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.

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."

Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov named CHL Defenseman of the Year

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Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov named CHL Defenseman of the Year

Flyers prospect and Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov on Saturday afternoon was named the 2015-16 Canadian Hockey League's Defenseman of the Year.

Provorov, who the Flyers drafted with the seventh overall pick in 2015, recorded 21 markers, 73 points and was a plus-64 in 62 games with Brandon during the regular season.

The 19-year-old beat out Windsor's Mikhail Sergachev and Shawinigan's Samuel Girard for the honor. Both Sergachev and Girard are eligible for this year's draft, which is June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.

In 21 playoff games with the Wheat Kings, Provorov added three goals and 10 assists. Brandon beat the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL Championship Series to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup. However, in the Memorial Cup, Brandon lost to the Red Deer Rebels on May 25.

What's next for Provorov?

The defenseman will come to Flyers training camp in September with his eye on making the roster. Many believe Provorov is ready to make the jump to the NHL, but Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has built a reputation of being patient, especially with his defensive prospects.

Provorov is one of five prospects in the Flyers' system that has created excitement, joining Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers, an undrafted free-agent signing who made noise this season. Could Provorov — or any of the other prospects — join Shayne Gostisbehere on the Flyers' blue line in 2016-17?

After the Flyers' season ended with a playoff series loss to the Washington Capitals, Hextall hinted he'll continue to be patient with his prospects (see story).

“What we're building towards remains the same,” Hextall said after the season. “I'm not an impatient guy by nature. Maybe I was a little bit on the ice, but I've been off the ice for 17 years or whatever it is, so the whole thing that we started to build two years ago — our vision is the same and we're on a path.

“And we're a lot closer than we were two years ago."

But all eyes will be on Provorov come training camp. Can he force Hextall's hand?

MLB Notes: Rangers activate Yu Darvish from DL for return from Tommy John

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MLB Notes: Rangers activate Yu Darvish from DL for return from Tommy John

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas right-hander Yu Darvish has been activated from the disabled list to make his first major league start in nearly 22 months.

The Rangers reinstated Darvish before Saturday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Third baseman/outfielder Joey Gallo was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to make room on the active roster for Darvish, who last pitched in a major league game on Aug. 9, 2014, and had Tommy John surgery in March 2015.

Darvish made five rehab starts this month split between Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco. The Japanese pitcher struck out 21 in 20 innings while allowing only two earned runs.

In his first three seasons with the Rangers, Darvish was 39-25 with a 3.27 ERA in 83 starts from 2012-14.

Blue Jays: Tulowitzki placed on 15-day DL with quad injury
TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays have placed Troy Tulowitzki on the 15-day disabled list with a right quad injury.

An MRI before Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox revealed a low-grade strain, and Tulowitzki will receive treatment on the leg before resuming baseball activities.

Tulowitzki was injured stealing second in New York against the Yankees on Tuesday. He came out of that game and sat out the remainder of the series. He returned for Friday night's game against the Red Sox but was ineffective, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and showing limitations in his movement in the field.

Tulowitzki is batting .204 this season, with eight home runs and 23 RBIs. Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney are expected to split time at shortstop until Tulowitzki returns.

Giants: RHP Cain placed on 15-day DL
DENVER -- The San Francisco Giants have placed right-hander Matt Cain on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring.

Cain felt tightness in the second inning against the Colorado Rockies on Friday and exited the game soon after. He had an MRI on Saturday.

He is 1-5 with a 5.20 ERA this season.

The 31-year-old Cain suffered a similar injury in 2014 that led to a stint on the disabled list.

To take Cain's place on the roster, the Giants recalled right-hander Chris Stratton from Triple-A Sacramento. Stratton was in uniform Saturday.

Just before the game, the Giants scratched outfielder Denard Span from the starting lineup because of a sore right hip. Outfielder Hunter Pence (strained hamstring) and infielder Brandon Belt (sprained left ankle) were back in the lineup.

Braves: SS Aybar placed on 15-day disabled list
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.