FLYERS TAKE GAME 3

FLYERS TAKE GAME 3

Could this series be any tighter? Three games, each decided by a single goal, with tonight's requiring overtime to be broken. Claude Giroux masterfully deflected a pass by Matt Carle to take advantage of a Chicago line change and beat Antti Niemi in OT for a 4-3 win.

Once again, neither team ever had more than a two-goal lead, and now the Blackhawks' series lead is down to 2-1 with another game in Philly scheduled for this Friday night. Highlights and video after the jump.

That was playoff hockey at its best. Both teams played well, generating opportunities between long stretches of solid defensive play and game-stealing goaltending. There were some shifts and goals each side would like back, but mistakes weren't the deciding factor in this one. Nor were bad calls or excessive minutes spent on special teams, although the latter was definitely a deciding factor. 

It was a straight-up battle, and the Flyers came out on top. 

The first period was especially tight, with both sides on lock down in front of their respective nets despite nearly non-stop action for most of the frame. The Blackhawks really played well defensively all game, blocking shots, clogging lanes, and limiting the quality of the Flyers opportunities in normal circumstances. It took power plays and ultimately a rough line change for the Flyers to break through. 

The home club took the all-important first goal, with Scott Hartnell making an amazing pass in front of Niemi's crease—backward across his falling body to Danny Briere—who potted it from the back door

If any player on this team needed redemption on the postseason, it was Hartnell, who would go on to score the Flyers' second goal after the Blackhawks had answered. Hartnell's goal also came on the man advantage, again with Harts wreaking havoc in front of the net. Chris Pronger fired the puck on net from the point, and Hartnell deflected it past Niemi, who had little shot at cleanly stopping it. 

It's hard to ask for more from that entire line. Ville Leino's confidence with the puck was again on display tonight, and Briere was buzzing the net constantly and could've easily had another goal or two. Leino's 15 points tie a club record for playoff points by a rookie, held by Brian Propp. Not bad for the guy Homer stole for OKT and a 5th rounder... 

If not for a huge night from Niemi, the score would not have been near as close. 

For the second straight game, the Flyers led the Blackhawks in third period shots by a huge margin of 15-4. Especially given how gassed the Flyers looked in the third, that ain't easy to pull off, and it finally broke Chicago down. During a frustratingly light start to the OT in terms of shots on goal, the Flyers caught the Blackhawks on a line change and entered the zone with a full line converging on just three Chicago defenders. They moved the puck quickly across the zone, with Briere finding Carle, who fired a pass toward a streaking Giroux, who made an unbelievable tip under his skate to beat Niemi.

Giroux also helped to create the Flyers' tying goal in the third period, a horn blast that stopped the Blackhawks' momentum at a critical point in the game. Twenty seconds after Kane's long break in on Leighton put the Hawks ahead, flung the puck toward the net, hitting Chicago defenseman Jordan Hendry and bouncing to Leino, who put it behind Niemi. Again, a tough stop for any goalie to make.   

Mike Richards missed on a few shots that had the Delaware Valley on its feet, and current linemate Jeff Carter had a tough game including too many key turnovers and especially a deflection past his own goalie. Duncan Keith was credited with the game's first equalizer, but Leighton had no chance to make the save on a puck that was severely redirected on a shot-blocking attempt by Carter. Before the torches and pitchforks come out, remember that Carter is playing on surgically repaired broken feet, and he returned to make a difference in the Montreal series. 

Dan Carcillo could see the next game from the press box though. Lavvy clipped his wings late in the second period, and I don't remember seeing him after that. He wasn't the only Flyer to see limited time late in the game or overall for that matter, but his is the most likely spot to see a change, if there'll be one at all. However, we can't discount the undisciplined play by some of the Blackhawks in this one. Guys like Carcillo, Hartnell, and Pronger can unnerve a team into taking dumb penalties, and Pronger in particular has won the much-publicized battle with Dustin Byfuglien in this series. Byfuglien took two penalties in game 3 and is a minus-3 for the series. The Flyers' second goal of the game came on a powerplay awarded after Byfuglien broke Chris Pronger's stick with a slash after the two had been battling in front of the net. 

When the Flyers' backs are against the wall, they've come out swinging and found a way to win it. It'd help the collective cardiac health of the fanbase to have it come easier, but that doesn't seem to be their style. 

Hopefully the haters continue to count them out and call the series over. As soon as that happens, they start to win. This isn't to say they're anything more than down two games to one in the series though. They're still a long way away from celebrating anything more than still being alive with a chance to tie it on Friday. But tonight we'll definitely celebrate that. 

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — On the whole, the Phillies have made steady progress in their rebuild this season.

Cameron Rupp has improved. Maikel Franco has had a nice year. Odubel Herrera, even with his recent inconsistency, has had more ups than downs. Cesar Hernandez has been on a good roll. Freddy Galvis has 36 extra-base hits, and Tommy Joseph has opened eyes with his power. In the bullpen, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos have shown that they just might be future studs.
 
For a good chunk of the season, the young starting pitching has shown promise, as well.
 
But lately, that corner of the team has taken some hits. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin were both ruled out for the remainder of the season last week with elbow and knee injuries, respectively, and hard-throwing Vince Velasquez has been tagged for 19 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
 
Jake Thompson’s first four major-league starts haven’t exactly inspired confidence, either. The 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard in a 9-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). He gave up eight hits, including five for extra bases, and seven runs as his ERA swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
“I’m not used to this,” Thompson said after the defeat. “I feel certain that I’m a lot better than my performance has indicated.”
 
Few pitchers come to the big leagues and dazzle right away. There is a learning curve and occasionally growing pains. But no one expected Thompson to have this much trouble out of the chute, not after what he did in his final 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
Thompson went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
He was advertised as a control and command pitcher. He has yet to show that in the majors.
 
“A lot of it has to do with his age and, I think, the fact he’s in the big leagues for the first time trying to make a good impression,” manager Peter Mackanin said. “He probably feels like he needs to make perfect pitches every time. All he’s got to do is keep the ball down. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He relies on command and control and he hasn’t shown that. I attribute a lot of that to his youth and inexperience.”
 
So does Rupp, the catcher.
 
“How many guys do you see come to the big leagues at 22 years old and just flat out dominate every time they go out?” Rupp said. “Not very many. He's young. It was his first time in Triple A this year and he pitched really well and now he's got a chance in the big leagues. I'm sure he feels like there's pressure. When you come up and you pitch so well all year and then you finally get your opportunity, you want to impress. It puts a lot on you. And as a kid, you've got to be able to control it and it's tough. It's hard.

“Nobody wants to see anybody fail. It's hard to go through. It's something that's going to make him better when he does finally figure it out."
 
Two of the walks Thompson gave up Tuesday night became runs. He gave up back-to-back homers to Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau in the fifth inning as the White Sox turned it into a rout.
 
“Just too many pitches up in the strike zone,” Mackanin said. “Everything he threw was thigh high, waist high. He couldn’t get the ball down. It’s as simple as that.”
 
Thompson concurred with his manager.
 
“The issue is pretty evident,” he said. “I'm not throwing strikes and when I am throwing strikes, they're not good strikes. It’s a frustrating thing because it's a relatively easy thing to do. I don't really have the answer right now to fix it.”
 
The game moves fast at the big-league level and confidence can become bruised quickly. Thompson said his confidence was unshaken. Still, Phillies officials have to be careful that this difficult baptism to the majors does not snowball and become something that adversely impacts Thompson's growth.
 
“It’s something that you’re concerned about and I’m concerned about,” Mackanin said.
 
Concerned enough that Thompson might not make his next start?
 
Mackanin said he expected Thompson to stay in the rotation, but added that he would speak with general manager Matt Klentak on the topic.
 
“I don’t want to see him keep getting beat up and keep struggling like this,” Mackanin said. “We’ll talk about it and see what Matt wants to do.”

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

MIAMI -- Yordano Ventura escaped two threats while pitching six innings, and the Kansas City Royals extended their winning streak to nine games by beating the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Ventura (9-9), who reached 101 mph on the scoreboard radar gun, allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six. Royals starters have an ERA of 1.69 during the winning streak, Kansas City's longest since June 2014.

Three relievers closed out the win and extended the bullpen's streak of 32 consecutive shutout innings since Aug. 10. Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.

The Marlins had won three straight but were shut out despite totaling seven hits. They went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position (see full recap).

Nova, Pirates beat Astros to snap 4-game skid
PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova took a shutout into the ninth inning and finished with a six-hitter while Gregory Polanco hit two home runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Nova (10-6) struck out six, walked one and threw 69 of his 98 pitches for strikes while improving to 3-0 in four starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in an Aug. 1 trade.

It was the fourth complete game of the right-hander's seven-year career with the others coming in 2013.

His bid for his third career shutout ended when Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve led off the ninth with consecutive doubles.

After the Pirates scored four runs in the first inning, Polanco hit solo shots in the third and fifth off Joe Musgrove and Tony Sipp to extend the lead to 6-0 and raise his season total to a team-high 19 homers (see full recap).

Gausman, Jones help Orioles roll over Nationals
BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman scattered six hits over six shutout innings, Adam Jones went 4 for 5 and the Baltimore Orioles breezed past the Washington Nationals 8-1 on Tuesday night.

Chris Davis hit his 30th home run for the Orioles, who won two straight over Washington to conclude a 3-5 homestand.

Baltimore is 34-24 against the Nationals in a rivalry that began in 2006. The series shifts 38 miles south to Nationals Park on Wednesday for the first of two games.

Gausman (5-10) walked two, struck out two and permitted only one runner past second base. He's 5-1 at home and 0-9 on the road.

The 25-year-old Gausman outpitched Nationals rookie Reynaldo Lopez, a 22-year-old making his fifth major league start. Lopez (2-2) yielded six runs, four earned, and seven hits in 2 2/3 rocky innings (see full recap).

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — Jake Thompson’s difficult big-league baptism continued in the Phillies’ 9-1 interleague loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
 
The rookie right-hander was tagged for seven runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits and walked four as his ERA in four starts since coming up from Triple A swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
Offensively, the Phillies did little against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon. They had just five hits for the game.
 
The Phillies have lost five of their last seven and are 58-68 on the season. They have been outscored 18-1 in their last two games.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson, 22, has been a much different pitcher since coming to the majors than he was in his last 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
Two of the four walks that Thompson gave up in this game became runs.
 
Five of the eight hits he allowed were for extra bases, including a pair of homers.
 
Rodon, 23, was the third pick in the 2014 draft, four ahead of Aaron Nola. The lefty held the Phillies to three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He walked one.
 
Bullpen report
David Hernandez was tagged for two runs.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis broke up the White Sox’s shutout bid with a solo homer off reliever Chris Beck in the seventh. Galvis has 13 homers.
 
Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau hit back-to-back homers against Thompson in the fifth inning to help the Sox pull away.
 
Abreu has homered in three straight games.
 
Minor matters
Pitcher Alec Asher, who serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a PED, has begun a minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League team. Asher is expected to be activated by the big club during the second week of September and he could make several starts down the stretch as the club watches the workload of several pitchers.
 
Up next
The two-game series concludes on Wednesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.91) opposes right-hander James Shields (5-15, 5.98).