Hamels Guts Marlins, But Leaves Early... Plus: A Five-Homer Night for Phils

Hamels Guts Marlins, But Leaves Early... Plus: A Five-Homer Night for Phils

Cole Hamels dominated, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Dom Brown went yard, and the Phillies took game one of their four game series against Florida Marlins by a final of 9-1. However, just when it felt like they were on top of the world, Hamels left the game in the eighth inning with an apparent back issue.

For about an hour or so, it seemed things might not go the home team's way on Tuesday night. Viewers were treated to a sixty minute block of The Charlie Manuel Show while the start of the game was delayed by rain. Then once the action finally got underway, the Marlins grouped together a couple of quick singles off Cole, and were able to jump out to a 1-0 first inning lead on a softly hit ball up the first base line.

The threat would not last very long.

Home Run Derby
Howard got to Phillies' punching bag Chris Volstad right away, going to opposite field to take a 2-1 lead from which they would never look back. It was Howard's seventh career home run in 25 official at bats against the Florida righty.

But the offense wasn't finished. The Phils notched their first five-dinger game of the season, with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins each adding two-run blasts of their own, and Domonic Brown grabbing a table for one—twice. Brown's second found its way into Citizen Bank Park's 200 level with ease.

Four of the five bombs came off of Volstad, who is now 0-6 over his last nine starts versus the Phils. He lasted 5.2, perhaps in a futile effort to preserve the bullpen for tomorrow's double header.

The Phillies previously had not hit four home runs or more in a game this season.

Hamels Dominant, But...
While the recent offensive surge is certainly something to talk about, undoubtedly aided in large part by the red hot Utley, the real story of the game was once again Hamels. Once the Phillies took back the lead in the first, the game's outcome was never in jeopardy.

The win is Cole's ninth, tied for the most in baseball. He settled in nicely after the two Marlins singles that led to their lone run, retiring 17 consecutive batters between the first and sixth innings. That stretch could have been even longer were it not for a Howard error, his first of the season.

Again, Hamels did exit prematurely in the top of the eighth after issuing a walk to Wes Helms. With a huge lead in tact, the staff opted not to take any chances and pulled him at the first sign of discomfort, so there is no way of knowing how serious it is or not at this point. The team announced Hamels had "tightness in his middle back."

David Herndon replaced Hamels, throwing scoreless eighth and ninth frames.

As we mentioned pregame, Hamels may have been a little lost in the shuffle before the season began. Regardless of who throws where in the rotation or who reporters and fans pay the most attention to, there is no debating that King Cole is looking like one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball of late.

We can only hope his injury anything that sets him back or causes him to miss much if any time.

Are They Back?
The other take-home from tonight is the continued emergence of the offense. We don't want to get too excited, as the recent increase in production came against the lowly Cubs, and tonight at the expense of Volstad, whom they routinely pummel.

Still, with Utley beginning to come through and showing signs that his power is returning, there are some reasons to be encouraged by the last few games. It's too early to say it's all coming together for the Phils, but nights like Tuesday serve as a reminder why they are the favorites in the National League.

Photos by US Presswire, Dom Brown by AP.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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AP Images

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.