'Refreshingly Candid' Fredi Gonzalez Picks the Phillies He'd Rather Have

'Refreshingly Candid' Fredi Gonzalez Picks the Phillies He'd Rather Have

The Braves took two out of three games from the Phillies this past weekend down in Atlanta. They also won the series before that on the Fightins' turf at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves were the trendy pick by many national analysts to beat the Phillies for the NL East crown this season, and it's not without merit. General Manager Frank Wren has put together a very nice ball club from top to bottom: a solid offense, reliable rotation, and one of the best bullpens in the league. They're proving a worthy adversary in the first half of the 2011 campaign.

Prior to Sunday's rubber match in Atlanta, Braves' skipper Fredi Gonzalez got extremely candid with reporters when talking about how the two clubs match up, and even went so far as to go down the lineup position by position and say which Phillies he'd rather have over his own guys.

From the AJC:

“I think it’s pretty equal,” he began. “I think it comes down to the
pitching, and [particularly] the bullpens. You go position by position …
well, let’s do it.”

Indeed, let’s do it.

“First base, Howard and Freeman, you’d take Howard,” Gonzalez said.
“[Second base] you’ve got Uggla and, who’ve they got now, Petey Orr [and
others], so you take Uggla. Shortstop’s a tough one, I take Gonzo just
because of the defense. Polanco-Chipper [at third base]. That’s a good
one. That’s a toss-up there. I’m taking Chipper.

“Left field is Ibanez, and we have Prado; I’m taking Prado. Center
field is McLouth and Victorino. Victorino. Right field is Heyward and
Francisco or Mayberry. Heyward.”

Now, Fredi didn't really go out on a limb with any of these, but he could have gone with his own guy McLouth in center but didn't.

Assuming we're not including Chase Utley, I'd agree with Uggla over Valdez/Orr, but I'm not taking Gonzo over J-Roll or the aging Chipper over Polanco. Rollins may be streaky at the dish, but his defense has never wavered. Current-day Chipper over Polly just seems way too homerish to me.

The outfield seems fairly straightforward. Prado over Ibanez, Vic over McLouth, and Heyward over Benny.

I guess Fredi didn't touch on the catcher matchup, which is pretty tough. McCann is having a much better season than Ruiz, but it'd be tough for Phillies fans to take anyone over Chooch.

Would you take any of the Braves position players over the current Phillies starters?

>>Braves vs. Phillies matchup is as even as it gets [AJC]

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Canucks 2

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Canucks 2

Box Score

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Flyers passed a freshness test Sunday night — barely.

After building a 3-0 lead in the first 23 minutes, the Flyers held on for a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The Flyers were the more rested team. They had two days off here following Thursday’s loss in Edmonton — and a three-day break before the start of the trip.

But they almost allowed Vancouver to come back in the Canucks' second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip.

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. The Canucks (26-28-6) were denied a chance to gain ground on the final postseason berth in the Western Conference.

Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn — who added the goal that proved to be the winner — scored for the Flyers. Two of the three goals came on the power play. Both teams failed to score in the third period.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen replied for the Canucks.

With the win, the Flyers avoided going winless on a three-game tour through British Columbia and Alberta. They posted their first victory in Western Canada in the past nine attempts.

Goalie report
Coach Dave Hakstol showed loyalty in Michal Neuvirth after the Flyers' netminder allowed four goals on his first 12 shots in Thursday’s one-sided loss in Edmonton. Neuvirth started off much better Sunday, as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close early and stopped all eight shots that he faced in the first period.

Power play
Hakstol was looking for the Flyers to rediscover their “swagger” on the power play. He got his wish early as Simmonds jammed in a Shayne Gostisbehere rebound only 5:45 into the game. The puck barely crossed the line but was clearly in, as confirmed by a video review. Vancouver winger Alex Burrows was off for hooking at the time. In the second period, Schenn padded his NHL power-play goals lead as he gave the Flayers a 3-0 lead at 2:38. Schenn scored his 14th power-play goal of the season on a shot from the slot as Simmonds screened Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. With his goal, Simmonds moved into a tie for second in NHL man-advantage markers with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Both players have 12.

Voracek busts his slump
The drought is over for Voracek. The winger busted his scoring slump as he gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 2:38 of the second period. The goal was Voracek’s first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

Shayne the unfriendly ghost
Gostisbehere did not live up to his nickname. Ghost was quite visible as he assisted on all of the Flyers’ goals. It was Ghost's first career three-point game.

Did you notice?
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto had a chance for a rare breakaway with about five and a half minutes left in the first period, but missed a well-placed lead pass as he was coming out of the penalty box. Instead of a scoring opportunity, the missed pass led to an icing call and a face-off in the Flyers’ end.

Up next
The Flyers head back home to meet the NHL-best Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m.

Report: Sixers, Pelicans had 'similar' package to DeMarcus Cousins deal in place

Report: Sixers, Pelicans had 'similar' package to DeMarcus Cousins deal in place

The Kings and Pelicans made waves after Sunday's NBA All-Star Game with the huge trade that sent superstar DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Sacramento sent Cousins to New Orleans for a package that included rookie Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round picks this in this year's draft.

But the Sixers and Pelicans reportedly were very close recently on deal for a "similar" package in exchange for Jahlil Okafor, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne.

That "similar" package was reportedly minus Hield.

So while the Pelicans are now almost certainly out of the running for Okafor, they've still made an impact on the Sixers in the near future.

Remember, the Sixers have the right to swap picks with the Kings in this year's draft via the Nik Stauskas deal in 2015.

So with Sacramento's brightest star now gone, that pick swap could be looking better and better for the Sixers.

As for Okafor, what does all this mean for his status with the Sixers?