Team Effort Propels Phils to .500

Team Effort Propels Phils to .500

Hm... which story line from Wednesday night's 9-2 Phillies victory over the Cubs at Wrigley shall we lead with?

Kyle Kendrick throws six strong innings, allowing one earned run off three hits while filling in for Vance Worley on short notice. Nah, he's terrible.

Carlos Ruiz continues to mash, giving the Fightins the decisive lead in the eighth on his seventh home run of the season -- one shy of a career high. Kind of becoming par for the course, isn't it?

Hector Luna blows the game wide open in the ninth with a pinch-hit grand slam in his first at bat for the Phils, and first big league plate appearance since 2010. Hell, even SportsCenter will show that.

How 'bout this: the Phillies win their fourth straight, boosting their record to .500 for the first time since May 3, almost two weeks ago. Simple and satisfying.

There weren't just one or two heroes in this effort anyway. Almost everybody who played came up with some form of positive contribution toward the outcome.

The game was tight through the first eight innings, and Kendrick was a big part of the reason why, but Jose Contreras, Antonio Bastardo, and Raul Valdes each retired the Cubs in order in the seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively.

Ruiz was 2-for-4 and scored three runs, but the impressive growth of rookie Freddy Galvis was on full display, as he went 2-for-4 as well with a pair of doubles and an RBI.

And Luna's moonshot will turn up in every highlight reel on Thursday, but Mark Fontenot's and Ty Wigginton's pinch hits in the ninth do not deserve to go overlooked. Fontenot also notched his first hit as a Phillie, and Wigginton drove him and another home for the inning's initial insurance runs.

For the first time all season, this team is firing on all cylinders. Granted they've taken five of six off of sub-.500 opponents -- a classification the Phils, for now, no longer fall into themselves -- but they haven't strung wins together like this all year long though. It's a good sign that they are finally scoring runs and holding on to leads at the same time.

One more against the Cubs tomorrow, with the opportunity to go above .500 for the first time since Opening Day on the line.

Notes

There is one injury to report. Placido Polanco fouled a pitch off his knee, and had to be removed from the game. Officially diagnosed as a bruise, Polanco is said to be sore, and it sounds unlikely he will play tomorrow. Otherwise, it doesn't appear to be too serious.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 - the last previous time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a massive one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.