going back-to-back. Domonic Brown's alternately frustrating and tantalizing year continues, as he only went 3-13 on the series, but with one of those three being a three-run blast that put game two of the series to bed in the fifth inning. John Mayberry Jr. followed that with a solo blast of his own, continuing his 2011-level production for the season, with ten extra base hits (tied for second on the team) in just 73 plate appearances. We could really use at least one of these guys turning out to actually be a good, reliable everyday outfielder, so we'll continue to grasp onto these scraps while gritting our teeth through their 0-4 with three strikeouts games.

5. Kyle going the distance. Kyle Kendrick picked up just the second shutout victory of his career with a three-hit, one-walk, five-K blanking of the Mets in the series opener. With his 2-1 record, 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 3:1 K/BB ratio, Kendrick has been the unlikely ace of the Phils' pitching staff this year, despite making over $15 million less than three of our other starters. It might not last, but going back to the second half of last year now, Kendrick has made a decisive case for being a reliable back-end starter, if not more. He probably won't get optioned to Triple A again at any point this year, at the very least.

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Related: a Phillie Phanatic photo gallery

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As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”