Phils Offense Explodes for 9 Runs in Bounce Back Win

Phils Offense Explodes for 9 Runs in Bounce Back Win

Coming off a loss to start the series, the Phillies rebounded nicely on the strength of another stellar outing from Cliff Lee and some late-inning heroics from the bats, turning a close game into a 9-2 slaughter, consequently ending the Arizona Diamondbacks' seven-game win streak.

With runners at the corners and no men out in the bottom of the seventh, Wilson Valdez cracked a two run double off the wall in deep center. Hunter Pence and John Mayberry would both score to put the Phillies ahead by a score of 4-2.

Two batters later, after a Brian Schneider sacrifice bunt to move Valdez to third, pinch hitter Ben Francisco would hit his own shot to the warning track, scoring Valdez from third on a sacrifice fly to stretch the lead an extra run.

From there, the Phillies would tack on an extra four runs in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a Cody Ransom throwing error, a Brian Schneider single, a Jimmy Rollins sacrifice and a Shane Victorino double.

In relief of Cliff Lee, Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson would combine for a scoreless eighth and ninth to close out the ballgame and secure the victory before what was reported on the broadcast as the largest crowd of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
As for the early scoring, Jimmy Rollins would open things up for the Phillies by going yard off Diamondback starter Joe Saunders on his first pitch of the ballgame. One inning later, John Mayberry would single to center to score Hunter Pence and tie the game at 2-2.

Filling in for Raul Ibanez in right, it was a solid night for Mayberry, who made a fantastic read on Valdez' seventh inning double to score all the way from first. John took off practically on contact and crossed plate not far behind the Hunter Pence, who began with a 180-foot advantage. He finished the evening with a run, three hits and an RBI, giving supporters additional motivation in calling for his increased presence in the lineup.

On the mound for the Phils, Cliff Lee would work through seven innings before getting pulled in favor of the pinch hitting Ben Francisco. Despite giving up a two-run home run to recently called-up Paul Goldschmidt and looking a bit shaky early on, Lee would settle in to retire twelve straight batters. Believe or not, Cliff's two run, three hit, seven strikeout performance actually "hurt" his numbers in the month of August. Per Jayson Stark's Twitter feed:

Cliff Lee this month: 24 innings, 14 hits, 25 whiffs, only 2 runs on Goldschmidt's bomb tonight.

Hard to believe he could do much better than his absurd numbers in the month of June, but he's clearly trying.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news for the Phillies Wednesday night as Ryan Howard appeared in a great deal of pain after his final at bat of the evening. Though he would stay in the game, all did not look right. After the game, Howard would reveal that he was suffering from a "hand cramp." David Murphy is now reporting via Twitter that:

"Howard said there is still some discomfort in his hand, doesn't know if it is a cramp or what. Didn't seem concerned."

Hopefully, the alleged cramp is just a cramp and the Big Piece stay healthy down the stretch.

We'll find out tomorrow when the Phils take the field for the rubber match of this three game set at 7:05 when Vance Worley squares off Arizona ace Ian Kennedy. Enjoy your night, guys.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”