Flyers Outlast Penguins 6-5 in Instant Classic

Flyers Outlast Penguins 6-5 in Instant Classic

Warning in advance: there is no way a summary of Wednesday
night’s tilt between the Flyers and Penguins could ever do the action justice – particularly the wild third period that
had fans of every allegiance on the edge of their seats literally until the final
horn sounded a 6-5 victory for Orange & Black in Pittsburgh – but you couldn’t possibly ask for more from a regular season
hockey game.

This was two bitter rivals – a pair of evenly-matched heavyweights
at that – engaged in a physical, high-scoring confrontation with all of the drama and
atmosphere of an Eastern Conference Final.

We jump right to the 7:36 mark in third period, where Philadelphia
appeared to have the game in hand on Wayne Simmonds’ second goal of the night.
Already responsible for a Gordie Howe hat trick [watch], Simmer’s center feed for Claude
Giroux instead tipped off of Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen’s stick, the
deflection fooling goaltender Tomas Vokoun to put the Flyers ahead 5-3.

But this is the Pittsburgh Penguins after all, for whom
12-plus minutes is more than enough time to score two or more goals –
especially when they have eight minutes of power-play time to work.

A series of unfortunate-to-thoughtless penalties put
the Pens on one- and usually two-man advantages for over four minutes straight. First Mike
Knuble caught Deryk Engelland with a bloody high stick for four,
followed a short time later by a Ruslan Fedotenko shaft to the head of James
Neal. Max Talbot shattered his stick on the ensuing
5-on-3, and it was elementary from there for Neal as he cut the deficit in half
with his 12th tally of the season, tying him for the league lead.

One minute later Talbot joined the parade to the box after not-so-subtly
covering the puck with his glove while it was on the ice – a new infraction for
2013 – and for a moment Flyers’ fans worst fears were realized.

All initial indications were Tyler Kennedy had knotted the
score from a scrum in front of Ilya Bryzgalov during Pittsburgh’s eternal
5-on-3 (Knuble is still serving for his double-minor, as is Fedotenko). The puck rested peacefully behind Ilya Bryzgalov across the goal line, the official signaled, and the
reaction inside the CONSOL Energy Center was rocking.

Replay showed Kennedy came into the fray
with a distinct kicking motion however, so that goal was disallowed. Such drama!

Even though you knew the Penguins would draw even anyway. Brandon Sutter found himself holding the pill
behind the Flyers’ net right before the two-minute warning, the defense giving chase, but the space in front of Bryzgalov vacated as
well.
Bryz tried to block the wrap-around as Sutter powered the puck through his weak stick attempt and right into the netminder’s five hole.

That familiar sinking feeling wouldn’t last for long. The Bullies went right back on the attack. Jakub Voracek
gained the Pittsburgh zone, sending the puck along the boards as he took a
walloping from Brooks Orpik below the goal line. Giroux gathered the pass in and rewarded Jake, sending
the play right back. With Orpik continuing to harass him, Voracek whipped around so he could just throw the rubber on Vokoun – only Vokoun wasn’t tight to the post.

A shot from an
impossible angle that had absolutely no right slipping past a 36-year-old NHL veteran did precisely that, banking in off of Vokoun to give the 23-year-old Voracek his first-career hat
trick.

With 1:28 remaining, it also proved to be the game-winner. Vokoun's blank stare as he lay on the ice was priceless.

Pittsburgh mounted one last gasp with an extra skater, but
the Flyers survived to pick up an enormous two points on their Atlantic-leading foes – and it was punch-for-punch right to
the finish.

Much of the talk from the players leading into the game was about Pittsburgh
being a measuring stick. If this result was any indication, Philadelphia can
still hang with the big dogs in East. They overcame an early 2-0
deficit, then refused to allow the action completely slip away from them when things
started going south late.

The Flyers have now earned 13 points out of the last 20 points
possible, going 6-3-1 in these 10 compared to 2-6 over the first eight.
That pace is no slouch.

It will be tough for the Flyers to turn around and match the
intensity and effort from Wednesday night or even Monday’s 7-0 drubbing of the
Islanders in the second half of a back-to-back on
Thursday versus the Florida Panthers. This was one hell of a way to wrap up a six-game road trip though,
from which they’ll gladly take the split, and worry about the rest of the slate one night
at a time.

Game Highlights:

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Best of MLB: Mets spoil Urias' debut, get walk-off win over Dodgers

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Best of MLB: Mets spoil Urias' debut, get walk-off win over Dodgers

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson homered leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to give the New York Mets a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

Chase Utley, who was booed all night in his return to Citi Field, hit a tying three-run double off Jeurys Familia with two outs in a four-run ninth inning for the Dodgers.

New York took a 3-0 lead in the first against Julio Urias and chased the 19-year-old after 2 2/3 innings in his major league debut.

But in a non-save situation, Familia (2-0) failed to hold a 5-1 lead.

New York moved back into the NL East lead, by percentage points over Washington, giving Mets manager Terry Collins a happy 67th birthday. New York won for the sixth time in seven games, stopping the Dodgers' four-game winning streak (see full recap).

A-Rod, Tanaka lead Yanks to win over Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez homered for the first time since coming off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 on Friday night.

Rodriguez returned Thursday after missing three weeks with a strained right hamstring. His sixth homer of the season and 693rd overall off Chris Archer came during a three-run sixth.

Tanaka (3-0) scattered two hits and struck out four to run his career-best unbeaten streak to 11 consecutive starts, dating to last season.

Andrew Miller gave up a single and hit a batter during a scoreless eighth. Kirby Yates allowed Steve Pearce's two-out solo homer in the ninth before Aroldis Chapman got the final out.

Carlos Beltran homered in the eighth for the Yankees.

Archer (3-6) allowed four runs -- one earned -- and four hits in eight innings for the Rays, who have lost six of seven (see full recap).

Donaldson HRs spark Blue Jays' victory
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit two home runs and drove in five runs as the Toronto Blue Jays snapped a five-game home losing streak with a 7-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

The reigning AL MVP was 4 for 5, starting the scoring with a first-inning solo shot, and then providing the winning margin with a two-run drive, his 13th of the year in the eighth.

Justin Smoak added a solo shot in the fifth inning. Joe Biagini (2-1) got four outs and Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

Koji Uehara (2-2) worked the eighth inning for the Red Sox, allowing Ezequiel Carrera -- starting for the suspended Jose Bautista -- to reach on a bunt before surrendering the home run to Donaldson.

Boston's Xander Bogaerts was 1 for 4, extending his career-best hitting streak to 20 games, the longest active run in the majors (see full recap).

Cubs use three homers to beat Morgan and Phillies' feeble offense

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Cubs use three homers to beat Morgan and Phillies' feeble offense

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs were everything they were advertised to be on Friday afternoon/evening.
 
They pitched.
 
They hit.
 
And they looked like what they are – the best team in the majors – as they put a whoopin’ on Adam Morgan and a Phillies club that is slowly cooling after its hot start.
 
The Cubs rode three home runs to a 6-2 win over the Phils at Wrigley Field (see Instant Replay). It was the Phils’ third loss in four games on this road trip and fifth in the last seven games.

As if the loss wasn't enough, the Phillies' misery was stretched out by a pair of late-game rain delays that totaled 1 hour, 33 minutes.
 
Scoring runs continues to be a great challenge for the local nine, which entered the day averaging just 3.3 runs per game. The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 16 times in their 48 games. For the season, they have been outscored by 35 runs.
 
The Phils are still over .500 at 26-22, but they might not be much longer if they don’t find some offense. They had 10 hits in the game, but only one for extra bases.
 
"We couldn't string anything together," manager Pete Mackanin lamented afterward.

Mackanin was asked if he was worried the offensive shortcomings were catching up with the team.
 
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it,” he said. “I’ve been conscious of it the whole season. We certainly would like to have more offense, a little bit more power.
 
“You look at the Cubs, you look at the Tigers, they’ve got power and home-run threats to do damage. We haven’t been able to do that. So, of course, I’m always concerned it might catch up with us, but as long as the pitching does its job we’re going to be in as many games as they allow us to be in.”
 
Starting pitching is a big reason the Phillies came into Wrigley Field five games over .500. It has kept them in games to the point where a big hit or big defensive play can win it.
 
But the starting pitching was not there in this game and that’s a problem when you’re facing the Cubs. They are a team has been built to break a 108-year World Series championship drought. They are averaging 5.7 runs per game, best in the National League, and have outscored their opponents by a whopping 123 runs. Their 32 wins are the most in the majors.
 
The Cubs pounded Morgan for six runs in four innings. He was tagged for eight hits and five were for extra bases, including three homers.
 
Morgan really struggled in the fourth inning. He gave up a mammoth 461-foot homer to Jorge Soler to lead off the frame. Four batters later, David Ross followed a walk and a single with a three-run home run to left and the Friday afternoon Happy Hour was on at Wrigley – at least until the skies opened in the seventh. Morgan gave up a third home run (to Kris Bryant) in the fifth.
 
“You try to be consistent and give your team a chance to win,” Morgan said. “When you put them in a hole like that it’s hard.”
 
Two of the homers Morgan allowed came on 1-2 counts. One was on a slider, the other a fastball. Neither put the hitter away, obviously. Poor location.
 
“Morgan didn’t have it today,” Mackanin said. “He really didn’t have command of any of his pitches. He struggled to make pitches when he needed to. You can overcome a solo home run, but that home run by Ross was the one that got us out of the game.”
 
In six starts, Morgan has an ERA of 6.67.
 
“He’s one good start, one bad start, one good start, one bad start. He's got to be more consistent,” Mackanin said. “At this level you have to be consistent to be successful. He’s capable of doing it. He just has to do it.”
 
Mackanin was asked whether Morgan’s spot in the rotation was in jeopardy. He did not give a direct answer.
 
“Nobody is solid in their spots,” the manager said. “Last year, I talked a lot about how you’re auditioning every day. At this level, consistency is the hallmark of a good major-league player. That includes pitchers.”

Instant Replay: Cubs 6, Phillies 2

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Instant Replay: Cubs 6, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs, on the strength of three home runs, hammered the Phillies, 6-2, at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon/evening.
 
Phillies starter Adam Morgan was hit hard.
 
The loss dropped the Phillies to 26-22. They are 1-3 on this road trip and have lost five of their last seven overall.
 
The Phillies entered the day averaging just 3.3 runs per game, the second-lowest mark in the majors. They have been held to two or fewer runs 16 times in their 48 games. 
 
The Cubs have the majors’ best record at 32-14. They are averaging a National League-best 5.7 runs per game.
 
The game was delayed 56 minutes by rain in the seventh inning.
 
It was delayed again for 37 minutes in the top of the ninth.
 
Starting pitching report
Morgan was tagged for six runs in four-plus innings as his ERA swelled to 6.67 in six starts. He was bruised for eight hits. Five were for extra bases and three were homers. One of the homers, a mammoth blast by Jorge Soler, traveled 461 feet.
 
Lefty Jon Lester got the win. He gave up just two runs over 6 1/3 innings and one was unearned.
 
Bullpen report
Andrew Bailey, Brett Oberholtzer and Colton Murray pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
Trevor Cahill and Hector Rondon finished it out for the Cubs.
 
At the plate
Maikel Franco drove in both of the Phillies’ runs with a sacrifice fly and an infield hit.
 
The Phillies had 10 hits, but only one for extra bases, a double by Odubel Herrera.
 
Tommy Joseph started at first base against the lefty Lester. He singled in his first at-bat, grounded out and struck out twice. Ryan Howard entered the game after the rain delay and struck out in his only at-bat.
 
Soler, David Ross and Kris Bryant all homered for the Cubs against Morgan. Ross’ was a three-run shot with one out in the fourth.
 
In the field
Freddy Galvis made several outstanding plays at shortstop.
 
The Cubs made two errors in the third inning and the Phillies capitalized for an unearned run.
 
Health check
Cody Asche (oblique) and Mario Hollands (elbow) both had their injury rehab assignments shifted to Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
Asche’s 20-day rehab assignment is set to run out on Wednesday at which time the Phillies can bring him to the majors or option him to Triple A. Actually, the Phils could bring him to the majors before if they choose.
 
Right-hander Mark Appel, pitching at Lehigh Valley, was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, which might explain the big drop in velocity he experienced in his last start.
 
The Phillies promoted Ben Lively to Lehigh Valley to take Appel’s spot. Lively was off to a tremendous start at Double A. The 24-year-old righty was 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA and a 0.943 WHIP in nine starts.
 
Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86) pitches Saturday afternoon against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30).