The Biggest Series of the Year (Until the Next Braves Series)

The Biggest Series of the Year (Until the Next Braves Series)

As far as early July series against division rivals, this weekend's three game set with the Braves is about as big as they get. The two best teams in baseball record-wise face off with only 2.5 games separating them in the standings.

If things were to go absolutely horrible for the Phillies this weekend, they could head into the All-Star break in second place. Thankfully, they've tweaked their rotation to set up their big guns to face Atlanta in this series.

Roy Halladay pitches this evening, Cliff Lee goes Saturday afternoon, and Cole Hamels sends them into the break on Sunday. Sure, those three losing on three consecutive days is technically possible, but you're probably more likely to win the Powerball jackpot than that happening.

But first place is not the only thing being fought for this weekend. A series victory and ground gained by either team could be huge for second half momentum, and message sending. The Braves want to show they're a force to be reckoned with while the Phillies want to show the Braves that, while Atlanta is a formidable opponent, they're not quite on the Fightins' level.

For much more analysis on the series and breakdown of the rivalry, check out Jim Salisbury and John Finger's respective takes on this weekend's matchup.

"They are right there with us," Charlie Manuel said. "Our
division is a lot better than it was and the Braves are right there."

Should be an exciting weekend of baseball in South Philadelphia.

Topps cover man Claude Giroux answers U.S.-Canada questions

Topps cover man Claude Giroux answers U.S.-Canada questions

Claude Giroux spent Friday signing virtual autographs as the cover athlete for Topps NHL Skate 2017, a new onilne digital trading card game. Remember when trading cards came in a bubble gum pack? 

After the event Giroux sat down with Michael Barkann for a game of “Who Does It Better?: Canada or the United States.”

The game started off with a a few easy softball questions, with Giroux picking the NFL over the Candian Football League. Then it got a little tougher, as Giroux chose Canadian hockey over U.S. hockey.

Despite talents like Drake and Shania Twain, Giroux went with the U.S. over Canada in music, and also chose American bacon over Canadian bacon.

Eventually, Barkann asked Giroux which beer he preffered. “I don’t drink beer," Giroux responded. Really? What Canadian doesn't like beer?

As he started to get up out of his seat after the interview, Giroux showed his true colors. “I love beer. I love beer,” he said.

Check out the video above to see the full game. 

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."