Show Goes On: Phillies in Big Apple for Three with Mets

Show Goes On: Phillies in Big Apple for Three with Mets

It will be easy to tune out the last-place Phillies during this July 4 holiday week, but Philadelphia still has a professional baseball team. They have uniforms and everything.

The Fightins begin a three-game series in New York on Tuesday night against the surprising Metropolitans. Considered by many to be also-rans before the season even got underway, the Mets are currently second in the NL East with a 43-37 record, 3.5 back of the Washington Nationals. They are also just 0.5 out of a Wild Card.

As we close in on the All-Star break, it would probably be fair to say the Mets are for real.

They certainly have had their way with the Phils this year, taking six of nine so far, including a sweep at Citizens Bank Park. The good guys pulled out a series win at Citi Field in their last meeting though.

New York features one of the most potent offenses in the league. Ranked third in runs scored, they don't mash a ton of home runs, or even bat for a high average. The Mets do draw a lot of walks however, with two of the NL leaders for bases on balls in their everyday lineup -- all-star 3B David Wright (3rd) and RF Lucas Duda (10th).

Of course, Wright can hit the cover off the ball too. Just named to his sixth All-Star Game, he's in among the league leaders in a slew of categories, notably batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging, runs scored, and runs batted in.

Keeping those guys off the base paths falls on Vance Worley (4-4, 2.92), but when he faced the Mets back on April 14, he issued a season-high four passes. That wasn't what hurt him so much though -- it was the long ball. Wright and Duda both went yard, as Worley surrendered four runs through six in a loss. The Phils were blanked 5-0.

Lifetime, Worley is 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA in seven appearances against the Mets. He's not fared well at Citi Field in particular, where he's 1-1 with a 6.30.

The Mets toss a young pitcher of their own. Lefty Jonathon Niese (6-3, 3.55) is becoming a dependable piece in a solid rotation. In the midst of his third full season in the big leagues, the 25 year old has faced the Phillies more than any team in his career, going 4-4 and 3.86 over 11 starts.

Niese has the upper-hand in 2012 as well, with a 1-0 record in three starts, but the Phils may be catching up with him. He was chased after five innings in each of the past two head-to-heads, a pair of no-decisions in May where he walked nine batters and sported a 5.40 ERA.

It's good news whenever you knock a Mets starter out of the game. They own the worst bullpen in Major League Baseball.

We're choosing John Mayberry for tonight's standout performer. In 22 at bats versus Niese, Mayberry is batting .318 with three bombs and seven RBI. He's batting eighth, so he may only see Niese twice -- but that might be plenty.

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”