Fall Ball: Phils Still Alive, and... Well...

Fall Ball: Phils Still Alive, and... Well...

Friday night saw gorgeous weather in Philly, perfect for an outdoor meal, a few beers, and some playoff-implications baseball to send the summer off in style. Despite some monumental setbacks this season, the Phillies are still an exciting ball club when healthy. Look no further than the past two nights for evidence of that, as they destroyed the Mets in a laugher on Thursday before welcoming the Braves to Citizens Bank Park with a 6-2 victory.  
The Phils find themselves in a somewhat unique situation as fall begins. They're not far from gaining a wild card spot, yet there seems to be little external postseason pressure right now. Most fans wrote the season off as lost months ago, and we've enjoyed the pleasant surprise of a climb in the standings and some great baseball to watch along the way. 
This afternoon, on the first day of the season that has lately brought playoff baseball to Philly, we have a meaningful game to watch, and our team is the one no other clubhouse wants getting into the playoffs. Hard not to enjoy nine innings right about now (possibly while flipping back and forth to Temple-Penn State). 
Last night's starter, Kyle Kendrick, may be the feel-good story of the Phillies' resurgent second half. If this season doesn't have a storybook ending, we can at least appreciate Kendrick's efforts lately and hope he maintains a solid portion of it next season. 
At the plate, Ryan Howard has homered in three straight games, giving him 13 on the season, with 54 RBI in 66 games played. A .228 average may induce a wince, but Todd Zolecki points out that with runners in scoring position, that mark jumps to .343. It's been great to see the Big Piece in the Cadillac again. 
Both he and Chase Utley homered on Friday, marking the 47th time they've gone yard in the same game, per Elias Sports Bureau. Elias also says they're the active leading duo in that regard, with 36 by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun the next best. Again per Zolecki, they're also on the brink of milestones, with Howard a homer shy of 300 and Utley just one away from 200. Kevin Frandsen notched the first of the Phillies' four homers last night, and after Howard homered in the bottom of the fourth, Chooch followed him up with a blast of his own. Meanwhile, Kendrick induced ground ball after ground ball. 
It was hard not to think about what 2012 might have been with a far healthier squad. 
Even still, there is time for a postseason berth to happen, though it will take more than just continuing the winning streak. The Dodgers are just one game ahead of them, the Brewers 1.5 after winning an impressive six straight and nine of 10. Three games back from the Cardinals with 11 to play, starting with tonight's action between Roy Halladay and Mike Minor... That's still a lot of teams to leapfrog and not much time to do it, but it's more than enough reason to tune in. 
Baseball's 162-game season can at times leave individual contests feeling like just another game. For the rest of this regular season, until the Philliess are eliminated or clinch a berth, every plate appearance feels more magnified. Whether they make it or not, that's enjoyable. 
The way the Phils have played on many nights lately (aside from the wtf Houston series) is entertainment enough if you love the game. Go Cubs. 

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

Twenty-five of the Union’s 34 games in 2017 will be featured on CSN and TCN, as Jim Curtin’s club vies for a second straight playoff berth.

Twenty matches will air on TCN, while five can be seen on CSN. The nine others will be appear across 6ABC, ESPN and FOX Sports 1.

The Union’s season opener on March 5 at the Vancouver Whitecaps will broadcast on TCN and the team’s home opener on March 11 against Toronto FC will air on CSN. The next three games — March 18 at Orlando City SC, April 1 at D.C. United and April 8 vs. the Portland Timbers — will be shown on TCN.

The Union are coming off an 11-14-9 season and their second-ever trip to the MLS playoffs in which they suffered a first-round exit to Toronto FC.

For the Union’s full 2017 schedule, click here.

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).