Leigh'd Back: Flyers Strike First, Finish Big

Leigh'd Back: Flyers Strike First, Finish Big

Fie-nah-lee. The Flyers have shaken off their four-game losing streak, winning a sloppy game on warm ice in south Florida, 5-2. They were able to nail down two out of three of everyone's generic keys to the game: scoring first and finishing strong. The third key, playing all 60 minutes, continues to elude them, and that hefty margin of victory is probably a little misleading if you didn't see the game. With 3 minutes left in regulation, the Flyers were up just one goal after giving up a two-goal lead. Still, a win is a win, and clawing two points out of a team that's ahead of you in the standings is that much better. And, it was encouraging to see them put the game away instead of wilting.  

First up, props to the "fourth" line of Dan Carcillo, Ian Laperriere, and especially Blair Betts (the forward lines logged pretty even minutes at even strength). It's well-documented that this is a better team with Betts on the ice, and tonight, he did more than just the little muck-and-grind things and his usual faceoff and PK role-playing. The checking line threw pucks on the net with more efficacy than most Flyers scoring lines have in weeks, generating those lucky-strike scoring attempts that are known for breaking scoring droughts. Betts notched two goals, admitting after the game that he didn't even know the first one was his until he got to the bench. 

A big part of the Flyers' success in the first period was the lack of discipline by Rick Tocchet's team. Now I know what it feels like to watch your team play the Flyers. The Lightning took five minors to the Flyers' two, both of which were assessed to Carcillo. We've seen that Chico can giveth the powerplay, but tonight he again showed that he can take them away too. After crosschecking Vinny Lecavalier, the 'Ning forward was so pissed at Carcillo that he took two shots at his groin area with the stick. Powerplay averted, and Lavvy will trade Carcillo for Lecavalier all night. Of course, in the second, the Flyers gave those three minors back. They weren't beaten on the Lightning powerplays, but they probably didn't help any. 

In other special teams success stories, Richie was able to convert a PPG in the first period on a great pass from Simon Gagne. Richards also scored in the third period, ripping a keeper shot on a 2-on-1 to give him an even pair on the night. After going toe to toe with his captain counterpart in the game against the Panthers, which they ultimately lost, Richie led in another way tonight by scoring a separating goal in the first, and an insurance tally to close out the game in the third. 

It wasn't bad to see Simon Gagne work hard to get the party goal with the empty net either. Right now, the Flyers need as many guys on the scoresheet as possible. 

Michael Leighton looked a little overwhelmed at times, particularly when Victor Hedman blew a howitzer past him in the second, but overall, his positioning was solid, and he gave the team plenty of room to win. I was a lot more impressed than I thought I'd be, and we'll have to wait and see if Lavvy starts him for some revenge against the Hurricanes after Christmas. Anyone else think it's odd he's still just taping over his 'Canes mask? A goalie with his brand of staying power should probably keep a plain white on file.

It wasn't all pretty, but not playing their best and still scoring five goals could be the type of win that gets them back on track. What's that? Don't get too excited over one win? Effff that, we needed this. Hopefully the team is feeling that same release right now. 

Bonus! Ian Laperriere's new mask, courtesy of Santa Coatesy. 

 

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Aaron Sanchez struck out 10 and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 on Tuesday night in the opener of their AL wild-card showdown.

Ezequiel Carrera also homered as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in eight games. They lead the wild-card standings by two games over the Orioles with five to play.

Baltimore began the day two games ahead of Detroit and Seattle for the league's final playoff spot.

Orioles slugger Chris Davis was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Will Little after striking out against Joe Biagini in the seventh, the third time in three at-bats Davis was caught looking. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter also was tossed after he came out to argue (see full recap).

Syndergaard, Mets pound grieving Marlins
MIAMI -- With time running out in the playoff race, the New York Mets set sympathy aside.

Noah Syndergaard struck out eight and allowed one run in six innings Tuesday night, and the Mets totaled 19 hits to beat the grieving Miami Marlins 12-1.

Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes each hit his 31st homer for the Mets, who began the game with a half-game lead over the Giants in the battle for the first NL wild-card berth, with the Cardinals 1 1/2 games behind.

The game was the Marlins' second since the death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. One night after a heart-tugging victory over New York filled with tributes to their teammate, emotions were more subdued, and Miami's bats were too.

Syndergaard (14-9) had a lot to do with that. After missing a scheduled start Saturday with strep throat, he threw 93 pitches and lowered his ERA to 2.60, third-best in the majors. He'll return to pitch the regular-season finale Sunday at Philadelphia if needed (see full recap).

Cards beat Reds to tighten wild-card race
ST. LOUIS -- Playing with a heavy heart, Aledmys Diaz hit his first career grand slam and the St. Louis Cardinals finished with five home runs Tuesday night in a 12-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Chasing the Giants and Mets in a tight race for the two NL wild cards, St. Louis moved within a half-game of San Francisco for the league's final playoff spot -- pending the Giants' late game against Colorado.

New York, which beat Miami 12-1, leads the wild-card standings and remained 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals.

Jhonny Peralta had a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the Cardinals, who had lost four of five. Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk and Matt Adams also homered (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Roman Quinn injured as Phillies lose 7-6

Instant Replay: Roman Quinn injured as Phillies lose 7-6

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies blew a six-run lead and suffered a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
 
The Phillies also lost promising rookie outfielder Roman Quinn to a left oblique strain. Quinn had two singles and a double in his first three at-bats of the game as he helped the Phillies build a 6-0 lead. He struck out in the fifth inning then exited the game an inning later.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
The start of the game was delayed 31 minutes by rain. The game was delayed again for one hour and 53 minutes at the start of the fifth inning.
 
Starting pitching report
Jerad Eickhoff sailed through the first four innings on one hit, no walks and five strikeouts. The only hit he allowed was a solo homer to Freddie Freeman in the fourth. Eickhoff was up 6-1 when the rains came and ended his night.
 
Eickhoff has made 32 starts and recorded a 3.72 ERA. He has pitched 191 1/3 innings.
 
Eickhoff has one more start left. That will come in Sunday’s season finale.
 
Braves right-hander Julio Teheran was hit hard. He gave up 10 hits and six runs in four innings. One of the hits was a first-inning grand slam by Ryan Howard.
 
Bullpen report
The Phillies’ bullpen was tagged for six runs. It has an ERA of 8.03 this month.
 
At the plate
Howard’s grand slam was his second this season and 15th of his career. He is second on the team with 24 homers. He has 52 homrers and 154 RBIs in 182 career games against the Braves.
 
Freeman’s solo homer against Eickhoff extended his hitting streak to 29 games.
 
Tyler Flowers had a three-run home run to lead the Braves' four-run sixth.
 
The Braves came all the way back with a pair of runs in the eighth. Mallex Smith drove in the tying run and Emilio Bonafacio knocked in the go-ahead run. Both of the hits came against David Hernandez, who took the loss. Leftfielder Darin Ruf failed to make a play on a double by Flowers to the warning track. The ball was catchable. The play aided the Braves’ comeback.
 
ICYMI
Pete Mackanin will take his plea for a hitter to the front office Friday (see story).
 
Pitching plans
With Jake Thompson skipping his final start, the Phillies will have to use their bullpen to get through either Friday or Saturday’s game. Mackanin indicated that he may use the bullpen Friday night against the Mets and go with Alec Asher in Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised game. Eickhoff is scheduled to pitch the season finale on Sunday.
 
Up next
The series continues Wednesday night with lefty Adam Morgan (2-10, 5.57) opposing Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (8-5. 4.41).

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