Some Silver Linings on the Horizon for Flyers

Some Silver Linings on the Horizon for Flyers

The Flyers are 8-10-1 through 19 games, standing on the
outside of the postseason picture looking in, and many observers are wondering if
this is even a good team. Our own Tim Panaccio questioned earlier this week whether or not they
can get it done
as currently constructed, and as
of Friday the Daily News’ Sam Donnellon has already concluded that nope, they
can’t, thanks for playing.

It’s fairly obvious to anybody this team is not where they
want to be yet, and not just in the standings. They’re still prone to sluggish
starts, still a pitiful 4-8 on the road, still not winning enough faceoffs,
still allowing 3.05 goals per game despite the fact that Ilya Bryzgalov has
been one of their best players so far.

In short, they haven’t had the look of a club that could put
together a Stanley Cup run, and there isn’t much room to debate that. Having said that, you might want to consider at least pumping the brakes ever so gently, because the worst
appears to be over for the Flyers, at least in terms of the schedule.

The Flyers have played an absolutely brutal slate unlike any
other in the NHL up to this point. For starters, they’ve been in 19 games
already, the highest total in the league. For comparison’s sake, only three teams were
even at 18 after Thursday night, and half the league is sitting at 16 or less. 19 contests
in 34 days would take a toll on any hockey team.

And how did they get to 19? Six, count ‘em, six
back-to-backs. Everybody has them in a condensed schedule, but how many played
six in a month? As if that weren’t enough, every last one of them has
involved travel, which ought to come as no surprise given the Flyers have played 12 on
the road compared to seven at the Wells Fargo Center.

The degree of difficulty in Philadelphia’s schedule so far
has been enormous bordering on insane – but finally that’s all about to change.

Things are finally going to get back to some sense of
normalcy for the Flyers from here on out. 12 of the next 17 tilts are at home,
with only one back-to-back between now and March 30. Things are going
to quiet down so much at one point in fact, there is actually a stretch of five consecutive days
off in mid-March, which should theoretically help the guys recharge their
batteries before heading into the final stretch.

Further complicating the first portion of their schedule
were several key absences, some longer than others. Danny Briere, Wayne
Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo, and Sean Couturier have all missed games
at one time or another, and although bumps and bruises are par for the course,
the Flyers have also been without Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros almost the
whole way.

Both Hartnell and Meszaros are expected back within the next
couple weeks, and while Matt Read replaces them on the injured list (six weeks to torn rib cage muscle – ouch) with more sure to follow, it will be good to get back a key component of the top line and
some defensive reinforcement. Hartsy could provide an especially big
boost now that Claude Giroux seems to have found a comfort zone with Jakub
Voracek, and Meszaros certainly can’t make their blue-line depth any worse.

Do a friendlier schedule plus a couple players returning to
the lineup equal the Flyers' season turning around? Does it correct or even mask
every single one of their flaws? No, and no. They still need to go out and win
games, and do so with a patchwork defense and a headcase in net.

Before we go and rule them out as contenders though, maybe
we should see what the rest of the season brings now that the Flyers finally have a
chance to catch their breath and recuperate a little.

They've made some strides in recent weeks, climbing toward the top 10 in scoring and power-play conversion rate, and the all-around effort has been more consistent over the past three games. Plus, all of the injuries have helped them to identify quality young players in their system who could find themselves pressed into critical roles down the road – guys like Tye McGinn and Harry Zolnierczyk.

After beginning the season 2-6, the Flyers have since gone on to post a 6-4-1 record in their last 11 in spite of everything. Given the circumstances, another assessment might conclude they are actually a team that's trending up.

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif";
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Phillies' offense sinks even lower in 9th straight loss to Nationals

uspresswire-phillies-odubel-herrera.jpg
USA Today Images

Phillies' offense sinks even lower in 9th straight loss to Nationals

BOX SCORE

Four … three … two …
 
Good thing the Phillies aren’t scheduled to play Thursday night or they might get one hit.
 
The Phils capped off three pathetic offensive performances in as many nights by being two-hit in a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
The Phils were swept in the three-game series and they wasted three solid starts from Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan as they were held to four, three and two hits, respectively, in the three games.

Stay tuned Friday night to see if the Phils get one-hit by the Braves.
 
The National League East-leading Nationals have beaten the Phillies nine straight games since May.
 
The Phillies’ woeful showing at the plate in the series dropped their team batting average to .238, second-worst in the majors. Their on-base percentage is .296, worst in the majors.
 
“Nine hits in a three-game series just isn’t going to cut it,” manager Pete Mackanin said after Wednesday night’s loss, the Phillies’ seventh in the last nine games. "We’re not hitting the ball. We need more offense.”
 
It’s going to be interesting to see how general manager Matt Klentak addresses that in the offseason. The Phils have the money to add free agents, but the team is committed to building from within and using the free-agent market to find a finishing piece or two. The way things are right now, the Phils aren’t close enough to being good where a finishing piece would make a huge difference. They need some of the players that are here now – at least the ones that are staying – to make improvements and some of the talent that is in the minors to get to the majors and start making a difference before they’re ready for that put-them-over-the-top free agent.
 
The Phils were within striking distance to turn Wednesday’s game around. Cesar Hernandez walked in a one-run game to lead off the bottom of the ninth. That brought Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ only All-Star in July, to the plate.
 
Would Mackanin ask Herrera to move Hernandez into scoring position with a bunt, or give him a shot to shoot one in the gap and possibly score Hernandez from first?
 
“I thought about bunting Herrera,” Mackanin said. “The fact that we’re not hitting and he’s one of our top average hitters, I decided not to bunt him, took a chance.”
 
Herrera, who has struggled since the All-Star Game, bounced into a double play on the first pitch he saw from lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Maikel Franco then grounded out to end the game. And the series.
 
Herrera, who has been doubled-up just twice this season, said he would have bunted if asked. But he was happy to swing away.
 
“I was ready to hit and do some damage,” he said.
 
The Phils didn’t do much damage in the series. But the Nationals did. And they did it early. They scored five first-inning runs in the series. Jayson Werth hit first-inning home runs in the first and third games.
 
Werth’s first-inning bomb Wednesday night was just that – a 453-foot shot into the camera well high above the wall in dead center against Morgan.
 
Even Werth was impressed with how far he hit the ball.
 
“I’ve been in some pretty cool places in this ballpark but never there,” he said.
 
Freddy Galvis tied the game with a homer against Gio Gonzalez in the fifth, but the Nats went ahead in the seventh when they rallied for a two-out run against Morgan. The lefty allowed a two-out double to Anthony Rendon to extend the inning and an RBI single to Wilson Ramos on a full-count pitch.
 
“I’ve got to be able to finish,” Morgan said.
 
Morgan did have the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season, giving up just the two runs and three hits. He enjoyed working with new catcher A.J. Ellis and Mackanin said he liked the way Ellis called the game.
 
Morgan pitched well enough that he could have had a different fate. The same could be said for Thompson and Eickhoff the previous two nights.
 
Four hits. Three hits. Two hits.
 
As Mackanin said, “Nine hits in a three-game series just isn’t going to cut it.”

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos' magic run continues.

The Eagles' long snapper on Wednesday was voted into the finals of NBC's America's Got Talent.

Dorenbos performed this incredible trick Tuesday night to advance.

Shortly after receiving the results, Dorenbos expressed his gratitude.

Dorenbos will play in the Eagles' preseason finale on Thursday night. He'll get some time off from the show, as he was part of the first semifinals. The second semis round starts next week.

This is all super cool. Dorenbos' magic has lots of meaning. If you don't know about his story, read it here.

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies’ losing streak against the Washington Nationals this season rose to nine games in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
 
The Phils gave up five first-inning runs and had just nine hits in being swept in the three-game series. They had four hits Monday night, three on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.
 
The Phils entered the game hitting .239 as a team. Only San Diego was worse in the majors.
 
The Phillies have lost three in a row and seven of their last nine.
 
Starting pitching report
Adam Morgan absorbed his ninth loss but had the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season. The lefty gave up a first-inning home run to Jayson Werth then did not allow another run until there were two outs in the seventh. He was one strike away from getting out of the frame with a 1-1 tie when he gave up a full-count RBI single to Wilson Ramos.
 
In all, Morgan gave up just three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out five. He had entered the game with a 6.50 ERA and lowered it to 6.21.
 
Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (10-9) held the Phillies to two hits and a run over six innings.
 
Bullpen report
Blake Treinen, Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Kelley closed it out for the Nats. Manager Pete Mackanin pinch-hit Ryan Howard against the lefty Rzepczynski with two outs in the eighth. Howard, hitting .138 against lefties, struck out. Rzepczynski stayed on for the ninth. He walked Cesar Hernandez to lead off the frame then got Odubel Herrera to bounce into a double play before handing off to the righty Kelly. Herrera has two sacrifice bunts this season, but was not asked to get one down on this occasion.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis clubbed his 15th homer, a solo shot in the fifth, for the Phillies’ only run.
 
Werth’s homer in the first inning was his 20th of the season. It was a bomb to dead center. It came off the bat at 107 mph and traveled 453 feet. Werth also homered in the first inning of Monday night’s game. He has reached base safely in 55 of his last 57 games.
 
Ramos’ tie-breaking hit against Morgan came one batter after Anthony Rendon extended the seventh inning with a two-out double.
 
Ramos leads major-league catchers with 71 RBIs.
 
Reinforcements coming
The Phillies will add three players from the minors on Friday (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Friday night — RHP Jeremy Hellickson (10-8, 3.80) vs. RHP Joel De La Cruz (0-7, 4.66)
 
Saturday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.21) vs. TBA
 
Sunday afternoon — RHP Jake Thompson (1-4, 7.86) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (4-9, 3.12).