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. 

Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov show glimpses, Alex Lyon stars in Flyers' split-squad loss

Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov show glimpses, Alex Lyon stars in Flyers' split-squad loss

NEWARK, N.J. — Split-squad games have their advantages and disadvantages.

The Devils presented a hefty NHL-laden lineup against a Flyers unit with one NHL forward — Scott Laughton — Monday night at the Prudential Center.

Not surprisingly, the Devils won, 2-0. Among the prospects to watch in this one were forward Travis Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov.

The one player who absolutely shined in this was goalie Alex Lyon, who finished with 29 saves on 30 shots.

Konecny was again at right wing but this time on Andy Miele’s line with Laughton, who’s been at left wing all camp.

“Miele can distribute the puck and makes plays and Scotty Laughton brings a more veteran presence and some power and speed on the left wing,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Add the ability that Travis has, it fits pretty well with those two.”

Konecny worked on the first-unit power play in the right slot. He lost a puck in the corner, regained it and fed Corban Knight for a near goal in the paint.

He had a shot, turnover and hit going into the final period and handled himself well against older veterans.

During a third-period power play, with the Flyers behind, 1-0, he got a rebound in the high slot but chose to pass the puck rather than reposition himself for a shot on goalie Anders Lindback.

Lyon impressive
Lyon, the free-agent goalie signed out of Yale, was under siege in the opening period, facing 13 shots. The Devils had a stacked veteran lineup against mostly kids from the Flyers.

He was very good, especially playing the angles from which the Devils like to attack. He also stopped Beau Bennett on a breakaway out of the penalty box with his right pad.

Lyon had a sliding pad save on Bennett in the second period, as well, off a two-on-none break.

Provorov debut
He was paired with Brandon Manning and played the left side.

The 19-year-old Russian showed some speed and worked on the first-unit power play with Konecny. Provorov did some nice stickwork to get around Devils veteran Travis Zajac on the forecheck in the first period.

One aspect that stood out as the game progressed was that Provorov’s passes on the breakout were too quick for his forwards to handle. He’s that talented that he gets the puck and it’s gone before they can catch it in stride.

Lyubimov debut 
Another forward battling for a roster spot is Russian center Roman Lyubimov, who played right wing on Anthony Salinitri’s line with Connor Bunnaman.

He’s very quick to chasing down pucks off the faceoff and very strong in battling for position or puck possession in tight spaces.

He worked the penalty kill in Russia and was on the first unit here, where he had a blocked shot.

Loose pucks 
The Flyers fell to the Islanders, 3-0, in their other game. Anthony Stolarz started in net and made 33 saves. ... With a split-squad game and the Flyers missing players because of the World Cup of Hockey, they had only three NHLers in their lineup vs. the Devils: Laughton, Manning and South Jersey’s T.J. Brennan. … Laughton had a nifty chance late in the second period and missed everything. … The Devils got a goal from Nick Lappin soon after on a second rebound. Nothing Lyon could do. … The Flyers actually outshot the Devils, 10-9, that stanza. … The Devils had an empty-net goal at the end. ... Tuesday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders will be televised on TCN.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."