Phils Dropped by AL's Worst, Clearwater Fans Prepare Utley for Return North

Phils Dropped by AL's Worst, Clearwater Fans Prepare Utley for Return North

We can't complain about the offensive output, but the song remained the same as the Phillies lost the series opener in Minnesota, 11-7. The Twins got out to an early 5-0 lead but the Fightins slugged their way to an impressive comeback that made things interesting at 5-4 in the 5th. Unfortunately, it got even more interesting in the bottom of the frame when Hunter Pence made one of the worst outfield plays ever witnessed in right, misplaying a ball bouncing just under his glove. As Phillies despondency correspondent ZooWithRoy put it, "Pence just made a play that you'd scream at the guy wearing jeans on your work softball team for."  
To make matters worse, some kid in the first row showed Pence how the glove works in the 7th. With two outs and Mike Fontenot making his way through foul territory to catch the third, a young Phillies fan reached up and robbed him of the catch, keeping Twins RF Ben Revere at the plate. Revere then added some insurance to the board and dirt to the Phils' coffin. 
More on the game, and how Chase Utley's rehab stint went, below. 
With Kyle Kendrick allowing 6 ER in 4 IP, Joe Savery charged with 3 more and BJ Rosenberg another pair, even a 14-hit, 7-run night couldn't allow the Phils to keep up with the slugging done by the AL-worst Twins. Jimmy Rollins' 4-hit night was wasted, as was another strong night at the plate for Jim Thome. 
Since joining the lineup as the DH during interleague play, Thome has eight hits and six RBI in four games. His two-out, bases-loaded single (yes really!) to left in the 6th inning continued a Phillies rally and brought the Phils to within one, but a Shane Victorino flare froze their scoring line. 
Looking at the standings this morning, it's hard not to hear Ed Rooney reading Ferris' absence report. Two weeks into June, the Phils are 9.5 games back in the East. 
Chase Utley WatchUts went 0-5 with 3 Ks in his first rehab start in Clearwater. He even got a smattering of boos as he struck out in his final AB. 

Everyone needs to be onboard with getting him ready to rejoin the big club, right?

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).