New Religion: Phillies' Voodoo Pins Yankees in the Bronx

New Religion: Phillies' Voodoo Pins Yankees in the Bronx

A night after the staff's best pitcher was knocked around to start the series in New York, things weren't looking too great on paper for the Phillies in game 2. Wednesday night's starter, Jamie Moyer, was dismantled for NINE earned runs in securing just three outs this past Friday in Boston, and we haven't seen much from the bats in over a month. 

But there was something a little unusual about the second game of this series. First, it was the 24th anniversary of Jamie Moyer's first career win, which oddly enough saw him top the Phillies in Steve Carlton's last game with the club. Second, Chase Utley channeled some voodoo before the game (story w/ video here), possibly joking around but more likely just doing anything he could to get the Phils' stagnant offense going. 

And anyone who's seen Major League knows that Jobu is NOT a Yankees fan. 

Moyer would pitch masterfully, going eight strong and allowing just two earned runs on three Yankee hits, two of which were homers. At age 47, he pitched better tonight than he had 24 years ago as a rookie, earning his 265th career win on the same date he'd earned his first. Also putting up a historic number tonight was Charlie Manuel, who notched his 700th career win as a manager. 

The Phillies made the most of their six hits and five walks drawn, scoring six times to beat the Yankees by a 6-3 count. Everyone's favorite Yankees starter, AJ Burnett, was chased from the mound in the fourth inning, or it might have been much worse. Burnett was tagged for all of the Phillies' runs and hits, and all but one of their walks. The Yanks' relievers put in a great effort in triage, silencing the Phils for the rest of the game.

Some recently maligned Phillies hitters seemed particularly charged up early tonight though. Raul Ibanez drew a walk in the second inning, then stole second base. The lineup has been missing Jimmy Rollins' speed for most of the season, so it was great to see a guy not known for his speed haul ass to scoring position hoping to ignite a rally. Greg Dobbs then lined a single to right, scoring Raul, after which an unnerved Burnett walked Brian Schneider and then had a Wilson Valdez dribbler bounce off his foot. With the 7-8-9 hitters all on base, leadoff man Shane Victorino nailed a triple to the right center gap to put the Phils up 4-0. Burnett would get out of the inning without further damage, but his night wouldn't last much longer.

When the Phils came back to the plate in the third, Ryan Howard led off by crushing a Burnett mistake over the wal in center, after which the increasingly bearded Jayson Werth answered with a homer of his own. 

After small-balling their way to four runs in the second, what better time for the heavy hitters to go back-to-back (marking the first time the Phils have done so all season)? Howard and Werth are now at 11 HR apiece and have each reached the 40-RBI mark on the season.

One win may be a little early to read much into it, but I'm pretty sure science would prove that Utley's voodoo charms were at play here. All that was missing was Burnett getting nailed with a thrown bat. 

The question now is how the Phillies will respond tomorrow night with a chance to win a series in the Bronx.  

Moyer's last three starts alone speak to how unpredictable this team is right now. Mostly, this trait hasn't been a positive lately. But tonight's win could prove to be just what they need to turn things around. The often stoic Utley lightening the mood in the locker room before the game appears to have helped the team come out loose and ready to capitalize on a poor-control night for Burnett. Brad Lidge made things a little too interesting in the ninth, allowing a run on two hits and a walk, filling the Phillies fans in attendance with his trademark brand of nervous anticipation.
But they'd be able to head home happy as Lidge struck out three batters in the frame to preserve the win for Moyer. 

Kind of amazing what one decisive win over the Yankees in their park can do for your feelings about this team. 

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."