Worrying Time: Phillies Lose Again, The Doctor Is Not Well

Worrying Time: Phillies Lose Again, The Doctor Is Not Well

No excuses left, sadly.

It wasn't a couple of flukes. It wasn't
the catcher. It wasn't bad luck with the long ball, and it wasn't Doc
needing a couple starts to round into form. Roy Halladay of April 2013
is simply not the Roy Halladay of 2010-11. The question is if he ever
will be again, and from the returns tonight, it's hard to be terribly
optimistic.

Needless to say after this gloom-and-doom intro, the
Doctor got hit hard tonight. A three-run shot from John Bonds Aaron
Killebrew Buck on a pitch Roy left dead-red in the zone in the second
was all that was really needed, but more discouraging to me was when the
Phillies finally got on the board with a scraped-together run in the
bottom of the fourth, and after having a 1-2-3 top of the fourth, Doc
gave the run right back in the next inning on a double and a single in
just the blink of an eye, when in years prior he'd have just started
hitting his groove and mowing hitters down with mechanical
inevitability. In the end, Roy gave up seven in just four innings of
work, two of which were cashed in off Chad "Hey, you made your bed, you
lie in it" Durbin when he relieved the Doctor in that 5th innning. The
Phils lost 7-2.

Nothing about this was encouraging.

The
three-run homer, the bad start to the fifth, those were the worst of it,
but they weren't the whole picture. Doc was missing wide and low all
night, and missing badly--the ESPN crew on the telecast even showed one
pitch to Quintero during warmups that sailed about a foot to the left.
For the second-straight starts, he walked three batters, something he
only did once in all of 2011. The body language was bad, the
communication was bad, everything was bad, bad, bad. Bad Roy Halladay.
You never thought you'd see the day, and certainly not this soon.

And
not like the Phillies really needed a contrasting example, but Matt
Harvey was certainly willing to provide one tonight. The Mets' young
starter certainly appears to have all the trappings of an ace in the
making, a zipping fastball, excellent location and a confidence (yes,
fine, swagger) belying his 23 years. He struck out nine, only
walked one, and gave up just one run on three hits--two if you don't
count that lazy Ike Davis throw to first that Chase easily beat out.
He's a starter the Phillies are going to have to reckon with for many
years to come, as if there weren't already enough of those to go around
in the NL East.

And of course, one of those pitchers used to be
Roy Halladay. But after his first two starts of the season, expecting
that guy to magically reappear anytime soon doesn't seem particularly
realistic. Maybe he's somehow hurt and there's something that can be
done to fix him. Maybe it's mental and there are ways he can unburden
himself. Maybe he just needs to accept there are certain things he can't
do anymore, and use his legendary drive and work ethic to find out how
to maximize his success with the tools he has left. Maybe it's a
combination of all three.

I don't pretend to know the answers. I
just know what everybody else now knows--that the guy wearing #34 for
the Fightins tonight was not the guy who threw a no-hitter in his
first-ever post-season start, who perfecto'd the Marlins on a late
Saturday afternoon in May, who averaged 20 wins a game over his first
two seasons in Philadelphia and seemed a safe pencil-in for about that
many more every year he took the mound in the Red and White. And I have
no idea what the Phillies are going to do without him.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).