Nationals Infield Sucks, Phillies Win 11-3

Nationals Infield Sucks, Phillies Win 11-3

At long last, the Phillies' interminable one-game losing streak is over.
Yes, it was a tough 24 hours, but tonight the Fightins finally returned
to their winning ways with an 11-3 victory, moving the Fightins to an
exemplary 10-2 record for the month of August. Roy Oswalt, who gave up
just three runs over seven innings, picked up the W for the first time
since returning from the DL.

The win was due in no small part to the performance of the Washington
Nationals' infield, an atrocity exhibition the likes of which Ian Curtis
never even dreamed of. Booted grounders, poorly gloved grounders,
grounders missed altogether, sailed throws to first, dropped throws to
first...the Nats' infield may have only been charged with three errors
this evening, but there were least another three plays that the infield
just failed to make, nearly all of which the Phils ended up capitalizing
on. In fact, the only decent play made the entire inning by the
Natinals from within the diamond was made by starting pitcher John
Lannan, who glove-shoveled a slow-chopped Wilson Valdez grounder to home
to get a force on Ryan Howard. Besides that, Lannan got no help
whatsoever, resulting in this odd final pitching line: 3 IP, 7 R, 1 ER, 4
H, 5 BB, 1K

The Phillies didn't need to do all that much to take advantage of the
Nats' miscues—incredibly, they scored their first eight runs on just
five hits, only one of which was for extra bases—but they did help their
own cause with some smart baserunning. Wheels went orgasmic over the
number of times the boys went first-to-third on singles, as well as over
the Utley-like move from Wilson Valdez when he scored from second on an
infield grounder after the Nats failed to secure a force at second with
the bases loaded. And that one extra-base hit was a two-run blast from
Ryan Howard in the opening frame, which was big for the guys after they
only managed to scratch out one run in seven innings of Livan Hernandez
action last night. (By the way, with his four men driven in tonight,
Ryan now has 18 RBIs in his last 15 games, with six homers over that
span. Just mentioning.)

As for Little Roy's performance on the mound, he was fairly sharp in his
second start since returning from the DL. After laboring a little in
the first two innings, the Phils' five-run third gave Roy the chance to
settle down a little, and aside from a mildly sticky sixth, he breezed
the rest of the way, getting in seven innings with less than 100
pitches, striking out five and walking just one. Not dominant, but on a
night where all we really needed was solid efficiency, he certainly gave
us that, and the boy wonder Michael Stutes (who it appears has
officially replaced Raul Ibanez as the city's "UUUUUU" Fightin of
choice) finished the job with a scoreless final two innings.

Tomorrow, Roy Halladay takes the hill with a chance to give the Phils
their fifth series win in a row, opposed by Nationals sinkerballer /
reclamation project Chien-Ming Wang. With the Braves' 8-4 loss to the
Cubs last night, Philly is back to being 8.5 games up in the East, and
if the Phils win again tomorrow, they'll only have to play .500 ball the
rest of the season to end up with 100 wins. Hell of a season, Jackie.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."