Marlins-Phillies Preview: Hanley's Back

Marlins-Phillies Preview: Hanley's Back

After nipping at the Phillies' heels in the standings for most of the season to date, the Marlins have fallen well off the pace lately, entering this week's series at 7.5 games back. They're a game below .500, which is somewhat amazing given that just 17 days ago, they were 10 games over .500.

Since Anibal Sanchez pitched them to a 1-0 victory over the Giants on May 26, capping a three-game sweep in San Francisco, the Marlins have won just three games while losing 14, including eight straight to start the month of June. The Braves have taken the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Marlins, who are now dangerously close to being caught by the Mets (just .5 games behind).

With four games on the schedule in the next three days, the Phillies have a great opportunity to knock them even further into their tailspin.

Of course, there's also a chance to resuscitate them if the Fish can steal a series here. The Marlins have been a good road team overall this season (everyone likes to play in front of a live audience, even if it's a hostile one), and they won't keep losing at this pace all season.

They'll also get a big bump tonight when Hanley Ramirez is expected to return and bat leadoff for the Marlins.

Hopefully the Phils see them for the wounded dog(fish) that they are, as
well as a walking reminder of how quickly things can go south
for a contending team. 

For more on the series against the Marlins, here's Jim Salisbury:

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

It didn't take long for Villanova to get back to the top of the AP poll.

A week, to be exact.

The 'Cats jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in this week's AP poll, edging out No. 2 Kansas by just 16 total voting points. Villanova had 1,580 total points compared to the 1,562 total points the No. 2 Jayhawks received from voters.

In a twist, the 16-1 Jayhawks actually had more first-place votes than the 17-1 Wildcats. Kansas received 32 first-place votes compared to Villanova's 28 first-place votes. But total votes are the deciding factor, so, advatange: Wildcats.

UCLA hopped up to No. 3, Gonzaga jumped up to No. 4 and Kentucky checked in at No. 5 to round out this week's top five.

Baylor, the No. 1 team in the land last week, fell to No. 6 after it was blown out by No. 7 West Virginia.

Beginning on Dec. 5, Villanova was No. 1 for five straight weeks before falling at No. 13 Butler on Jan. 5 and seeing a 20-game win streak come to an end.

Jay Wright's Wildcats blew past No. 22 Xavier and St. John's last week, but will face another Big East test when 12-5 Seton Hall visits The Pavilion on Monday night. The last time Villanova and Seton Hall met, the Pirates upset the Wildcats at MSG in the final of last season's Big East Tournament.

The Wildcats' schedule this week is closed out with a visit from Providence on Saturday afternoon.