The Phillies, man: Four in a row! Four games back!

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The Phillies, man: Four in a row! Four games back!

omg he got airborne!

The world is just a little bit better place when you wake up on a Friday morning and the Philadelphia Phillies are atop the New York Mets in the standings. Because it's Friday, obviously, but also because even in our darkest hours, being worse than the Mets is still really, really depressing. But the Phillies haven't been depressing at all as of late! In fact, they won their fourth straight game last night and now sit a remarkable four games back in the NL East. The NL East is not good. Not one bit. But winning the division seems absolutely feasible this fine morning. The Fightins won their fourth straight on Thursday night thanks in large part to Ryan Howard's continued penchant for home cooking in St. Louis. The Big Piece simply loves playing in his home town and bashes balls like that guy we once knew who hit 58 home runs in a season. [mlbvideo id="33866675" width="640" height="360" /] Howard was 2-4 with a homer and 3 RBI in the Phils 4-1 win over the Cardinals. This wasn't a one night fluke, either. Howard's swing has been looking nice as of late. And Phillies beat writer Jim Salisbury gets to write some happy words for a change:

Howard drove in six runs in the three wins at Atlanta. Playing in his hometown, he had three more RBIs on Thursday night and now has 50 on the season. He singled in a run in the fourth inning and smacked a two-run home run, his third in four games, in the sixth. In short, Howard is carrying this club right now. We’ve seen it before, but not in some time. Howard is healthy and his swing looks crisp. He’s swatting pitches where they are pitched, using the whole field and hitting balls hard.

And David Buchanon put in the best work of his career. 7.2 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER. If he can become a reliable arm in the rotation and Cliff Lee returns in normal Phifer form, who knows... The Phillies don't stink at the moment and are actually playing some entertaining ball. It's the weekend. Enjoy it while it lasts.

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Ilya Bryzgalov talks goalies playing in contract year, Las Vegas and more

Ilya Bryzgalov talks goalies playing in contract year, Las Vegas and more

Gotta love Bryz, right?

Former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was his usual humorous, unpredictable self in a recent interview with Sportsnet.ca's Luke Fox.

From what he's doing now to talking pressure as a goalie, here are some of the highlights ...

On a goalie's mental state when job security is up in the air (referenced to Flyers goalie Steve Mason)
“So many goalies take the job for a long time, so it’s easy to be out of game. You worry. You want to find a long-term job, pay bills. It’s not a secret. That’s why when there’s no [contractual] certainty and you don’t see 100 percent confidence from your team, it might affect your game. If the season’s not going well, you start thinking about it.”

On his son playing goalie
"He chose it. He’s the guy who gives his team a chance to win. Make some saves. But he plays as a player once a week, too. Shoots the puck on goalies every Wednesday pretty much.”

On being a hockey dad
“I’m pretty calm. I only get upset when I see the referees make the bad calls. The kids work so hard and play so passionately, you can’t take sides. Only when the referee’s unfair.”

On being a pro hockey player in Las Vegas
"I’m family guy, settled down. I’ve never been too emotional or casino-addicted. For me, no problem. For the young guys to play there, it causes trouble, man. Difficult trouble. … The young ones with the cash? Las Vegas can provide lots of scenes, know what I mean?"

The rest is just as good. For the full Q&A, read Fox's article right here.

Also, Bryzgalov will be a part of Sportsnet's trade deadline coverage next Wednesday.

And side note: Bryz remains active on Twitter. And remains random as ever.

Just look at his last tweet ...