How Long Must We Sing This Song? Doc Disappoints as Phils' Losing Ways Continue

How Long Must We Sing This Song? Doc Disappoints as Phils' Losing Ways Continue

Tough pill to swallow. If you had asked me for my prediction for how we'd do before the game started, I would've said something like "well, at least I know this game won't be over by the third inning like it was in those games against the Sox." We were sending Roy Halladay out there, after all, and even if he ended up losing the game to fellow ace CC Sabathia, I knew at least it'd be within our grasp for the first seven innings or so as Doc took care of business. Well, it turns out not even the Good Doctor is impervious to right-field homers at Yankee Stadium, as the Yanks got on the board early and often, and withstood a mid-game rally from the Fightins to take game one of the series handily, by a final of 8-3.

Though the first runs the Yankees put on the board were on a two-run triple by Brett Gardener, the story of the evening for the men in pinstripes was the longball. Doc had let up a mere three homers in his first 13 starts for Philadelphia, and that's exactly as many as he gave up tonight, to Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira, respectively. The first two put the game nearly out of reach at 5-0, and the third ballooned the lead to 6-3, stealing the momentum from the Phils' brief offensive surge.

To be fair, it's not all on Doc--we heard so much last year about the supposed jet stream to right that caused balls to fly out of Yankee Stadium, and tonight was a good Exhibit A of that phenomenon. None of the homers cracked look sure things off the bat, and the Teixeira one especially just looked like a long pop-up until it landed a few rows behind the "314 FT" marking by the right-field foul pole. Not to say that Doc was entirely blameless either--the movement wasn't really there on his pitches, and after the game he bemoaned how often he had missed his spots over the course of the outing--and hey, our guys might could have hit a couple out there themselves, were they so inclined. But as many have pointed out, people who complain about the short porch in CBP should take a whiff of the all-too-generous air at Yankee Stadium tonight, and know how much more ridiculous it really could be.

The Phils' offensive woes continued of course, although at least we showed genuine life for one inning. After Chase literally singled off of CC at the beginning of the fourth, the Phils put together a nice little rally that got them within one big hit of tying that game. That hit never came, unfortunately, and a long-overdue bout of wildness from Antonio Bastardo allowed the Yanks to put to more on the board in the eighth, officially nailing the game shut. That fourth-inning push really got my hopes up for a feel-good comeback win, but as in so many other games this month, it just wasn't to be.

This low-end in production from the Phils has gone on so long at this point that it's hard not to wonder if something's eventually got to give. In the post-game conference, many of the reporters seemed to be trying to coax Charlie into lashing out at the team for over-confidence, but he never bit on it, maintaining the company line that everyone was trying their hardest and that they're good enough to snap out of it eventually. This echoed the statements of Ruben Amaro, Jr. earlier in the day, as he said that no big moves were necessary for the team. "The guys have track records and they're good players and they're
championship-caliber players, and they will be again," said Amaro. "This is our team out here, and they'll be fine."

I tend to agree with Ruben that at the very least, no panic moves are necessary (and frankly, I'm not even sure what our options would be on that front anyway) and that the team will eventually come around to some extent. The question, though, is how much longer can they afford to sit around and wait for the law of averages to take effect while the team continues to sink lower and lower in the rankings. This loss puts our boys a mere two games over .500, four games behind the Braves and three behind the Mets. Through 62 games last year, we were ten games over, and though we eventually sagged back down to just two up, we had the benefit of a lousy division that allowed us to maintain at least a share of the lead throughout. With the Braves, Mets, and even the Nats all vastly improved this season, you can bet we won't have that luxury this time around.

In the meantime, the Phils have two games left to steal at least one here at Yankee Stadium. The ramifications of this team getting swept, while possibly falling just short of cataclysmic, would at the very least be deeply, deeply discouraging. Tomorrow the Ageless Wonder Jamie Moyer squares off against the Yanks' mercurial A.J. Burnett, and while Burnett has shut our guys down in the past (ex. Game 2, '09 Series) we've shown that we can certainly get to him on occasion as well (ex. Game 5, '09 Series). It really sucks not to get this one with our golden boy out there, and you know no one feels it more than the Good Doctor himself, but get one of the next two, and the boys can at least come back without their confidence in complete tatters. Looking forward to tomorrow night already.

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, Sixers insider Jessica Camerato and producers/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?


The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by 10.2 points per game, also last in the NBA. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, the Sixers were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense.

Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?


The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown.

The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric.

The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick, Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. The Sixers are going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.