The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift

The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift

Unless you managed to avoid newspapers, television, the
Internet, talk radio, or interaction with another human being in the Delaware
Valley this morning, you no doubt have already heard the Flyers lost 5-2 to the
New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

That’s nothing new of course, only this time the Bullies’
playoff chances are being pronounced dead at the scene – the proverbial final
nail driven into their coffin, and the first shovel full of dirt dumped on top
for good measure. Appropriately enough, the Wells Fargo Center sang the Orange
& Black out of the arena to a hymn of boos, while the dressing room was as
somber as a wake afterward.

Cause of death? We’ll have to wait awhile for the autopsy
results, but people closest to the victim are describing it as a lack of
effort.

That’s more or less what Wayne Simmonds had to say after the
game, claiming his mates haven’t put up a fight each and every time they’ve
stepped on to the ice this season. That echoes statements Kimmo Timonen has
been making for the last few weeks, and again after this most recent defeat,
suggesting reporters stick a microphone in each and every players’ face and ask
them why they aren’t ready to play.
Even captain Claude Giroux admitted the Flyers weren’t “ready.” [click here for
video of their post-game statements
]

But just who exactly are the offenders here?

Giroux has fallen far short of incredible expectations this
season, but who is watching him skate and thinking to themselves, “That dude
isn’t trying hard enough.”

No sane person would dare question the effort of a
consummate pro like Timonen, who enjoyed a lengthy celebration of his 1,000
games played in the NHL prior to puck drop on Tuesday.

It sure as hell wasn’t Simmonds, either, who took a puck to
the face early in the tilt only to return and score Philly’s first goal – one
that briefly felt like it might rally the troops.

Even general manager Paul Holmgren laid the blame almost
entirely at his players’ feet two weeks ago, saying he would like to see the
boys “compete better.”

Well, where are the slackers?

Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have parroted the same
lines, so obviously not among the ranks of leadership. Briere and Hartnell,
along with Matt Read and Andrej Meszaros, have all rushed back from injuries
this year, while guys like Nicklas Grossmann and Zac Rinaldo are clearly putting
their bodies on the line every night. Long-time veterans Simon Gagne, Max
Talbot, and Ruslan Fedotenko have hoisted the Stanley Cup, so they know what it
takes to compete at the highest level. Then there are young kids who have
everything in the world to prove, from Jakub Voracek and the Schenns whose spots
are somewhat solidified, to the Tye McGinns and Harry Zolnierczyks scraping for
every last second of ice time. Oh, and lest we forget that Ilya Bryzgalov NEVER
rests.

Get out of here with that stuff. Outsiders who would cast doubt
on an athlete’s effort has always been a pet peeve of mine, not because it’s
never true, but because typically it’s completely, 100% unsubstantiated. Only in
this instance it isn’t fans or members of the media making accusations by and
large, but instead seemingly anybody and everybody associated with the
organization.

It’s nothing more than an excuse, and not even a very good
one. The Flyers aren’t winning because the opponent is usually better, it’s
that simple.

The real question is whether or not that should be the case.
The Flyers as they are currently constituted have their share of flaws, but is
there any legitimate reason why with their talent they should be ranked 14th
out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference right now? Sorry, I have some trouble
seeing that.

This isn’t tee ball. Everybody trying their hardest is not a
solution.

Yes, going forward the front office must do a better job of equipping
this team with the pieces it needs to compete for a championship, whichever
parts you armchair GMs out there think are most important. That being said,
clearly there is a much bigger issue on Broad Street. Either these guys truly
are not working hard enough, or they are keeping quiet about the real problem.

Which is fine. Nobody can blame the locker room for sticking
together, in fact it may even be a good sign. Then again, maybe they simply don’t
have the answer – and that’s the scary part.

Earlier:
>> Priced to Move? Examining Flyers' Options as Trade Deadline Approaches
>> Peter Laviolette Is One of Flyers' Few Moving Parts


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Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale returned from his jersey-trashing suspension and threw six effective innings, but John Lackey outpitched him and Aroldis Chapman got the final four outs to save the Cubs' 3-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago's rivalry series Thursday night.

Sale (14-4) was greeted with smiles and hugs from his teammates following a five-day ban for tearing up 1976-style uniforms he didn't want to wear before his previous scheduled start. He had command issues, but worked out of trouble while allowing two runs and six hits.

Lackey (8-7) allowed one run in six innings for his first win since June 8. Chapman, in his second appearance since being acquired from the Yankees, struck out two and consistently hit 102 mph in his first save for his new team.

Kris Bryant, who homered against Sale in the All-Star Game, hit an RBI double off the center field wall in the first inning (see full recap). 

Diaz's homer helps Cardinals beat Marlins and Fernandez, 5-4
MIAMI -- Aledmys Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three runs against childhood pal Jose Fernandez, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 5-4 Thursday.

Fernandez gave up five runs in five innings and fell to 26-2 at Marlins Park.

Miami's Dee Gordon, the 2015 NL batting and stolen bases champion, returned from an 80-game suspension for failing a drug test and went 0 for 4. Ichiro Suzuki doubled as a pinch hitter in the seventh for Miami and needs two hits for 3,000.

Diaz and Matt Holliday homered in the third inning against Fernandez (12-5), who had never previously given up more than one homer in a home game. His only other loss at Marlins Park came on opening day this year against Detroit.

Michael Wacha (6-7) allowed three runs in six innings, and three relievers completed an eight-hitter. Seung Hwan Oh pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his seventh save (see full recap). 

Familia falters again, Rockies rally for 2-1 win over Mets
NEW YORK -- Mets steady closer Jeurys Familia stumbled for a second straight game, allowing two runs in the ninth inning as the Colorado Rockies beat New York 2-1 Thursday for their seventh win in eight games.

Less than 24 hours after Familia's streak of 52 consecutive regular-season saves was snapped, the right-hander entered in the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead, and couldn't hold it.

Trevor Story had a leadoff single and stole second. After fellow rookie David Dahl walked, Daniel Descalso bunted up the first base line. Mets catcher Rene Rivera watched as the ball spun toward foul territory but it stopped fair, loading the bases with no out.

With one out, Familia (2-3) got pinch-hitter Cristhian Adames to hit a slow grounder to the right side. First baseman James Loney booted the ball and Story scored to make it 1-all. Familia then threw a wild pitch, allowing Dahl to cross the plate with the go-ahead run (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Braves 5

Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Braves 5

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Aaron Nola picked up his first win since June 5 as the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, at Turner Field on Thursday night.

Nola was supported by some strong offense. After scoring just one run in losing the previous two games in Miami, the Phils erupted for five runs in the first inning. They hit three homers in the game.

The Phillies had been winless in Nola’s previous seven starts.

The Phillies are 47-57.

The Braves have the worst record in the majors at 35-67.

Starting pitching report
Despite leaving with a 7-3 lead after five innings, Nola was not particularly sharp. He gave up eight hits (one was a fly ball that was lost in the twilight sky), walked three and hit a batter. He needed 95 pitches to get through the five innings.

Nola is 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 20 starts.

Atlanta’s Matt Wisler gave up seven hits and seven runs in five innings. Five of the runs came in the first inning when the Phillies batted around. Wisler allowed two homers, two singles and walked two in the inning.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez was the first Phillies reliever out of the bullpen. He struggled. But Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez combined to close it out.

Gomez allowed two hits, a walk and a run in the ninth, but earned his 27th save.

At the plate
Aaron Altherr, activated off the disabled list earlier in the day (see story), had a big night in his first game of the season with the big club. He hit the ball hard all night and had three hits, including a two-run homer in the fifth.

Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph hit back-to-back homers in the first inning. Franco’s was a three-run shot. He leads the club with 19 homers. Joseph has 14 homers in 57 games.

Adonis Garcia had two hits and two RBIs for the Braves.

Transaction 
Peter Bourjos was placed on the disabled list and Altherr was activated (see story).

Up next
The series continues Friday night. Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.34) pitches against Atlanta right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-2, 6.17).

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

ATLANTA — Nearly four months late, Aaron Altherr is finally getting his shot to show the Phillies he deserves to be part of their future outfield plans.

Altherr, 25, was activated from the disabled list before Thursday night’s game against the Braves and was in the lineup, batting fifth (see story). Altherr will see a lot of playing time over the final two-plus months of the season. He’s essentially auditioning.

“We want to see him play as much as possible,” manager Pete Mackanin said before the game. “So if he stays healthy, I’m going to keep running him out there. That’s what this year is all about. We’re finding out about the guys that are here. He is a potentially important part so we want to see what he does. I’m anxious to see what he does.”

Altherr, a ninth-round draft pick in 2009, played in 39 games for the Phillies last season. He hit just .241, but 20 of his 33 hits were for extra bases and he had a .827 OPS. He was slated to be the team’s everyday rightfielder before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery early in spring training.

Altherr is healthy now and eager for his chance.

“I’m good to go mentally and physically,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’m definitely excited to be back up.”

Altherr took Peter Bourjos' spot on the roster. Bourjos was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder two days after running into the outfield wall in Miami.

With Mackanin committed to giving Altherr playing time, it will be interesting to see how the skipper divides up playing time with the remaining outfielders, especially when Bourjos recovers. Bourjos was a trade candidate before his injury. He could still be moved in a waiver deal once he’s healthy in August. Tyler Goeddel, Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes also play corner outfield spots and much heralded prospect Nick Williams is expected to be here at some point (see Future Phillies Report).

Asche is walking a tightrope. He entered Thursday night’s game mired in a 4-for-51 skid and Mackanin seems to be losing patience.

“As I said earlier in the season, this is a very big year for Cody to prove that he can be part of the future and he needs to step it up,” Mackanin said.