Today's Gotta Be an Improvement Over Yesterday, Right?

Today's Gotta Be an Improvement Over Yesterday, Right?

Well we had one of those dreaded Philly
sports days yesterday. All three teams in action lost and lost ugly. On
the "Scary to No Big Deal" spectrum, the Flyers take up the scary mantle
because they continue to play down to inferior opponents, making us wonder if they've lost what made them superior, and of course, the playoffs begin next week. The Sixers fall somewhere in the middle in that they got smoked by the Celtics,
but it didn't sting quite as badly because even though we're amped up
for them to be in the playoffs, the expectations aren't quite as high
for them as the Flyers. Plus, the Celtics are undeniably good. The scary
element really is just in that they could be the team that the Sixers
face in round one. Then there's the Phillies, who were slammed back to
earth with a 7-1 loss to the Mets. The opening series sweep is
officially over, and the first loss of the season came to the hated
rival. Otherwise, no big deal, but it was annoying, especially given
that the Flyers were crapping the bed up in Ottawa something fierce, and
the Sixers had the look of the one-and-done many people already thought
they were. 

So what do you have for us, Wednesday? 

At least for the Phillies, there's the hope of seeing some good
baseball. If last night's loss, ugly as it was, shook you at all, you
can get out. I try not to be one of these Fannier Than Thou types, but
seriously, leave. This team is so good that I'm genuinely excited to see
its fifth starter pitch today. It's Phillies-Mets. Screw last night.
Last night is dead. If you got a schedule magnet, take a quick look and
see how dead last night is. The Phils lost on an awful weather night,
which is no excuse considering that it didn't seem to bother the Mets,
but for some reason it makes it easier to discount for me. 

With the staggered start times, I got to see Cole pitch in the first
inning, get into a little bad luck, then pitch his ass off to get out of
it. It felt great to see him work with two runners in scoring position
and David Wright at the plate. It felt as good as seeing the Flyers
score an early goal on the power play. Unfortunately, both teams crapped
out shortly thereafter. The Phillies get a shot to redeem immediately
themselves, with Joe Blanton (he of the World Series W and HR Blantons)
facing Mike Pelfrey tonight. And for me, that inning alone was enough of
a reminder that there's nothing to worry about with Cole, who just had a
rough night. We also saw a few more glimmers from the offense,
especially Jimmy Rollins' continued work from the three hole. How about
that bunt single and stolen base? That was f*cking awesome. 

Tonight's opposing starter got blasted in his debut, including giving up a grand slam on his way to an opening day loss. (Side
note for people who like to say that fourth starters play other teams'
fourth starters, etc.: We're in the second series of the season, and
already, we're seeing a fifth starter play the opening day guy for the
other team. It's fantastic that the Phils have four aces and a pretty
good fifth, but with them and throughout baseball, the matchups are
going to vary based on days off, injuries, and skipped starts.)
 

But the ass-whooping at the hands of the Mets last night could be a
blessing in disguise (if you're still following along with my
Flyers-shame-and-coffee-induced optimism). If you listened to what Charlie Manuel had to say last night after the loss,
he wasn't down in the face like Peter Laviolette was, and with good
reason for both. Charlie knows he has a great hand, but he also knows
that some competition from the Mets now and throughout the season could
be a good thing. The Flyers got complacent somewhere around the All-Star
Game, and look where they are at the moment. The same could happen to
the Phillies if they don't have competition in the standings. Even
before the season, it was looking like the NL East had improved
throughout its ranks. Some competition could be exactly what the Phils
need to keep their minds off the magazine covers and on the field. 

This group hasn't really had a problem with staying grounded, but
we're now entering a third straight season of very lofty expectations,
amplified by the re-addition of Cliff Lee. Even without Chase Utley for a
while, the expectations are no less than a World Series win. 

While I'm no bandwagon Flyers fan, it does help to ease the pain of
one team's loss to know I can just put on another's game the next night
and know they have a damn good shot at winning, even if it's fifth
starter night. The Union also play a US Open Cup game against the DC United
before a huge early season matchup with the Red Bulls at PPL Park on
Sunday. And yes, I'm still really looking forward to the NHL playoffs
and fully expecting this team to show up in the first round.

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Pinch hitter Adam Frazier’s first career home run, a leadoff shot in the seventh inning off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos, lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

It was also the first home run allowed by Ramos (1-1) in 14 career relief appearances.

The Pirates tied it at 4-4 an inning earlier when Matt Joyce hit a two-run home run off starter Vince Velasquez.

The Phillies wound up losing two of three in the series after rookie right-hander Zach Eflin pitched a three-hit shutout on Friday night. They are 3-7 since the All-Star break to fall 10 games under .500 at 45-55.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits for the Phillies while Andres Blanco and Odubel Herrera hit solo home runs off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon.

Pirates left fielder Starling Marte also had three hits. Neftali Feliz (4-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win and Mark Melancon worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 30th save.

Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning when the veteran utility infielder was spiked on the hand by Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco in a play at third base. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday (see story).

Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday and will likely play Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Marlins at Miami.

The game was delayed for one hour and 32 minutes in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, though he did not factor in the decision. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings while walking four and striking out five.

Velasquez threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

At the plate
Hernandez was moved to the leadoff spot of the batting order to replace slumping right fielder Peter Bourjos and responded by going 3 for 5 with a triple.

Herrera’s home run led off the sixth and was his 11th of the season, giving the Phillies a short-lived 4-2 lead. Herrera went 7 for 13 in the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games.

First baseman Ryan Howard went 2 for 3, lifting his batting average to .166, before being pinch hit for in the eighth inning.

Left fielder Cody Asche was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, the last coming to end the eighth inning with two runners on base and the Phillies trailing by a run.

Up next
The Phillies open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 7.98)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)

Crash kills Nebraska punter, former Michigan State punter

usa-sam-foltz.jpg
USA Today Images

Crash kills Nebraska punter, former Michigan State punter

WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have died in a car crash in Wisconsin after working at a kicking clinic, a sheriff's department official said Sunday. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the crash.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Lt. Thom Moerman said speed was likely a factor in the single-vehicle crash that happened around 11:45 p.m. Saturday.

The 24-year-old Sadler, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was driving. He and 22-year-old Foltz, of Greeley, Nebraska, both died at the scene. Delahoussaye, 21 of New Iberia, Louisiana, was also a passenger. He was treated at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and released. A statement from LSU said his injuries were minor and that he was scheduled to return home Monday.

Moerman said in a statement that Sadler lost control on the wet pavement, left the roadway and struck a tree.

The University of Nebraska said Sunday the team will skip this week's planned Big Ten media days in Chicago because of Foltz's death. Officials with Michigan State didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Foltz was a three-year starter for the Nebraska team and last year he was named the Big Ten's punter of the year. Foltz graduated from Nebraska with a degree in agronomy in May. He led the Big Ten in punting last year at 44.2 yards per kick and ranked fifth in school history (42.6).

Nebraska Coach Mike Riley said Foltz was respected on the team, and had a positive influence on everyone he interacted with.

"The young men in our football program are hurting but I know that their strength of character and resolve will bring us together and we will honor Sam every day moving forward," Riley said.

Several hundred friends and teammates of Foltz gathered outside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Sunday afternoon to remember him. Several players talked about how hard Foltz' worked and his faith in God.

"Sam was a kind and thoughtful young man who was a leader on the playing field, in the classroom, and in his community," Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie D. Green said in a statement. "He was an exemplary student-athlete who grew as a player and as a person on his path to recent completion of his degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and anyone who knew him can testify that he had an enduring influence on those around him."

Sadler was a four-year starter and four-time academic All-American at Michigan State. He finished his college playing career after the 2014 season. He drew something of a cult following during his playing days because of his sense of humor and wit.

"I just asked my waitress what sport she thought I played. Her answer? Disk golf. Time to reevaluate my life," Sadler once tweeted.

He helped get his own mock Heisman Trophy candidacy rolling one season by pushing the hashtag (hash)sadler4heisman. He would also regularly exchange funny lines on Twitter with the (at)FauxPelini account, a popular parody of the former Nebraska and current Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini.

"Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player, but also from an academic standpoint and in the community as well," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day."

Dan Tracy with Kohl's Kicking said both Sadler and Foltz had been working at a weekend clinic at the camp in Wisconsin. Tracy said the camp ended early Sunday after an announcement about the deaths.

A statement from kicking camp director Jamie Kohl said the staff was mourning with the players' families and football programs.

"We mourn today with all of the people who were better men and women for knowing Sam and Mike," Kohl said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

PITTSBURGH --- Utility infielder Andres Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday.

Blanco was injured when Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco slid into his hand during a play at third base. Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who hit a solo home run off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon in the first inning. Blanco is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday.

"If you get hit in the head, you probably want to take a little bit more precaution than if it was another part of your body,” Rupp said.