Inside the Standings: Sky Is Falling Edition

Inside the Standings: Sky Is Falling Edition

At first glance, this edition of Inside the Standings isn't so very different from two weeks ago. The Phillies were five games back of first place in the NL East on April 27; today they are only half a game further out. There have been a few changes since then -- most notably they've fallen to four games under .500, and are all alone in the cellar -- but the song remains the same.

This is not an overwhelming lead, not when there are 130 shows remaining.

Yet it's difficult to ignore the vibe, which has become increasingly negative. Of course, the manner in which the Phils were swept by the Mets has a lot to do with it. That was ugly, but those three losses are all it took to ratchet up the distress. Speech that began as murmurs and hushed warnings that maybe this isn't our season is slipping into talk of the sky falling. I think Beerleaguer summed up this change in public opinion the best.

Succint. Demonstrative. Valid?

If there's any silver lining at all right now, it's the upcoming slate gives the Phillies a chance to crawl back into contention. Beginning tonight, they face four consecutive opponents who are below .500 as well, each with a ways to go before getting their heads above water as well. If the Fightins can't get a rally going over the next week and a half of baseball, they might have big problems on their hands, as they are on a collission course with every first place team in the National League.

vs. Padres (11-21)

You would think welcoming a fellow last place team and owners of the worst record in the National League to CBP might be just what the doctor ordered, but the Phillies only managed a split in four dates with the Padres a few weeks back. Starting pitchers Cory Luebke and Anthony Bass stifled the Fightins in the latter half of the set, and along with Edinson Volquez, they're actually forming a half decent staff out there.

The Phils avoid Luebke and Bass this time around, but not Volquez, who they missed when they were out west. With Worley, Halladay, and Hamels going, maybe it won't matter. Even the Major League's worst bullpen should be able to handle the NL's second least productive offense.

vs. Astros (14-17)

They follow with a pair of those wonky two-game series against a pair of down-on-their luck clubs from the Central division. Houston went on a little tear recently, winning five straight, including a sweep over the Mets (ahem). They're back to their usual routine however, losing three of their last four games.

The rotation has been the Astros' undoing, ranking 13th in the NL in starting pitcher ERA. They can do a surprising amount of damage on the scoreboard though. They're a scrappy bunch that's led in many categories by 22-year-old Jose Altuve. The second baseman is batting .333 (1st) with 19 runs (2nd), 12 extra-base hits (1st), 5 steals (2nd), and an .869 OPS (1st).

@ Cubs (13-18)

Like the Padres, there's nothing particularly uplifting about seeing the Cubs again, whom the Phillies also split with. Offensively, Chicago is only marginally better than San Diego, and it should be back to Worley-Halladay for the two gamer. They're actually playing pretty good ball over the last three weeks or so. The Cubs are 10-7 since jumping out to a disastrous 3-11 start.

vs. Red Sox (12-19)

Boston, surprisingly, has one of the worst records in baseball, and are losers in nine of their last 11. With names like Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz, their lineup is still one of the most feared, ranking second in the American League in runs scored. Obviously they are getting little help from their pitching staff.

The Sawx have the second-worst ERA in baseball, a whopping 5.29, and their starters have an outrageous 6.01 -- to put that number in perspective, it's far worse than the Phillies' relievers at 5.59. The lowest ERA on the staff belongs to Jon Lester at 4.29. Josh Beckett has a 5.97. Clay Buchholz has a 9.09. Those numbers should eventually settle down some, but they have a lot of work to do before they get to anything close to resembling normal.

On Deck: vs. Washington (19-12), @ St. Louis (20-11), @ NY Mets (18-13), vs. Miami (16-15), vs. LA Dodgers (20-11)

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).