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.

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.