Immediate Impact: Francisco, Valdez, and Mayberry Help Phils to Opening Day Win

Immediate Impact: Francisco, Valdez, and Mayberry Help Phils to Opening Day Win

While their passion is undeniable, some
Philly fans' fickleness is both predictable and unbecoming. It's these
fans who wait an entire off-season for baseball to return to
Philadelphia on the first day of April, crossing off every day that
passes on their calendar, only to let their first boos rain down less
than two hours after the first pitch of the season. A little patience,
people.

Now, to be fair, the Phillies offense was not creating
much of anything at the plate, and they were certainly not making Brett
Myers and the Astros pitchers work, so maybe a little ribbing couldn't
hurt.

In fact, Jimmy Rollins said after the game that hearing it
from the fans before the bottom half of the ninth may have lit a fire
under their asses.

"We had a couple of fans jumping on us right on top of our dugout," said
Rollins. "It was kind of comical. He was talking about American Legion
ball, and how his team would have done better than that. I don't know,
but maybe it inspired us. The next inning we came out and only made one
out and found a way to win."

Jimmy led of the bottom half of that final inning with a single. That
was followed up with more singles than we've seen in some entire
homestands in recent memory from this club. A single by Ryan Howard, a
lone popout by Raul, and singles by Ben Francisco, Carlos Ruiz, and then
the walkoff winner from John Mayberry Jr.

The veterans like Jimmy and Howard stepped up, but they got assits
from the guys many list as question marks. Charlie must be pretty
excited with the transformation into today's exclamation marks.

So where does this opening day in Philadelphia rank in recent
Phillies history? According to Jimmy Rollins, the same spot he batted in
the order today, third, behind the opening of Citizens Bank Park and
the day they received their World Series Championship rings.

But
this one may have ranked a bit higher for John Mayberry Jr. who hit his
first career walkoff winner and received a lovely shaving cream pie to
the face from Ryan Madson.

As mentioned, John Mayberry Jr. wasn't
the only non-regular to come through late in this one. Ben Francisco
notched a key hit as did Wilson Valdez that kept this game alive.

"That's why we're here," Wilson Valdez said. "I learned from last
year. I'm the kind of player who likes to learn everyday. When I had a
chance to play, in that kind of situation, I just try to do my job. We
fight and make things happen."

The rest of the team appreciates the greener guys stepping up in the clutch.

"It's good to get it out of the way," Ryan Madson said of the
immediate contributions from guys like Benny, Wilson, and Mayberry. "If
you can do it once, you can do it 100 times."

And they'll try to do it again tomorrow with Cliff Lee on the mound.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.