Don't look now, but the Flyers have gone streaking

Don't look now, but the Flyers have gone streaking

Today’s Philadelphia Flyers post is brought to you by the number 10.

That’s because by virtue of their 3-1 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, the Flyers have won 10 straight home games.

It’s the Orange and Black’s longest home winning streak since the 2003-2004 season when they eventually reached the Eastern Conference Final. And it’s been quite an impressive streak.

The Flyers haven’t lost in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center in over two months. The last time the Flyers lost in South Philly, Claude Giroux hadn’t even scored his first goal of the season yet.

But why have the Flyers been so good at home over the last 10 games? There are a few reasons.

First and foremost, they’ve scored a ton of goals in that span. As a matter of fact, the Flyers have outscored opponents 39-17 over that run. The scoring has been balanced, too. Led by Giroux with seven, goals have been scored by 17 different Flyers over that span. Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds are right behind Giroux with five goals apiece over that stretch.

During the home win streak, they’ve even gotten goals from defensemen, which something they sorely lacked at the beginning of the season. Five different Flyers defensemen have scored goals in that span. That doesn’t include Andrej Meszaros, who had three assists Wednesday night in the win over Montreal.

The goaltending has been stellar as well.

Steve Mason has started nine of the 10 games and let up just 16 goals. That’s good for a 1.60 goals-against average. That’ll win you a lot of games. In his one start against Buffalo on Nov. 21, Ray Emery gave up just one goal in a 4-1 win.

The Flyers have also won 10 of their last 13 games overall. The thing about that is only five of those 13 games have been played at home and the team had been on the road for two weeks prior to Wednesday night.

In layman’s terms, that means the Flyers have been playing just as well on the road as they have at home recently. So well, in fact, that they’ve pulled themselves out of the basement and now sit all alone in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 50 points.

Why have they been so good over the last few weeks?

It’s the same story as the home winning streak.

Starting with the Dec. 12 win over the Canadiens, the Flyers have outscored their opponents 47-34 over a span of 13 games. Again, the scoring has been balanced.  Led by Simmonds with nine, goals have been scored by 13 different Flyers in that span. Giroux is just behind Simmonds with seven goals in that span.

Again, the defense has chipped in with some offensive production. Four different Flyers defensemen have scored over the last thirteen games and Mark Streit has four goals alone in that span.

Per usual, the goaltending has been superb.

Mason has started 10 of the last 13 games and given up just 25 goals. That’s good for a 1.92 goals-against average. While Emery has given up nine goals in his three starts over that stretch, he’s won two of those three starts. Plus, that number is a bit inflated to due to overall dud the Flyers laid in Columbus when they gave up six goals in a loss on Dec. 21.

The Orange and Black will look to make it 11 in a row at home and keep the good vibes going when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to South Philly for an afternoon matinee on Saturday.

Though without star Steven Stamkos and starting goalie Ben Bishop due to injuries, the Tampa is still a dangerous team. Tampa currently sits in second place in the Atlantic Division and took the only previous meeting between the teams this season with a 4-2 victory in Florida on Nov. 27.

It’s a double dip for the Flyers this weekend as they’ll then head north to take on the New York Rangers at Madsion Square Garden on Sunday night.  Every Flyers/Rangers is important but with as tight as the Metropolitan Division standings are, this one will be especially important.

Plus, keep in mind that the Flyers haven’t won at Madison Square Garden since Feb. 20, 2011. Ouch.

Also, if you haven’t heard, Read is out indefinitely with what has been deemed a concussion  and Zac Rinaldo will miss about six weeks or so with a high ankle sprain. Tye McGinn has been called up to take Rinaldo’s place.

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies' late-May slide continued in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
 
Aaron Nola delivered a solid start, but got poor run support. The Phillies entered the game averaging 3.2 runs per game, lowest in the majors.
 
The Nationals scored all their runs on home runs.
 
The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-7 in their last eight and have gone from 25-19 and two games back in the NL East to 26-26 and 5½ games back.
  
Starting pitching report
Nola went six innings and allowed two runs, both on solo homers. He walked one and struck out six. He is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
 
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (5-4) pitched a strong game. He gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Ross has given up just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
 
Bullpen report
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the Nats in a non-save situation.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have been held to two or fewer runs 20 times in their 52 games.

Cesar Hernandez tripled home the Phillies' only run.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy accounted for the Nationals’ first two runs pair of solo homers against Nola. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer off Colton Murray in the ninth and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
Murphy also singled in the game. He had 47 hits in the month of May, tying a Washington/Montreal franchise record that had previously been shared by Al Oliver and Marquis Grissom.

Lineup stuff
Mackanin was trying to send Hernandez a message by batting him eighth (see story).
 
Bryce Harper did not play for Washington. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch in Monday night’s game.
 
Slumping Ryan Howard started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats to fall to .154. He hit .101 (7 for 69) in the month of May.
 
Howard will not start Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. He is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer. Tommy Joseph will start that game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint expires Wednesday. He could rejoin the team at any time.
 
Up next
 The series concludes on Wednesday night. Lefty Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) pitches against Washington right-hander Scherzer (5-4, 4.05).

Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

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Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

CHESTER, Pa. — For more than a month, Union center back Ken Tribbett waited patiently on the sidelines, hoping to get the starting spot back that he had and then lost.

Last week, he indeed got back on the field … and then some.

After Joshua Yaro separated his shoulder in Orlando on Wednesday, Tribbett proceeded to notch his first MLS goal and assist, before playing the full 90 minutes in front of 30 family members in his home state of Colorado on Saturday.

It was quite the eventful week for someone who wasn’t expected to play at all during the road trip, let alone accomplish a couple of emotional milestones.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tribbett told reporters from Tuesday’s training session after the Union returned home following hard-fought road draws vs. Orlando City SC and the Colorado Rapids. “For me, being out a month, mentally I had to make sure I stayed tuned in. And when I got my chance, I stepped in and was ready to go.”

Even if you are mentally prepared, it’s still not an easy thing to step in at center back in the middle of a game, considering that’s a position that rarely gets changed. Making things even more difficult was the fact that Yaro, who took over starting duties after Tribbett rolled his ankle in April, had been looking every bit like the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

“Josh was playing a great game in Orlando,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “If you go back and watch the tape, he was one of our top performers. Ken stepped in at the end of the first half, which is challenging at center back — not a position you like to sub at all. But Ken came in pretty seamlessly and got the goal, which is a bonus, obviously.”

You can call it a really big bonus.

Tribbett was never expected to even be in MLS this year after failing to get much notice following a standout career at Drexel.

And he certainly wasn’t expected to log much playing time this season with the Union, who added Yaro and Anderson, a Brazilian, to a position that already featured a rising star in Richie Marquez.

So surprises are nothing new for Tribbett, who started the first five games of the year after soaring up the depth chart in the preseason and now has a goal to add to his unlikely MLS resume.

But it’s no surprise to him.

“I don’t think shock is the right word because I expect a lot of myself and I expect to score a couple of goals this year,” Tribbett said. “So it was just more relief to get the first one out of the way. Any time you score, it’s jubilation, so that was awesome. And to tie the game in Orlando after going down 2-1 was really good for the team, so everything about it was just a special moment.”

Tribbett, who also had a secondary assist in Orlando, enjoyed another “special moment” just three days later when he got to play in the Denver area where he grew up. That was not something he could have imagined after his circuitous journey took him from Colorado to Drexel to the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders and now to the Union.

“That was probably a moment I won’t ever forget,” Tribbett said. “I had about 20 or 30 family members there, and for a lot of them it was the first time they’ve seen me play professionally. So being back home in Colorado was a special feeling.”

Although the Union backline stayed organized and surrendered only a couple of shots on target in Colorado, Curtin did say it wasn’t the best performance from Tribbett. But the Union coach is ready to lean on him again for Wednesday’s game vs. the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m./TCN) while Yaro gets an MRI on his shoulder.

“He did fatigue at the end and I talked to him about it,” Curtin said of Tribbett. “He had a couple of little mistakes toward the end of the game. Part of that is your legs starting to fade. But it’s good for him that’s under his belt. He’ll be ready to go now [Wednesday] for the full 90 minutes.”

With the Union idle for two weeks following Wednesday’s game because of a Copa America layoff — and Tribbett’s place in the lineup uncertain from there — the Drexel alum is certainly excited to get back on the field for his first home game since April 8.

“It’s a very important game,” Tribbett said. “We want to go into the break with certain goals for ourselves. We want to be at the top of the conference, and if we win, we’ll achieve that goal. We want to keep one goal per game [allowed]. Right now, we’re one off that, so if we get a shutout tomorrow, we’ll be right back on track.”

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

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The Associated Press

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

Pete Mackanin dropped second baseman Cesar Hernandez to eighth in the batting order for Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals.

“If you want to call it a message you can call it a message,” Mackanin said.

Hernandez entered the game hitting .255 with a .616 OPS. Last year, he hit .272 with and .687 OPS.

“I expect more out of him,” Mackanin said. “I think he's a better hitter than he's shown. I think he's a .280 hitter and I think he's at .250. I want to see improvement. We need him to get back up to .280, where I think he belongs. He’s got to make adjustments. We need offense.”

Mackanin pointed to Hernandez’ double-play partner, shortstop Freddy Galvis, as an example of a player who has made improvements.

Galvis entered Tuesday night hitting .257 with a .696 OPS. But in the month of May, he was hitting .277 with a .708 OPS.

“Freddy is starting to come on,” Mackanin said. “He’s starting to make adjustments.”

Galvis has also played excellent defense.

The Phillies are a rebuilding club with a number of potential big-league contributors rounding out their development in the minors. The team’s top prospect is a shortstop – J.P. Crawford – and he’s in Triple A now. It’s not out of the question that he will be the team’s opening day shortstop next season.

Crawford’s eventual ascension impacts both Galvis and Hernandez. Galvis can also play second base. Whether Hernandez or Galvis becomes the second baseman when Crawford arrives could be determined by who hits. This is the time to make impressions.

“That's basically what it boils down to,” Mackanin said. “I've even talked to them about that — 'It's an important year for both of you because there are people who want to be in the big leagues that are in the minor leagues and want to take your job.' You have to approach it that way. You can't let down. You have to stay focused and work hard.”

While all signs point to Crawford taking over at shortstop in the future, Mackanin said Galvis’ defense should not be taken for granted.

“As well as Freddy is playing shortstop, you'd hate to move a guy like that out of that position,” Mackanin said. “It's a defensive position and he's been so good at it.”

Galvis entered Tuesday night with just two errors in 50 games. His .990 fielding percentage trailed only San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, both .995.