Five in a Row and Five Games Back

Five in a Row and Five Games Back

Healthier than they've been all season, the Phillies have put together a post trade-deadline run that sees them banging on the door of Wild Card contention in time for the change to playoff baseball weather. Kyle Kendrick, now firmly in the rotation, has been brilliant, and last night he pitched the Phils to their fifth straight win and ninth in their last 11. They now sit five games back in the Wild Card hunt, just one game below .500. 
Kendrick has won five of his last six starts and allowed just two runs in his only loss over that stretch. In last night's 3-1 win over the Marlins, Kendrick went seven strong, holding a no-hitter until the sixth inning. 
Surrendering only two hits all night, Kendrick struck out a career-best eight batters. He escaped a bases loaded situation in the sixth by striking out Giancarlo Stanton and allowed his lone run in the seventh before turning the game over to the bullpen for the final two frames. Justin De Fratus induced a pair of strikeouts, and Jake Diekman got Jose Reyes to fly out for the third. Antonio Bastardo had the closing duties for the night, and he took home the save facing only three batters, the last of whom was Greg Dobbs, who struck out to end the game. 
At the plate, Domonic Brown put the Phils on the board in the fifth with a shot to right after Ty Wigginton drew a leadoff walk. Two batters later, Michael Martinez doubled aboard, then was moved to third by Kendrick. With two outs and Jimmy Rollins at the plate, Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc uncorked a two-strike wild pitch, and Martinez was across the plate before the Miami battery could clean up the spill. Ozzie Guillen hilarity ensued as the Marlins manager protested for a strikeout he wouldn't get until after the damage was done. 
That was all the offense the Phillies would need with Kendrick on the hill and a suddenly solid bullpen locking things down. CSNPhilly's John Finger points out that KK is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA in his last nine starts; including his previous seven relief appearances, his ERA is below 2 at 1.98. Yanked in and out of the rotation and started on a moment's notice when needed, Kendrick has done everything asked of him, and now found a groove that is helping to fuel once-lost playoff hopes. [Full recap and a look at how Kendrick has emerged]
Pittsburgh is the team just in front of the Phils on their way up the ladder, and the Bucs have lost four straight. The Dodgers are a game back of the Cardinals, who hold the final Wild Card slot and lost in San Diego last night. The Brewers, also sitting at 70-71, and the Diamondbacks (69-72) are fighting for the spot too. 
Twenty-one games to go. How many can the Phillies win?
(AP Photo)

Topps cover man Claude Giroux answers U.S.-Canada questions

Topps cover man Claude Giroux answers U.S.-Canada questions

Claude Giroux spent Friday signing virtual autographs as the cover athlete for Topps NHL Skate 2017, a new onilne digital trading card game. Remember when trading cards came in a bubble gum pack? 

After the event, Giroux sat down with CSN's Michael Barkann on Philly Sports Talk for a game of “Who Does It Better: Canada or the United States?”

The game started off with a few easy softball questions, with Giroux picking the NFL over the Candian Football League. Then it got a little tougher, as Giroux chose Canadian hockey over U.S. hockey.

Despite talents like Drake and Shania Twain, Giroux went with the U.S. over Canada in music, and also chose American bacon over Canadian bacon.

Eventually, Barkann asked Giroux which beer he preffered.

“I don’t drink beer," Giroux responded.

Really? What Canadian doesn't like beer?

As he started to get up out of his seat after the interview, Giroux showed his true colors. “I love beer. I love beer,” he said.

Check out the video above to see the full game. 

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."