Marlins Park the Site of NL Least Bowl This Weekend

Marlins Park the Site of NL Least Bowl This Weekend

Despite the fanfare surrounding Chase Utley's return, the second half of the Pirates series did not go according to plan. In dropping the latter portion, the Phillies gained nothing on a Wild Card opponent, spoiled a 10-game a homestand, and missed a golden opportunity against a seemingly inferior club.

With that in mind, and the All-Star break looming, the Phils travel to South Beach for a three game set at the Marlins' new digs. While it's always fun to tour a new ball park, the only scenery we can focus on now is the view in the standings: 9.0 back of Washington, 5.5 back of the Wild Card -- with seven teams ahead of them.

Miami is one of the teams in front of the Phillies, both in the NL East and the WC, but only by a half-game. That means the good guys have a legitimate shot at putting a rival behind them this weekend, and perhaps finally crawl out of the basement for good.

After going 21-8 during the month of May, the Marlins have fallen on hard times in June, with just six victories in 24 games, and just three since June 3. Only the Dodgers' offense has scored fewer runs per in the NL, and they at least have the excuse of missing their best player, while only the Rockies -- with their ridiculous four-man rotation -- have a higher ERA.

These are the 2012 Phillies though, and they know a little something about letting awful teams hang around so they can steal one or two. We promise not to do anything crazy, like predicting Cliff Lee (0-4, 3.72) pick up win number one tonight. This is Lee's first start versus Miami this year, but he was 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA against the fish in 2011.

Josh Johnson (4-5, 3.96) is on the hill in the opener for the Marlins. After a bumpy start, Johnson has been on a roll. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start since May 4 -- and more than two only twice over his last nine -- a period over which he's amassed a 4-2 record and lowered his ERA from 6.61 to 3.96. The Fightins shelled a different guy back in April, when they chased the All-Star pitcher from the game in the fourth.

As for the new stadium, it looks... interesting. I wouldn't pass judgment on it without actually visiting in person, but in photographs Marlins Park looks like something that was designed for a video game, or imagined in a futuristic movie. I'm sure we'll get plenty of unique looks during the broadcast.

But that structure in center field. Wow. Okay, I feel confident enough to say that thing is patently absurd.

Utley is back in the lineup tonight, and I dig Polanco and Mayberry in the seven and eight holes. Could add some support at the back end, especially if Cliff is swinging the bat well. Go get 'em.

1. Rollins, SS
2. Pierre, LF
3. Utley, 2B
4. Ruiz, C
5. Pence, RF
6. Victorino, CF
7. Polanco, 3B
8. Mayberry, 1B
9. Lee, P

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

All hail the pick swap.

When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.

On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.

But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.

Here are some of the best tweets.