Wigginton's 6 RBI Power Another Hamels Win

Wigginton's 6 RBI Power Another Hamels Win

The only downside to Memorial Day Weekend is that moment you realize it's almost over and you start taking inventory on whether did enough or relaxed enough, no matter how much of either you crammed in. First you're ecstatic that the three-day summer kickoff is coming, then it's in full swing, and before you know it, you're telling people it feels like Sunday and isn't it weird Game Of Thrones isn't on while fighting off the thought that you'll be at work tomorrow before giving yourself that hey at least it's a four-day work week pep talk. Well, whether your long awesome weekend met its end on a beach, in traffic hell, on a couch, or in a backyard over a fire, at least the Phillies softened the landing with an 8-4 win to start a three-game set with the Mets. Right?
Cole Hamels notched his Major League-leading eighth win of the season with a fine eight-inning effort, and Ty Wigginton put in a career afternoon, knocking in six runs. Hamels was charged with each of the Mets' four runs despite allowing only seven hits and one walk. Twice the Phillies had two-run leads only to have the Mets catch up, each time on a home run. Neither the heat nor the pair of longballs got to Hamels though, and Wigginton made sure he had enough run support. 
More on that below, if you missed or want to relive it. 
The Phils grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning after Mets starter Jonathon Niese got Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco out, then walked Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, who was batting cleanup. Wigginton then got the team's first hit of the day, doubling to right. Great to see the offense wait out a pitcher who had started to struggle, letting him throw balls until he served up a meatball. 
Hamels was punished for walking Lucas Duda in the fifth when Vinny Rottino followed it up with a homer to tie the game at 2. Cole answered with back-to-back strikeouts before getting Niese to ground out and end the inning. The offense immediately got the lead back for him, with Wigginton taking one of his two BBs on the day before John Mayberry Jr BLASTED one to left. The Phils were up 4-2 despite it being only their second hit of the afternoon. 
In the bottom of the sixth, Scott Hairston homered in Kirk Nieuwenhuis to knot the game again. And, in the next frame, the Phils once again regained the lead with Wigginton at the plate. With Bobby Parnell now on the mound, JRoll started the inning with a single for the Phils' third hit. Polly grounded out but moved him over (more on that below), Pence walked, and Shane sac'd Jimmy over to third. Parnell was throwing straight heat, but Wigginton waited for a fat pitch and roped it to center, plating Rollins. 
Cole had a 1-2-3 seventh, then got the Phils' only hit in the eighth (nice to see Jon Rauch keep all his clothes on this time around) before rewarding Charlie Manuel for letting him come back out and face the top of the Mets' order. He allowed a double to pinch-hitter Andres Torres, who got to third on a groundout by Nieuwenhaus. Daniel Murphy grounded out to Galvis, who continues to be outstanding at second base, and David Wright brought his league-leading batting average to the plate. Cole battled him into ground out to third, a tough play handled well by Polanco to end the inning without letting the Mets tie again. 
Then it was Manny Acosta's turn be in Ty Wigginton's highlight reel. Acosta allowed a pair of singles before striking out Victorino, and Wigginton put out to left center, RUINING Jonathan Papelbon's save opportunity. 
Papelbon was already warmed up though, and he had to wait through a pitching change, so Charlie sent him out anyway. 5-8 got the Mets to go down 1-2-3, and it was all barbecue sauce for the visitors. 
NotesAfter the aptly named Justin Turner turned his ankle when caught in a third inning rundown [video here], David Wright had to move over to shortstop in the fourth inning. Turner was himself a fill-in at SS, with Ronny Cedeno already hurt. Wright's inexperience at the position did come into play later, when Polanco grounded to the pitcher, who turned and threw it to Wright as he ran to cover second. It would have been a very close play, but Wright was well in front the bag and never tagged it before throwing to get Polly out at first. Can't see the base, can ya Russ? (Debby Wong, US Presswire)
Wigginton would knock Rollins in after he'd advanced to third, giving the Phils a 5-4 lead. Had it not been for Wigginton's homer in the ninth, that run might have stood up as the winner. Wright also had a throwing error, but that was in the first inning, before he made the move to short. 
He was also 0-4 on the day, plummeting his average to .373. Everyone point and laugh at David Wright!
Chooch, who is third only to Wright and Melky Cabrera in NL batting average, had to sit the afternoon out, scratched with a tight right hammy. You just rest up, Most Valuable Panamanian. 
Hairston has Cole's number. Check out these career stats against him
Reuben Frank pointed out that Cole hadn't allowed more than three earned runs since September of 2011, dating back 14 starts, and Brian Schneider also caught him that day. Not going to hang anything on Schneider though, especially the day after he caught Kyle Kendrick's shutout. 
With the Braves losing their eighth in a row, the Phillies are no longer in sole possession of last place in the East. Both clubs are four games back. 
It was a great day for watching baseball, as well as remembering why many of us had the day off today. Spending time with friends and family, relaxing, or yes, even working, are all great ways to respect the ultimate sacrifice of so many US servicemen and women. Thank you to our fallen soldiers, the families they've left behind, and to those currently serving. 

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

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Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

By now, most Eagles fans have probably heard stories that the team coveted Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft, but waited too long and wound up watching helplessly as he went to the Seahawks. Doug Pederson was just an offensive quality control coordinator with back then, but even he realizes how losing out on a franchise quarterback altered the course of history.

“If we’d have drafted Russell Wilson in 2012, we’d still be here as coaches,” Pederson said with a smile.

That's what Pederson tells Albert Breer for TheMMQB.com, and there might be a bit of truth to it. Despite concerns over his stature, it turns out Wilson was an outstanding NFL signal-caller from the jump, and while he was surrounded with a dominant defense and ground attack, likely would've been a winner just about anywhere.

Actually, Wilson may not have been good enough to save Andy Reid's head coaching job in Philadelphia or his staff — after 14 years, it was time, and an offensive line depleted by injuries was the real reason behind a 4-12 season. Regardless, Pederson learned something from waiting too long on Wilson in the draft, and based on their aggressive move for Carson Wentz this year, the Eagles organization did too.

Simply enough, if you like a quarterback, Pederson says, “Take him. Take him. Take the best available one. If you’re not planning for the quarterback position, you’re probably not going to win many games.”

...

“There’s a lesson there. Seattle, they felt like we did with Russell Wilson,” Pederson said. “We got Nick Foles right after that, and I love Nick Foles and think he’s gonna be a good quarterback in this league and do well for Kansas City. But if you’re not planning for that position …”

For as much criticism or questioning as the Eagles have faced for their plan at the quarterback position this year, "take him" certainly was not the issue. In addition to all of players and draft collateral they gave up for Wentz, they also invested large sums of money into current starter Sam Bradford and long-term backup Chase Daniel.

If you think Pederson and executive vice president of personnel Howie Roseman's experience of missing out on Wilson didn't play a role in those moves, the head coach made it quite clear to the contrary. While Eagles fans would prefer the known quantity and proven Super Bowl champion under center, you can't say this regime hasn't done everything in its power to erase that mistake.

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).