Ryan Howard, Phillies Trying to Shake Off the Rust

Ryan Howard, Phillies Trying to Shake Off the Rust

Not many ball players have ever received a rousing ovation
for getting thrown out at third base, not the way Ryan Howard did at Citizens Bank
Park on Friday night.

The Big Piece had just hit his second home run in as many
days during the previous at bat, and fourth over the last nine games, so he was
understandably feeling a little frisky. Next time up Howard swept a double into
the right-field corner, a place where Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna was
experiencing some difficulty collecting the ball.

With the Phillies already ahead comfortably in the third
inning – 3-0 being considered comfortable when the opponent is the Miami
Marlins – Howard “made an executive decision.” He rounded second and charged
toward third.

[ Watch Ryan Howard
try for three
]

It turns out this Ozuna kid has a hose attached to his right arm, as
the 22 year old delivered a rope to cut-off man Donovan Solano, who in turn
fired the perfect relay throw to Placido Polanco as Howard belly-flopped
head-first at the third baseman’s feet. Polly applied the tag with several
moments to spare.

Then it happened. The fans… cheered. Howard… laughed, along
with his teammates in the dugout. Everything was okay.

It’s easy to forgive and forget when the mistake comes at
the hands of the Marlins, who predictably did not go on to put up much of a
fight in the Phils’ 4-1 victory. Miami’s record fell to 8-22 for the season,
tied with the Houston Astros in the American League for worst in Major League
Baseball.

There is something to be said for enjoying oneself at the
ball park though – no matter who you are – and Howard’s jaunt seemed to lighten
the air on the diamond for possibly the first time since spring training concluded. It
was about more than stretching a double into a triple.

It was about the Phillies feeling like their old selves again.

How well cleanup is swinging the bat of late is no doubt easing
some of the pressure inside the clubhouse as well. Howard has been hitting for
average since the first week of the season; now he’s starting to hit for power
and driving in runs. In the 10 games since April 22, Howard has notched 12 RBI
and crossed the plate eight times himself, while his slugging percentage has
risen more than .150 points.

And don’t look now, but Howard may just be beginning to
creep into the league leaders in certain categories amidst this current assault.
He moved into a tie for seventh in the National League with 14 extra base hits, and his five bombs, 18
RBI and a .519 slugging all crack the top 25.

Yes, Howard has also struggled in some aspects. He's tied for 54th out of 91 qualifiers in the NL with a .319 on-base percentage, a byproduct of his drawing a mere six walks to date. The contact numbers clearly are not bad at all however.

His was not the only bat to put on a show for the 36,292 in
attendance, either. Chase Utley (6) and Domonic Brown (5) added solo blasts of their own.

The fireworks display coupled with good vibes at Citizens
are a positive sign. The Phillies feasted at home during the run of success from
2007 to ‘11, posting a 246-162 record – an impressive .603 winning percentage. Compare that to last season when they finished just one game above .500 in South Philly.

So far the Phils are only 7-8 this year when they have home-field
advantage, a number that likely must be in their favor if they are to reach the
playoffs. Call it a comfort level, call it the dimensions of the stadium. For whatever
the reason, this group can get on a serious roll in their own building.

Sooner or later they have to beat a few
teams besides the Marlins and Mets no matter where the contests are held, yet all
things considered the Phillies are not in bad shape. Both the Braves and Nationals
lost on Friday, which puts the good guys just 3.5 back of first place.

The core may be getting old, or even feel like they have
something left to prove, but Howard and his mates should try to loosen up more
often. Who knows, maybe his hopeless attempt at third will rub off on a few of the guys, and the Fightins might continue to play like they actually like this
baseball thing again.

Judging from the final results here, it couldn't possibly be a bad thing.

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>> Box Score [CBS]

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Flyers-Panthers 5 things: Eyeing longest win streak since Ilya Bryzgalov was in net

Flyers-Panthers 5 things: Eyeing longest win streak since Ilya Bryzgalov was in net

Flyers (14-10-3) vs. Panthers (12-11-3)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers, on the NHL’s longest current win streak, will try to extend it to six games when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s get you set for the matchup with five things to know:

1. Push it to the limit
The Flyers beat the Predators, 4-2, on Sunday to give them their most consecutive wins since March 15-22, 2014, when they also won five in a row.

A victory on Tuesday would mark the team’s longest win streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when it won seven straight and Ilya Bryzgalov was in net — yeah, that long ago.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has been pleased with the consistent effort by his club after it collapsed Nov. 11 in a 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs.

“You go back to that poor performance up in Toronto, which was about a dozen games ago,” Hakstol said Monday. “Since that point in time, I think we’ve really taken pride in the consistency of our play and worrying about what we do on a day-to-day basis. It’s real important that we continue to do that.”

2. Leier hops right in
With Matt Read out approximately a month because of an oblique muscle pull, winger Taylor Leier has been recalled from AHL affiliate and will join Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Dale Weise on the Flyers’ third line Tuesday.

Leier, a 2012 fourth-round pick of the Flyers, gets his chance after proving himself with the Phantoms in 22 games, putting up 20 points on six goals and 14 assists.

The Flyers decided it was Leier over Scott Laughton, who has been sent back down to Lehigh Valley. Leier's earned his second call-up of the season with the Flyers. The first was just for one game on Oct. 25 in which he was a healthy scratch. Last season, the 22-year-old made his NHL debut, going scoreless in six games.

3. Mason on a roll
Speaking of consistency, goalie Steve Mason finally finding a rhythm is a big reason why the Flyers are stringing together wins.

In his last four games, the 28-year-old is 4-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. He was honored for his play by being named the NHL’s first Star of the Week.

“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me,” Mason said Monday. “Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Ever since Michael Del Zotto returned to the lineup from his three-game benching, the orange and black have won five straight. Now there’s no direct correlation, but Del Zotto is providing a stable presence defensively and chipping in offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) over the five-game run.

Panthers: Center Aleksander Barkov leads Florida in assists with 12 and has eight points (two goals, six assists) over his last nine games for a plus-5 rating.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-3-2 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in 13 career games against the Panthers.

• Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, who has a 2.15 goals-against average this season, is 9-10-3 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 23 games lifetime against the Flyers.

• The Panthers are 1-1-2 since general manager Tom Rowe took over head-coaching duties for the fired Gerard Gallant.

• The status of Radko Gudas (sick) for tonight’s game is uncertain. He’s missed the last two contests.

• Florida defenseman Keith Yandle’s ironman streak of 577 games will come to an end Tuesday as the 30-year-old is expected to miss some time with a lower-body injury.

• It’s unknown if Panthers leading goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault (lower-body injury) will play Tuesday. 

Philly brewery creates Ghost Bear beer in orange and black can

Philly brewery creates Ghost Bear beer in orange and black can

Who doesn't love a good dance around sports league licensing deals?

The bootleg T-shirt business is a cottage industry keeping sports fans in Philadelphia sharply dressed for years.

There's something to be appreciated about the creative marketing that hints at something but doesn't expressly break any rules.

Conshohocken Brewing absolutely killed it with the naming and branding on their latest beer: the Ghost Bear Golden Ale that just so happens to be in an orange and black can.

Now, some hockey fans who watch plenty of Flyers games might say it's in honor of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, but whose to say it's not simply a beer named after a couple of wonderful emojis. Namely the ghost and the bear,

I, for one, applaud them on their branding. You can pick one up at their local brew pubs or at the release party over in Fishtown on Friday.

And what a world we live in where Joel Embiid wants to create his own line of Shirley Temple beverages and there's a beer seemingly named after a Flyer who gets the healthy scratch.