Flyers Anouncer Jim Jackson On Why He Loves the Shootout

Flyers Anouncer Jim Jackson On Why He Loves the Shootout

With the Flyers in the midst of a club record four consecutive games decided by shootout, you may have noticed that I've aired a few of my grievances with the NHL's
method for breaking tied games. However, we recognize that many people
do enjoy a shootout, and even more despise a game ending in a tie. Last
April, I met Flyers play-by-play announcer Jim Jackson
on the field at Citizens Bank Park before the Phillies were to host
the Nationals in their 2010 home opener. The night before, the Flyers
had clinched a playoff spot after beating the Rangers in a shootout,
and I couldn't help but ask him what it was like to call that game. I
was glued to his every word about calling the clinching save by Brian
Boucher, as well as how much he enjoys the shootout's place in hockey.
So today, we have asked JJ to share why he loves the shootout. These
are his words. --Matt P.

THUMBS UP FOR THE SHOOTOUT

By Jim Jackson

Ahhh, the shootout. It’s been
around now for nearly six full NHL seasons, and still, its mere mention
can stir the most intense argument. It has become to hockey what the
designated hitter has been to baseball for so many years—an absolute hot
button topic.

Count me in support of shootouts. The most basic reason for this is
because evidence suggests, despite all of the debate on the subject,
that fans, in general, like it. What evidence you say? For one,
observations at rinks during shootouts. I have yet to witness one where
fans aren’t standing and fully engrossed in the one-on-one competition
between shooter and goalie.

More evidence? Take a look at television ratings. There is almost
always a significant spike in viewership when a game goes to the
shootout. It seems even the marginal hockey fans are attracted to them.
In addition, shootouts make for great video clips on all the sports
shows at the end of the night in local markets as well as nationally,
which gives our sport more exposure.

Yes, it seems, the shootout generates plenty of interest. Yet, there
are the sometimes boisterous detractors. The most common complaint I
hear is that it’s a gimmick and not really part of the game. Thus, it
shouldn’t decide the winner of a hotly contested battle between two
teams.

I don’t buy it. The basic object of hockey is for a shooter to beat a
goalie. Yes, when at full strength, teamwork and pretty passing plays
are things of beauty. But in the end, it’s about a player getting the
puck past a goaltender. In the shootout, it’s one-on-one for everyone to
see. How much more of a “hockey play” is a shot that deflects of a
player’s backside in front of the net than a brilliant move by a player
going in on a breakaway?

Having said that, I enjoy overtime hockey as much as the next person.
The sudden death nature of it creates tremendous drama. If it were
feasible, allowing games to be played to their conclusion in overtime
would be great. But with travel schedules and the like, regular season
games have to be completed within a certain timeframe. A five-minute
overtime period gives teams one last chance to wrap things up in game
action. The shootout, to me, is an exciting and appropriate way to put
an exclamation point to a game after that.

Alec Asher's two-seamer shines in another effective outing

Alec Asher's two-seamer shines in another effective outing

NEW YORK -- Alec Asher’s two-seamer was nearly perfect against the Mets on Saturday night — even if the pitching line was attached to his name was decidedly less so.

The rookie exited after five innings with four unearned runs attached to his name — two Phillies’ throwing errors on playable ground balls will do that — but lowered his ERA to 1.66 in a 10-8 victory that was far, far closer than it needed to be.

Lost in the shuffle of the Phillies bullpen’s attempt at self-immolation was just how effective Asher’s newly-developed two-seam fastball was in the early innings against the Mets’ full lineup. The relatively slow pitch — it was sitting around 90 MPH Saturday — generated six popouts during his perfect first trip through the batting order.

“Being able to throw a pitch that’s not straight works wonders,” Asher said. “Last year, I didn’t really have success throwing the four-seam, so just adding that little bit of movement misses barrels, [generates] mishits and gave me a lot of ground balls and weak contact, which is all I can ask for.”

Opponents are batting just .182 off Asher’s two-seamer in his four starts this year, according to data from Fangraphs.com, a complete 180 from his disastrous September call-up in 2015.

In his first major league starts, Asher struggled to establish a mound presence with a four-seamer that nearly touched 95 MPH. Opponents batted .250 and got seven extra-base hits off the four seamer as Asher finished 2015 with an ugly 9.31 ERA.

The Phillies challenged Asher to generative more movement on the pitch and he returned in Spring Training with an entirely new repertoire.

So far, the effort has paid off.

“It’s outstanding. It’s been a real good pitch for him and his changeup,” manager Pete Mackanin said of Asher’s two-seamer. “He didn’t have either pitch last year, and for him to come up with it over the course of the winter and throw those pitches so effectively is huge.”

Asher relied on the changeup to escape the fifth inning — the only high-stress situation he faced all evening.

With four runs already in, a fifth runner poised on third base and a Citi Field crowd beside itself in hopes of a miracle comeback, Asher got pinch-hitter James Loney to top a low changeup out of the zone down the first base line that Tommy Joseph stopped with a dive.

“[I wanted] just to slow the game down and take it pitch by pitch,” Asher said.

Even if Saturday wound up being perhaps a bit more frantic than he would have liked to be, Asher has developed a formula for future success as he prepares for his final start of the season next Friday — also against the Mets — and 2017.

“Just establishing the fastball, commanding both sides of the plate and changing speeds,” he said.

His two-run single in the first inning on Saturday night — his first two career RBIs and, ultimately, the winning margin — was a bonus.

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Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

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