Inside the Standings: Welcome to the Crowded Wild Card Race

Inside the Standings: Welcome to the Crowded Wild Card Race

The NL East standings can be found later on, but we've focused so much attention on that already, and little has changed. Let's shift gears, and talk about the hurdles the Phillies will have to leap in order to earn a Wild Card.

It goes without saying that everything hinges on the team playing better going forward, but you start to get a sense for how dire the situation is when you look at that list. I mean, that's practically the entire National League who hold at least a couple of games over the Phils at the moment. In fact, only four teams are further out of a playoff spot than the reigning NL East champions.

Of course there will be a lot of movement in these standings between now and September. Some of these clubs will fall out of the hunt as others separate themselves from the pack. The way things stand, it would still be a shock to the senses if Pittsburgh was there until the end,

But the point is, there are a lot of obstacles climb over even to grasp that extra ticket to October. I think the Phillies have a ton of work to do before the words "postseason" and "2012" should come up again, unless some variation of the word "miss" is in the mix as well.

vs. Colorado (25-40)

One of the few teams not above the Philadelphia for a WC spot, the Rockies should help jump start the home team. The Phils are 10-5 against the other three NL clubs below them in the standings, and 14-7 overall over teams presently under .500. And as bad as the Fightins have been recently, Colorado arguably has been worse, dropping 10 of their last 11, including a pair of home sweeps at the hands of the Angels and A's.

Not surprisingly, the Rocks own one of the top offenses in the league, thanks in part at least to Coors Field, but also not surprisingly, they are far better at home than on the road. Only the Marlins score fewer runs than Colorado in their opponents' buildings. They're also saddled with the worst team-ERA in baseball, having pretty much no effective starters in their rotation. You'd like the Phillies to sweep this team, but if they can't take two of three here, they're really in trouble.

vs. Tampa Bay (37-29)

One last interleague series on the slate, and it's a doozy. The Rays are hanging tough in the AL East, currently four back of the Yankees, and thanks to that second WC, they would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Tampa Bay wins games on the mound, their staff in possession of the second-lowest ERA in the league. 42 times this season, they've held their opponent to four or fewer runs, with a 33-9 record in those games. We'll save you the math: that's 4-20 when they give up five-plus. TB is a middling club at the plate, so if the Phillies can build a decent lead, theoretically they should be safe -- although they've already blown 18 leads this season.

vs. Pittsburgh (34-31)

The Pirates have the second-least productive offense per game in baseball, behind only San Diego, yet they are in second place in the Central Division, and only 0.5 behind the second WC. Their pitching is keeping them in games, particularly the bullpen, which ranks second in the league.

The Phillies know all about the Pitt's pen, unfortunately. The Bucs picked up the series win in April, including a pair of walk-offs, as their relief pitching stymied the Fightins bats late in games. They allowed zero earned runs and five hits over nine innings of work in those three games. The Phils have improved a bit at the dish since then, finding ways to mix and match their lineup, but they are still lacking a bit in the clutch hits department.

vs. Miami (33-33)

The Phils welcome the Marlins to Citizens Bank Park for the third and final time this season, and are currently 3-3 against the Fish. Right now, it sets up for Cole Hamels to open the series, and while he's struggled in general of late, Miami was his kryptonite twice already this year. Cole is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA facing the division rivals, his last outing against them on June 2 kicking off his current winless streak.

We know more or less what we're going to with the Marlins. They're an incredibly streaky team -- 8-14 in April, 21-8 in May, 4-11 so far in June, and 2-10 over their last 12. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled off considerably since their last visit, and the rest of the lineup along with him. Stanton was batting .304 with 13 HR and 39 RBI when the month began. Now he's down to .272, with one home run and three RBI over his last 15 games.

On Deck: @ New York Mets, vs. Atlanta, All-Star Break

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).