FLYERS TAKE GAME 3

FLYERS TAKE GAME 3

Could this series be any tighter? Three games, each decided by a single goal, with tonight's requiring overtime to be broken. Claude Giroux masterfully deflected a pass by Matt Carle to take advantage of a Chicago line change and beat Antti Niemi in OT for a 4-3 win.

Once again, neither team ever had more than a two-goal lead, and now the Blackhawks' series lead is down to 2-1 with another game in Philly scheduled for this Friday night. Highlights and video after the jump.

That was playoff hockey at its best. Both teams played well, generating opportunities between long stretches of solid defensive play and game-stealing goaltending. There were some shifts and goals each side would like back, but mistakes weren't the deciding factor in this one. Nor were bad calls or excessive minutes spent on special teams, although the latter was definitely a deciding factor. 

It was a straight-up battle, and the Flyers came out on top. 

The first period was especially tight, with both sides on lock down in front of their respective nets despite nearly non-stop action for most of the frame. The Blackhawks really played well defensively all game, blocking shots, clogging lanes, and limiting the quality of the Flyers opportunities in normal circumstances. It took power plays and ultimately a rough line change for the Flyers to break through. 

The home club took the all-important first goal, with Scott Hartnell making an amazing pass in front of Niemi's crease—backward across his falling body to Danny Briere—who potted it from the back door

If any player on this team needed redemption on the postseason, it was Hartnell, who would go on to score the Flyers' second goal after the Blackhawks had answered. Hartnell's goal also came on the man advantage, again with Harts wreaking havoc in front of the net. Chris Pronger fired the puck on net from the point, and Hartnell deflected it past Niemi, who had little shot at cleanly stopping it. 

It's hard to ask for more from that entire line. Ville Leino's confidence with the puck was again on display tonight, and Briere was buzzing the net constantly and could've easily had another goal or two. Leino's 15 points tie a club record for playoff points by a rookie, held by Brian Propp. Not bad for the guy Homer stole for OKT and a 5th rounder... 

If not for a huge night from Niemi, the score would not have been near as close. 

For the second straight game, the Flyers led the Blackhawks in third period shots by a huge margin of 15-4. Especially given how gassed the Flyers looked in the third, that ain't easy to pull off, and it finally broke Chicago down. During a frustratingly light start to the OT in terms of shots on goal, the Flyers caught the Blackhawks on a line change and entered the zone with a full line converging on just three Chicago defenders. They moved the puck quickly across the zone, with Briere finding Carle, who fired a pass toward a streaking Giroux, who made an unbelievable tip under his skate to beat Niemi.

Giroux also helped to create the Flyers' tying goal in the third period, a horn blast that stopped the Blackhawks' momentum at a critical point in the game. Twenty seconds after Kane's long break in on Leighton put the Hawks ahead, flung the puck toward the net, hitting Chicago defenseman Jordan Hendry and bouncing to Leino, who put it behind Niemi. Again, a tough stop for any goalie to make.   

Mike Richards missed on a few shots that had the Delaware Valley on its feet, and current linemate Jeff Carter had a tough game including too many key turnovers and especially a deflection past his own goalie. Duncan Keith was credited with the game's first equalizer, but Leighton had no chance to make the save on a puck that was severely redirected on a shot-blocking attempt by Carter. Before the torches and pitchforks come out, remember that Carter is playing on surgically repaired broken feet, and he returned to make a difference in the Montreal series. 

Dan Carcillo could see the next game from the press box though. Lavvy clipped his wings late in the second period, and I don't remember seeing him after that. He wasn't the only Flyer to see limited time late in the game or overall for that matter, but his is the most likely spot to see a change, if there'll be one at all. However, we can't discount the undisciplined play by some of the Blackhawks in this one. Guys like Carcillo, Hartnell, and Pronger can unnerve a team into taking dumb penalties, and Pronger in particular has won the much-publicized battle with Dustin Byfuglien in this series. Byfuglien took two penalties in game 3 and is a minus-3 for the series. The Flyers' second goal of the game came on a powerplay awarded after Byfuglien broke Chris Pronger's stick with a slash after the two had been battling in front of the net. 

When the Flyers' backs are against the wall, they've come out swinging and found a way to win it. It'd help the collective cardiac health of the fanbase to have it come easier, but that doesn't seem to be their style. 

Hopefully the haters continue to count them out and call the series over. As soon as that happens, they start to win. This isn't to say they're anything more than down two games to one in the series though. They're still a long way away from celebrating anything more than still being alive with a chance to tie it on Friday. But tonight we'll definitely celebrate that. 

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Opportunity for a rare 4-game win streak

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Opportunity for a rare 4-game win streak

Phillies (33-61) vs. Brewers (52-47)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

For the first time since they won four straight from June 3-6, the Phillies have a three-game winning streak going. On Friday night, they were carried by the arm of Aaron Nola, who is on a roll since early June (see story). Going for the Phils' fourth straight win, Jeremy Hellickson toes the rubber Saturday against rookie lefty Brent Suter.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Gone streaking?
A winning streak! The Phillies have put together one of their better stretches of the season over the last week, winning four out of five beginning with the final game of their set in Milwaukee. 

While the offense has picked up its play in that span (6.2 runs per game in the last five), the pitching needs to be mentioned first. The staff has come together well and looks much more like what the team expected in the spring. Fitting, the three-game streak began with six quality innings from Vince Velasquez. This season has been a struggle for the righty, who came off the disabled list in the win.

On Wednesday, Nick Pivetta allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, but the bullpen held the Marlins scoreless. And then there was Nola on Friday. He looked sharp from the get-go and found a second gear when the lineup turned over. The second time through the lineup, he struck out seven batters in the midst of retiring 10 straight batters.

Now to the offense. Going into Friday's win, the Phillies were ninth in team OPS in July. Nick Williams has 10 hits in his last six games, picking up where Aaron Altherr left off. Maikel Franco has a five-game hit streak and has raised his average to .233, the highest it's been since the Phillies' opening series in April.

Meanwhile, the Brewers are ice cold. They've lost six straight and have a tenuous hold on their division with the red-hot Chicago Cubs on their heels. They're only a game up on the Cubs and are one behind in the loss column. They're only 2.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh and 3.5 up on the Cardinals. The clock may have hit midnight on baseball's first-half Cinderella.

2. Hellickson at home
In his last time out, Hellickson had the Brewers off balance for most of his outing. He was cruising into the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead, but the righty made one big mistake, leading to a home run by Brett Phillips that put Milwaukee up.

While the Phillies won the game, it ended Hellickson's day. It was the first time in his last five starts that he had failed to complete at least six innings.

The righty has been on a mini-roll since he was roughed up by the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park last month. In his last five appearances, he has a 3.26 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. He's allowed only 30 baserunners in that period and held batters to a .227 average. 

Looking at Hellickson's season as a whole, he has similar numbers away from CBP in 2017 compared to last year. However, he's faltered at home. He had a 3.16 ERA in 99 2/3 innings at CBP last year with a 4.55 K/BB ratio. This year, it's a 4.59 ERA with a 1.59 K/BB ratio while his home run rate has ballooned. It's not a great look for a pitcher the Phillies would like to trade.

3. Brewers turn to the rookie
With their division lead evaporating, the Brewers are turning to Suter, a rookie making just his 12th appearance and fifth start of the season after making 14 and two last year. 

And the lefty has looked good in limited action. In 32 innings, he has a 3.09 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks. He's allowed 32 hits and just one home run.

The 27-year-old lefty has had success despite his four-seam fastball topping out in the upper 80s. He still throws it 70.3 percent of the time working in his mid-70s slider and low-80s changeup with some success. He'll rarely throw his curveball. 

One may wonder how a lefty who doesn't touch 90 mph can handle RHBs. Believe it or not, Suter actually has a reverse split for his career, holding righties to a .680 OPS while LHBs hit .803 off him.

Suter has made three starts in July and has held hitters to a .254/.294/.317 slash line in 17 innings, striking out 15 and walking four.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Speaking of lefties, Odubel Herrera has had better command of the strike zone recently. He's drawn a walk in four consecutive games and has five walks to go with nine hits since the All-Star break.

Brewers: Eric Thames has cooled off considerably since his hot April, but he still leads the Brewers with 23 home runs this season and has a .774 OPS since May. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies haven't won back-to-back series since sweeping Atlanta and Miami April 21-27. They've lost every home series since taking two of three from the Giants on June 2-4.

• In five career starts against the Brewers, Hellickson is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA over 28 innings. 

• Mark Leiter Jr. took a loss for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Friday, but Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery hit their 21st and fifth home runs for the IronPigs, respectively.

With off-the-charts command, Kyle Young aims to become tallest MLB pitcher ever

With off-the-charts command, Kyle Young aims to become tallest MLB pitcher ever

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Phillies prospect Kyle Young is aiming to become the tallest pitcher in MLB history.
 
The 7-foot left-hander out of Long Island has become the staff ace in Short-Season Class A Williamsport, with a 1.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and just seven walks in 28 1/3 innings this season. Those numbers would be impressive for any 19-year-old pitcher, but when you consider his size, Young’s command is off the charts.
 
His coaches attribute that ability to an athleticism rarely seen in taller pitchers.
 
“The amazing thing with him is the coordination he brings to the table,” Crosscutters pitching coach Hector Berrios said. “It’s been off the charts for a guy his size to be able to repeat his delivery and not only do it with one pitch, he does it with all three pitches.”
 
Right now, those three pitches include a fastball that reaches the low 90s, a changeup and an off-speed pitch that Young calls a “slurve.” And he believes that his height gives him an additional weapon.
 
“Not even just because of the intimidation or anything, but also just the downward plane that I can get on the ball with my fastball," Young said. "I think that really helps induce groundballs. I know they’re going to hit it, everybody hits fastballs, but just try to get weak contact. That's the main goal.”
 
“He hides the ball fairly well in addition to the release point being a tad bit closer to the plate, which matters,” said Crosscutters manager Pat Borders, who you might remember as the starting catcher for the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. “If you get a release point that's a foot closer, it's like adding some velocity. He's a kid now physically. In a couple years, you're going to have somebody that's throwing harder and already has the mindset and physical skills to do some damage.”
 
The Phillies selected Young in the 22nd round last year, and a $225,000 bonus swayed him to turn pro rather than accept a scholarship to Hofstra. Early in his professional career, it looks like money well spent by the Phillies.

You can see more on Young, 2017 first-round pick Adam Haseley and 18-year-old power-hitting sensation Jhailyn Ortiz on the next episode of Phillies Clubhouse, which airs Saturday (11 p.m.) and Sunday (12:30 p.m., 6 p.m.) on CSN.