Happening Elsewhere: Rays Finally Win One By A Lot, More Manny Fallout

Happening Elsewhere: Rays Finally Win One By A Lot, More Manny Fallout

The only good thing about the start to the Rays' season, which has already seen a month or two's worth of injuries, disappointing performances and controversies, is that the AL East-favorite Red Sox started 0-6 themselves, managing to overshadow their own putrid beginnings. But with Boston finally getting a big shutout win against the Yankees Sunday night on national TV, the onus was back on the 1-8 Rays to prove that it was still far too early to count them out of the suddenly all-around-competitive race in the East.

A 16-5 win will certainly help with that, as the Rays obliterated the Red Sox last night for their second, and easily their biggest, win of the season. Four different players on the team had three-RBI nights, including top-of-the-lineup hitters Sam Fuld (4-6) and Johnny Damon (3-5), both of whom went yard once as well. Most of the blame on the Red Sox falls to starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (2 IP, 7 ER), but it wouldn't be fair to let Tim Wakefield (3 1/3 IP, 5 ER) or Dan Wheeler (1 IP, 4 ER) off the hook, either. The Rays and Red Sox now sit tied in the East basement with their matching 2-8 records. 

Meanwhile, Damon sounded off about his teammate (in both Tampa and earlier as WS champs with the Red Sox) Manny Ramirez, and the pending drug-related suspension that caused Ramirez to announce his surprise retirement late last week. "I can't believe it," he said of the chain of events. "I thought if you got busted one  time, you definitely don't get busted again. Maybe I'm wrong. Believe  me, it shocked us all." Still, he bears Manny no particular ill will. "I wish him nothing but the best," says Damon. "He was a great teammate of mine, a  great player. I was just hoping we would continue to have all the fun we  had, and for it to end so abruptly and for the reasoning, it's sad. I  hope Manny's in a better place."

He knows that Manny's not dead or anything, right? Idiot.

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Who needs to the Pope when you have Ginger Jesus?

The NFL Draft Experience joined a long list of wildly popular events in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and all along the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The NFL announced today that nearly 100,000 fans enjoyed the experience, the most-ever for a draft-related event, on day 1 of the draft alone.

Fans flooded into the Experience with people from all across the country in town to support their respective teams. Eagles fans clearly dominated the crowd, however, as you couldn't go a few minutes without hearing an E-A-G-L-E-S chant. 

ESPN also showed some love all night long. SportsCenter's Scott Van Pelt called the story of the night in Philadelphia the city of Philly itself. Adam Schefter called it the "wildest, most raucous crowd in draft history." Jon Gruden called Philly "one of the greatest football towns on the planet."

Aside from not being totally in love with their first pick Derek Barnett upon first blush, Philly fans showed off wonderfully. Even the booing of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came off as cute.

The Draft Experience is open again on Friday from noon until 11:00 pm and on Saturday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. It's free for all fans.

Try the games, avoid the cheesesteaks. And bring some sunscreen (ugh).

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

Unless you're a die-hard Phillies fan, you might not grasp just how good Jeremy Hellickson has been since the start of 2016.

Hellickson, who allowed one run in six innings Thursday to improve to 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA this season, hasn't just been solid — he's legitimately been one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Some stats to back it up:

• Hellickson has a 1.11 WHIP the last two seasons. That's a better mark than Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana and Chris Archer have.

• Over the last calendar year, Hellickson's 3.29 ERA ranks ninth-best in the NL. Over that span he has a lower ERA than some really good pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Carlos Martinez, Hamels, Quintana and Rick Porcello. It's almost identical to Chris Sale's 3.26 ERA over that span.

• Hellickson over the last calendar year has walked 2.03 batters per nine innings. That's fifth-best in the NL behind only Mike Leake, Bartolo Colon, Madison Bumgarner and Syndergaard. (Jerad Eickhoff is a spot below Hellickson at 2.05 and then comes Max Scherzer at 2.08).

• How has Hellickson been so effective with so low a strikeout rate? He's thrown exactly 250 pitches since 2016 on the low-outside corner and low-inside corner. That's fifth-most in the majors, behind only Jon Lester, Zach Davies, Keuchel and Kyle Hendricks. Paint.

This stat refers to zones 17 and 19 in the image below.

Of course, Hellickson has done this with an extremely low strikeout rate. He's never been a big strikeout guy, but he did say Thursday he's been a bit surprised to have this much success in 2017 with his lowest career K rate. 

Hellickson has a very low batting average on balls in play which will regress closer to his career average, but it's not as if luck is the sole factor here. As mentioned above, he's hit spots as well as almost anyone in the majors. 

And the changeup, his elite pitch, gets some swings and misses but more often results in weak contact and quick outs. The worm will turn at some point, but Hellickson shouldn't be expected to fall off a cliff and revert back into a pitcher with a high-4.00s ERA.

The Phillies did well with this acquisition two offseasons ago and may have been fortunate things with Hellickson worked out the way they did. He has even more trade value now than he did a year ago.