Slow and Painful: The 10-11 Flyers Story?

Slow and Painful: The 10-11 Flyers Story?

Think, if you can, back to February 24. The Sixers were rising in the standings, and the Phillies were soaking up the sun in Clearwater, but the Flyers were the toast of the town. Andrej Meszaros had just lifted the orange and black past the Islanders in overtime, and with three quarters of the season completed, the club held a nine point lead in the Eastern Conference.

Might as well have been a whole other team. From that point on, the Flyers have been falling like a meteor, and it's oh-so-close to impact.

They finished the regular season 7-8-6, losing their top playoff seeding in the process, and very nearly the Atlantic Division too. "Don't panic, they'll turn it on," many of us argued, perhaps trying to convince ourselves. And they did... sort of. Let's face it, even though they overwhelmed the Buffalo Sabres for long stretches at a time, the Flyers barely escaped Round 1 with a 4-3 series win. "They dominated the final three games though. They're ready now."

Only they weren't ready, and now we have to act all shocked and what not because their season could be coming to an end tonight.

It's one of the worst feelings you can have watching sports. This isn't a case where the Flyers are just plain overmatched, at least not on paper. Nor did they simply run into a hot goalie, which is not to say Tim Thomas has been anything other than just that, but he's not stealing this series right now. The Flyers aren't lucky to be here, haven't been completely ravaged by injuries, and aren't on the wrong end of a bunch of bad bounces or poor officiating.

They are, and have been, collapsing before our eyes. Worse, nobody can really explain why. It's Chris Pronger's injury. It's the Kris Versteeg trade. It's the lack of a true number one goaltender. It's because this team has no heart. It's everything. It's nothing.

I don't know what's going to happen tonight. My fear is the Flyers are headed for sweep-land. Games 1 and 3 were absolutely brutal, and if it weren't for two quick goals in Game 2, maybe that wouldn't have been any different either. As it is, that's the only time I can remember being excited during this series, the 10 minutes or so that they actually held a lead through those first 180.

Even if they win tonight, then the question becomes whether it merely prolongs the inevitable. Everybody remembers what happened last year, including the Bruins. Does anyone honestly believe it can happen again? Not just based on the historical nature of such an accomplishment, but going solely on the way they've played in this series.

I'll come out and say it--if you believe that, you're stronger than I am. Me, I can't stop thinking about the slow, painful way the Flyers appear to be closing out this season.

Still, here's hoping they don't let the Bruins finish them quick and easy.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

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Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

Andrew Bynum’s new hairdo will haunt your dreams

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The Associated Press

Andrew Bynum’s new hairdo will haunt your dreams

Of all the questionable decisions in Andrew Bynum’s career, this might just take the cake as the worst. No, it definitely does. 

Just look at that hair. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking at all?  

Bynum, who is no stranger to bad — I mean really bad — hair, looks to be enjoying his retirement. But let’s dig a bit deeper. Put on your polarized sunglasses and look past that bright yellow hair, because there is much more going on in this picture.

Forget his time as a member of the Sixers, smiling in a picture with a Penguins’ fan might be the biggest travesty Bynum has committed against the city.

And where was this picture taken? It appears to be a casino or arcade. Wherever it is, for the sake of Bynum’s precious knees, let’s hope it’s not a bowling alley

More MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

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USA Today Images

More MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

NEW YORK -- The Mets have found help at first base following Lucas Duda's injury, acquiring veteran James Loney from the San Diego Padres for cash.

Loney has spent this season in the minors, playing well for Triple-A El Paso. He was batting .342 with two home runs and 28 RBIs over 43 games in the Pacific Coast League.

Always a fine fielder, the 32-year-old Loney hit .280 with four homers, 16 doubles and 32 RBIs in 104 games with Tampa Bay last year. The Rays released him April 3 and he signed with the Padres on April 8.

Duda was put on the disabled list Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back that is expected to sideline him at least four to six weeks, probably longer.

Until Duda returns, Mets manager Terry Collins says Loney, a left-handed hitter, will mostly face right-handed pitching in a first-base platoon with Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell. Flores is close to returning from a strained hamstring.

Royals: Catcher Perez hurt, helped from field
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez had to be helped off the field in the ninth inning Saturday against the Chicago White Sox after colliding with rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert while catching Adam Eaton's foul popup.

Cuthbert came sliding in and struck Perez's lower legs. Perez went down in pain as trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost rushed to the field.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon collided Sunday while chasing a foul ball at Chicago and both landed on the disabled list. Gordon has a broken right wrist and is out for three to four weeks, while Moustakas tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is likely out for the season.

Drew Butera replaced Perez.

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter activated from paternity list
WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Matt Carpenter has been activated from the paternity list by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Carpenter missed two games after being placed on the paternity list Thursday. His wife gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl, on Wednesday.

Carpenter leads the Cardinals with nine home runs and 32 RBIs.

To make room for Carpenter on the 25-man roster, St. Louis designated infielder Ruben Tejada for assignment on Saturday. Tejada was batting .176 over 23 games with no homers and three RBIs.

If Tejada is released, St. Louis would be responsible for the remainder of his $1.5 million salary this year, which was $1,049,180 entering Saturday.