Was Last Night's Game Foreshadowing?

Was Last Night's Game Foreshadowing?

I am confident that the Phillies will make the playoffs. With four games to play and the Fightins up in both the Division and the if-necessary Wild Card races, this team is playoff bound.

I also think they will still win the division. I fully expect a bounce-back victory tonight and a series win over the Nationals. Hell, let's call it a sweep. The Phillies will win the next four games and go into the playoffs having won an insane 14 of the final 16 games. There will not be a hotter team heading into October's battles.

But last night's loss is something we should not quickly forget. Here's why.

The Phillies are a streaky team, and two days ago we were all riding that streak to false bravado. Honestly, 26 hours ago I had convinced myself that the Phillies were good enough to get to the World Series. Then, who knows what can happen.

But last night opened my eyes. Didn't the game last night feel eerily similar to Cole Hamels' start in the playoffs last season against Colorado? We hoped he would shut the door last night. If there was ever a game I felt confident the Phillies would win it was Cole Hamels facing Mike Hampton. Hamels was solid. Just like last postseason, he was okay. His performance isn't why they lost the game. Solid, but not dominant.

The offense, that has been on fire lately, was shut down for most of the game. They just seemed snakebit last night. I mean, come on, Shane Victorino hit into a double play then got caught stealing. Pat Burrell ran to third on a ball that was hit right to the shortstop. It just wasn't the offense's night. They've been relying on clutch hitting and yesterday it just wasn't there. I fear that might be the case next week.

As the old saying goes, pitching wins in the playoffs. The Phillies' bats have started heating up at the right time, but it's been against the likes of Jair Jurrjens, James Parr and Joe Nelson. Not exactly Koufax and Drysdale.

And no, this year's Dodgers aren't Koufax and Drysdale either. But the Dodgers have a solid staff. The Brewers have a solid staff. The Cubs have the best starting rotation in baseball. It might be up to the pitching staff to win playoff games.

Solid is good. I'm just afraid we're going to need dominant.

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 time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic 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.