Valdez and Polanco Provide the Runs, Doc Shuts Mets Down as Phils Improve to 5-1

Valdez and Polanco Provide the Runs, Doc Shuts Mets Down as Phils Improve to 5-1

When Everybody Hits. And Doc pitches. The Phillies win.

It's a tried and true recipie, and that's what happened Thursday
afternoon at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies put on a fantastic
display of what this team is capable of doing to teams like the New York
Mets. Every single Phillies starter, including Roy Halladay, notched at
least one hit in the Phils 11-0 victory over the Mets, but it was
Wilson Valdez and Placido Polanco who did the most damage. Polly was 2-5
on the day with 4 RBIs while Valdez had his first career 4-hit game,
adding 3 RBIs and crossing the plate 3 times on his own.

"Polanco and Valdez were the ones who did the big hitting today,"
Charlie Manuel said. "Their hitting today definitely put us in a
position, not only to set the game up, but they also knocked in some big
runs."

You expect it from Polanco, but Valdez's hot start has been one of
the more unexpected story lines of the season, as is the manufacturing.

This
Phillies team isn't relying on the long ball, although Raul Ibanez did
ring the bell once on Thursday. The Fightins almost have that Doug
Collins' Sixers-vibe going, where any guy can step up and be the impact
player on any given night.

"I think we're doing a nice job of stringing together good at bats
and getting a lot of people on base, and then getting big hits," Raul
Ibanez said. "Not trying to create something that's not there. If they
throw you a base hit, you can get a base hit. Don't try to hit a homer
on a pitch that's a base hit. So trying not to do too much."

"We just kinda took what [Niese] was giving us," Charlie Manuel said
of the Phils success against the Mets' lefty. "We weren't trying to do a
whole lot against him. We were just trying to hit the ball hard it
looked like. It paid of for us."

Just play baseball, as Manuel loves to say.

But not every Phillie is satisfied with simply earning the 'W.' Roy
Halladay wants to improve his own performance every time he gets the
ball.

"I try and avoid evaluating myself based on results," Halladay said.
"If I can do it more on how I executed pitches, then I think I'm better
off. I can learn more. As soon as you start evaluating your start on
earned runs, or wins and losses, that makes it tough."

So does Doc feel as sharp and honed in as he's capable of being?

"There were times where I felt like I was battling myself a little
bit, especially from the windup," Roy said of his outing against the
Mets. "Those are things I still want to work on. I felt better. I'm
happy where I'm at, but I would like to pitch deeper. I would like to do
it with less pitches."

The idea that Doc isn't as efficient as he wants to be should be
scary for opposing teams. He only threw 21 first-pitch strikes on
Thursday against the Mets.

As for the Phillies offense that was supposedly a question mark coming into this season? How's 21 runs in the last two games?

"It was never a question mark in here," Ryan Howard, who is batting
.480 to start the season, said of the Phillies clubhouse. "In here, I
think everybody had the utmost confidence, staying within yourself,
doing what you do. There were a lot of outside people saying 'This
offense this, this offense that.' They can keep talking, but we're just
going out there and playing our game."

And winning five of six to start the season.

So where do the Phils go from here, besides Atlanta obviously.

"Even-keeled. Don't get too high, don't get too low. Just keep
playing. I just leave my guys alone," Charlie said. "Let 'em go out
there and see what they can do when they're playing good. Let's see what
we can do."

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).