Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kopitar lifts Kings over Devils in Game 1

NEWARK (AP) — Anze Kopitar scored a spectacular goal on a breakaway with 11:47 left in overtime Wednesday night and the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Kopitar faked a backhand shot, put the puck on his forehand and beat a prone Martin Brodeur.
Los Angeles has won all nine of its road games in the playoffs, an NHL record. The Kings are now one win shy of the NHL record for postseason road victories.

Anze Kopitar scores on Marty Brodeur on a breakaway in OT.


More importantly, they are three wins away from the franchise's first NHL title. They have won 11 consecutive road playoff games dating back to last season.
Colin Fraser scored in the first period for the Kings, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference who beat the top three teams to get to their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1993.
Anton Volchenkov tied it late in the second period for New Jersey, the East's sixth seed.
Kopitar took a pass by Justin Williams from along the left wing boards and skated in alone on Brodeur. As soon as he rifled the puck into the net, he raised his hands and banged himself into the boards, facing the crowd off to Brodeur's right.
The veteran goaltender dejectedly skated off to the locker room as the rest of the Kings piled on Kopitar.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick finished with 17 saves in what was a relatively easy night. Brodeur had 23 saves as the Devils lost in overtime for just the second time this postseason; they have won four times. LA is 3-0 in overtime this spring.

Phillies take rubber game from Mets

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
NEW YORK – Most of the heroes of Wednesday night’s come-from-behind, 10-6 win over the Mets – a close game that turned into a blowout in the ninth – weren’t very surprising.
Despite have the unlucky distinction of not having a win by his record this season, Cliff Lee has pitched as well as he has all season. He held New York to three runs in six innings and has a 3.00 ERA after eight starts.
Despite not starting for the third straight game with a hamstring strain, Carlos Ruiz needed one at-bat to continue to be the Phillies most productive hitter. He stepped in for Lee in the seventh, swatting a two-run, game-tying, pinch-hit home run.



Despite not being on a major league contract in spring training and splitting left field duties for most of the season’s first two months, Juan Pierre leads the team with 17 multi-hit games. His second hit Wednesday night, a single to lead off the eighth, ignited the game-winning rally.
Pierre scored the game-winning run later in the inning, when Shane Victorino lifted a sacrifice fly to shallow center.
But the unsung heroes of the Phillies win Wednesday – their sixth in their last eight games and 12th in their last 18 – were two guys who were apart of the crew being blamed for the team’s sluggish start a month ago. After Lee departed and the offense rallied back, Antonio Bastardo and Jose Contreras stood up and finished off the Mets.
After Ruiz hit the game-tying home run in the eighth, his eighth in 45 games this season, Bastardo and Contreras retired six of the seven batters they faced. In a trip that saw the Phils lose another All-Star to the disabled list, the bullpen’s resurgence helped the team take five out of seven games in St. Louis and New York.
Three weeks ago, on May 10, the Phillies were four games under .500 largely due to a bullpen with an unseemly 5.59 ERA through the season’s first 32 games. Their ERA, opponents’ OPS (.835) and on-base percentage (.366) were all the worst in baseball.
When the Phillies showed up to the ballpark the next day, the ‘pen was given a bit of a facelift as left-handers Jake Diekman and Raul Valdes were summoned up from Triple-A. In the same week, Michael Schwimer, Brian Sanches and Joe Savery were sent down.
In the 18 games since the bullpen shuffle entering Wednesday, Phillies relievers have a 2.86 ERA.
In their last 12 games, including Wednesday, when Raul Valdes had a hiccup on the ninth, the ‘pen has a 2.80 ERA and has held the opposition to a .219 batting average while racking up 41 strikeouts and walking four in 35 1/3 innings.
Contreras and Bastardo have been the poster boys of the pen’s turnaround.
The 40-year-old Contreras allowed 10 runs in his first 10 games this season after being activated off the DL following offseason elbow surgery. Contreras extended his scoreless string to six straight games on Wednesday; he has a 1.86 ERA in 11 games since May 4.
Bastardo had a 5.40 ERA in April and nearly as many walks (four) and strikeouts (five) in his first seven games. Bastardo has a 0.79 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks in 11 1/3 innings in 13 games in May. Entering Wednesday, opponents had hit .097 against him with a .194 on-base percentage this month.
After Bastardo and Contreras made Ruiz’s home run and Victorino’s sac fly stand up, it didn’t look like the Phils would need to use their most reliable and dominant reliever. A six-run explosion in the top of the ninth
– keyed by a three-run, second deck-reaching home run from Jimmy Rollins – should have allowed Jonathan Papelbon to take the night off.
But when Valdes struggled to get the last out in the ninth, Papelbon entered and helped send the Phils home with another win.

Stanley Cup Game 1 LIVE CHAT at 8 p.m.

Join us here at 8 p.m. Wednesday night for a live chat during Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 between the Devils and the Los Angeles Kings.

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Jump in right here during the game and let us know your thoughts on who will hoist the Cup!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blanton rocked again, Phillies fall to Mets

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
NEW YORK – Before people start filing out of Citizens Bank Park en masse, declaring the summer of 2012 a lost season with Roy Halladay joining Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for a length stay on the disabled list, consider this: When the Phillies won the World Series four autumns ago, they did it with a starting rotation of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick.
Even with Halladay lost for what’s likely to be two months with a right lat injury, the current rotation still boasts another Cy Young Award winner in Cliff Lee and a guy who looks like the 2012 Cy Young Award winner Hamels. They also have a closer who is putting up perfect save totals a la Brad
Lidge circa 2008.
Of course, the ’08 starting staff didn’t begin the way it ended. Following a disastrous 2007 season, Adam Eaton was in the ’08 rotation.



Eaton had a 5.71 ERA in 19 starts before being demoted. The guy who replaced him in the rotation that summer is currently doing a good job re-enacting the Adam Eaton role.
For the third straight start, Blanton was bludgeoned as the Phillies dropped a 6-3 loss to the Mets at Citi Field Tuesday night.
Blanton, who began the month by hurling a three-hit shutout in Atlanta, has given up 20 runs on 28 hits in 14 2/3 innings in his last three starts.
Blanton was 3-2 with a 2.62 ERA in his first five starts of the season. In his last five, his ERA is exactly five runs higher: 7.62.
Overall, Blanton is 4-5 with a 5.05 ERA this season, the last of a three-year, $24 million deal – a contract that’s identical to the one the Phils gave Eaton five winters ago. Perhaps the Phils have come full circle and have to find an outside replacement for Blanton.
Blanton pitched himself into a hole from the get-go in Flushing.
He hit the first batter he faced and allowed back-to-back singles to the next to in quickly squandering a 1-0 lead. Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, Blanton retired the first two hitters before throwing four straight fastballs to New York pitcher Jeremy Hefner.
The fourth, an 89-MPH ball belt-high and over the heart of the plate, was ripped into the left field seats. Hefner’s first major league hit was a solo home run.
For some reason, Blanton remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, a half inning after the Phils trimmed their deficit to 4-3. Blanton built the deficit back up two batters in.
After eight-hole hitter Omar Quintanilla led off with his second double of the game, pinch hitter Scott Hairston followed with a two-run home run to give the Mets a 6-3 lead.
Blanton allowed one home run in his first six starts. He’s served up nine home runs in his last four starts, a span of 14 innings.
Among National League pitchers, only Atlanta’s Mike Minor has allowed more home runs this season, with 13.
While Blanton was unable to keep the game within reach, the Phillies offense didn’t do their part after scoring in each of the first two innings off Hefner. The rookie right-hander retired six straight and 10 of 11 after Brian Schneider ripped a second-deck, game-tying home run in the second inning.
The Phils best chance to get back in the game came in the sixth, when Juan Pierre led off with a single and Hunter Pence followed with a double that cut the deficit to 4-3. But with Pence on third – he advanced on an error – and no one out, the middle of the Phillies order couldn’t even hit a game-tying sacrifice fly.
Ty Wigginton grounded out third and Shane Victorino went down swinging before Placido Polanco flew out to left to end the inning with Pence stranded 90 feet from home.
But even if the Phils capitalized on their opportunities on offense, it’s fair to wonder if it would have mattered with Blanton on the mound. Blanton has allowed 123 total bases in 63 1/3 innings this season, the second most in the NL behind Jamie Moyer (125).
Blanton is also in the top in the NL in highest opponents’ batting average (.287, 10th) and OPS (.805, eighth).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kendrick's gem lifts Phillies to fourth straight win

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
ST. LOUIS – For the second straight season, Kyle Kendrick has become a semi-regular in the Phillies rotation as a byproduct of injuries.
For the second straight season, he hasn’t hurt his team when he takes the mound every fifth day.
“He’s kept us in the game,” manager Charlie Manuel said prior to Saturday night’s game at Busch Stadium. “And sometimes, if you keep us in the game, that’s all you can do. If we have a chance to win the game… he’s done that.”
To be fair to Kendrick, he has done more that keep his team in games. More often than not, he’s put them in position to win games, too.



In a month when just about every member of the rotation other than Cole Hamels has stumbled, Kendrick has been dependable and, at least for one night, dominate.
Kendrick threw the first shutout of his career in a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night.
“That’s a good offense over there – it’s a good feeling,” Kendrick said of the shutout. “I wanted to go out and finish it and give the bullpen a rest. I’m excited to watch Roy (Halladay) tomorrow.”
The win was the fourth straight for the Phillies, who send Roy Halladay to the mound Sunday afternoon for the chance to complete a four-game, holiday weekend sweep over the defending World Series champions. Although the Phils (25-23) will remain in last place when they leave St. Louis today, they are two games above .500 for just the second time this season.
Kendrick needed just 94 pitches to dispatch the Cardinals Saturday night.
He held St. Louis to seven hits while getting 13 ground ball outs, two of them for double plays.
Kendrick threw 70 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
“I knew watching the games coming up they were going to be aggressive,” Kendrick said. “They were swinging early, and Brian (Schneider) and I had a good game plan. We went over it with (pitching coach Rich) Dubee and we had a good game plan and just mixing up, keeping them off balance, a lot of
first-pitch change-ups, sinker down. I knew they were going to be aggressive and I was trying to force some early contact and get some quick outs."
Kendrick struck out three and walked zero, improving to 1-1 with a 1.33 in four starts this month. The complete game was the second of his career.
Since getting shelled for seven runs in his first start of the season, last month in Arizona, Kendrick has a 1.64 ERA in his last five starts.
“It’s a big pick up for us and for Kyle,” said Schneider, who gave Carlos Ruiz a rare, full game off. “I’m glad he had it and I’m proud of him. To get his self-confidence back is huge.”
In Kendrick’s last 21 starts – the six he’s made this season and the 15 he made in 2011 – he has a 3.18 ERA. Kendrick has allowed two runs or less in 15 of those 21 starts.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Kendrick’s 3.18 ERA is 15th best among National League pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings as a starter. Kendrick’s run of success as a starter has made it legit to wonder if he should stay in the rotation for good.
Current fifth starter Joe Blanton, a free agent at the end of the year, has a 4.24 ERA in his last 21 starts. Blanton, the only other Phillies starter to throw a shutout this season, blanking the Braves on May 3, has a 7.25 ERA in his four games since and has allowed 14 runs in his last two starts.
“Right now, my role is to do what I'm doing and that's fine,” Kendrick said. “But I want to start. Right now, that's out of my hands, but if I keep doing that, I'm sure I'll be starting somewhere.”
“Right now he stays in the rotation,” manager Charlie Manuel said of Kendrick, who has made three straight starts in place of Vance Worley.
“There's no sense sending a message that once Worley comes back, (Kendrick) is out of the rotation. I'm not sending him that kind of message. Right now he's in our rotation.”
Kendrick, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract that would make him an affordable replacement for Blanton in 2013, got all of the offense he would need in the fourth inning. After Hunter Pence led off with a single, Shane Victorino followed two batters later with an RBI double to give the Phils a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, the offense padded the lead for Kendrick.
Placido Polanco doubled, and both Pence and Victorino worked walks before John Mayberry Jr. ripped a two-run double down the left field line. When Freddy Galvis followed with a ground ball out to shortstop, scoring Victorino, Kendrick had a 4-0 lead.
Despite Kendrick’s success as a starter this season, Saturday night was his first win of the season, as his manager was quick to point out after the game.
“I expect him to win more games,” Manuel said.
Kendrick has allowed two runs or less in each of his last five starts. So what does he have to do to earn more respect, other than have more luck in the fickle win category?
“I'm a totally different pitcher than I was two years ago, three years ago,” Kendrick said of people still pegging him as the pitcher who had a 5.49 ERA in 2008. “ I think I'm going to keep getting better. That's the plan. And if I keep doing that, I'll be starting somewhere. Hopefully here.”

Sixers fall to Celtics in Game 7


By DENNIS DEITCH
dendeitch@gmail.com
BOSTON -- The 76ers seemed to get what they wanted.
They watched Paul Pierce walk off the floor in Game 7 before he, Doc Rivers, the Celtics bench and the Boston metropolitan area wanted to see it happen. With four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the deciding game of this bruising Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Celtics' most dependable scorer fouled out.
Yet Pierce's departure only seemed to set off a trigger in Rajon Rondo. And with three big shots, Boston's floor leader put an end to the Sixers' longer-than-expected postseason journey.



The Celtics prevailed, 85-75, in a game much like the rest in the series: A battle between a team too old for this, a team too young for this. Flawed they both are. What wasn't lacking were players putting out effort.
Kevin Garnett, in the twilight of his career, had 18 points and 13 rebounds during 38 grueling minutes. He tangled most of the night with Elton Brand, who had 15 points and six rebounds, including a pair of big jumpers in the fourth quarter that got the Sixers within a point, before he fouled out in the final two minutes.
"They didn't want to lose in the second round and face those questions about the Big Three and age," said Brand, who if he played his final game with the Sixers went out with an effort he can be proud of. "And we wanted to grow up and put them out. That was our goal -- put them out. And we couldn't do it.
"They survived this one."
In the end, as it so often does, it came down to Rondo.
The Celtics point guard had a furious start to the game, but was invisible for a huge chunk of the middle of the game. Then, with 4:16 remaining and the Sixers trailing by just one possession, 71-68, Pierce was called for a charging foul when he shouldered into Thad Young.
It seemed like a damning moment for the Celtics, who have struggled to get anything at all from their weak and weakened bench the entire series. Yet Rondo didn't let that happen.
After turning down so many shots on the night, Rondo scored seven straight points -- a drive to the hole, a pull-up 22 footer and a 3-pointer -- that put Boston in control at 78-68 with 2:10 remaining. The Sixers, who struggled at the offensive end all night, had nothing to offer and their season was over.
"I thought we had a great chance to win -- a great chance to win," Doug Collins said. "And then Rondo made some great plays.
"Those were the shots we would like him to take, but he made them. Those shots went in, and my hat's off to him. He's not afraid to take them."
"I thought we did a good job defensively of forcing him to shoot that shot," Lou Williams said. "We were stopping everyone else ... and he hit two big ones for them."
It didn't help that the possession after Pierce fouled out, the Sixers didn't even get a shot off. They committed their 16th and final turnover of the night, a deadly total for a team that depended so dearly on taking care of the ball this season.
"Ultimately, it was execution. At the end, we couldn't execute," Brand said. "We learned we need to finish properly. The coaches designed the right defensive schemes, we just didn't execute.
"Hopefully we learn from it, take our lumps and grow."
Which players will be here to partake in the growth is up in the air. Josh Harris, the man who put together a group to buy the Sixers away from Comcast last summer, stood crimson-faced in the back of the interview room as Collins spoke after the game. There was disappointment in his eyes. Yet there also was determination to do what's needed to give the Sixers a chance to be better than pretty good.
"We know we have to grow as a team, add pieces," Collins said. "Josh Harris is committed to that. A day like today I tell the players to look around the locker room and make sure you see the people you bonded with. But this team won't be the same team next year. That's the nature of sports."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Devils beat Rangers in OT to win East

By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
NEWARK — A year after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996, the New Jersey Devils are going back to the Stanley Cup finals, thanks to a rookie, a 40-year-old goaltender and a coach who'd never been to the postseason in the NHL.
How's that for a turnaround?
Adam Henrique scored off a wild scramble in front at 1:03 into overtime and the Devils defeated the rival New York Rangers, 3-2, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to their first Stanley Cup finals since 2003.



The Devils will face the Los Angeles Kings for the Cup in a series that will start on Wednesday here.
This series win came against the Devils' most intense rival, and it was that much sweeter.
"That one was like Christmas," said Henrique, who also scored the series winner as Devils' first-round win over Florida.
It also was needed. The Devils' blew a 2-0 first-period lead and didn't want to head back to New York for a Game 7 on Sunday.
"It didn't matter how it got to overtime, we were in a good position," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We were at home. We just needed one shot."
Actually, the Devils needed four shots to win the game.
Henrique's winner came after Henrik Lundqvist stopped Ilya Kovalchuk twice and Alexei Ponikarovsky. The last shot lay in the crease and Henrique tapped it home.
Ryan Carter and Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils, whose biggest move this year was hiring Peter DeBoer as coach. He was fired by Florida after missing the playoffs in his three seasons. In his first postseason, he is hoping to lead New Jersey to its fourth Cup.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan tallied for top-seeded New York, which had a good flurry just before New Jersey scored.
Henrique, who is nominated for the Calder Trophy — given to the NHL's top rookie — skated away from the crease and jumped against the end boards in the corner as his teammates hopped off the bench and mobbed him.
The six Rangers on the ice just stayed down in disbelief and frustration. This was very much like Game 5, which the Devils won 5-3. New York carried the play after the first period and had a 35-29 edge in shots.
But when it came time for a game-deciding play to be made, it was a Devil who made it.
"When they scored, it was such an empty feeling," said Lundqvist, who said the puck took a weird bounce on the final play. "It is shocking."
Henrique overcame injury to score this one. He seemed to take a stick from Brian Boyle in the groin area late in the third and had to leave the ice.
He felt no pain after the game winner.
All the Rangers could do was bow their heads and then line up for the traditional handshake after losing to their cross-rival rivals in a series that was close.
Martin Brodeur, 40, kept the Devils alive in the third. He stopped a power-play shot by Brad Richards, made a save on Artem Anisimov between the circles and used his stick to deflect a pass from the boards by Carl Hagelin in the final minute just before it got to Marian Gaborik on the edge of the crease.
"You could tell he was in the zone. He led us," Parise said. "He made some big saves tonight."
Lundqvist's best stop in the third was on Dainius Zubrus on a shot from behind the circles.
Facing elimination and down 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Rangers found their game in the second period and tied the game at 2-all on goals by Fedotenko and Callahan in a roughly four-minute span.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who assisted on both goals, made the big play to get New York back in the game. He collected the puck above the left circle, skated around the net and tried a wrap around. The shot didn't go on goal but it turned out to be a perfect pass to Fedotenko who a tap-in into an open net at 9:47.
Callahan, who had a goal go off his leg in the Devils' 5-3 win on Wednesday, tied the game at 13:41 when Dan Girardi's shot from the right point deflected off his leg into the open lower corner of the net. Callahan's sixth of the postseason was set up when Brandon Dubinsky won a faceoff in the left circle.
Carter, who scored the game winner in New York on Wednesday night after the Devils blew a 3-0 lead, put New Jersey ahead again at 10:05 of the opening period.
The play started with a bad pinch at the point by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Steve Bernier led a 3-on-1 and found Stephen Gionta coming down the middle for a solo chance against Lundqvist. The Rangers goaltender stopped the shot, but Carter swatted the rebound home for his fourth of the playoffs.
Kovalchuk's seventh goal of the postseason and fifth on the power play was a thing of beauty. All five Devils skaters touched the puck with tape-to-tape passes with Dainius Zubrus finding Kovalchuk alone low in the left circle for a shot that Lundqvist had little chance to stop.
The Devils — as is the tradition for many Cup finalists — did not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy that was presented at center ice. As the team skated off to their locker room, "Glory Days," the 1984 hit from New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen serenaded them.
The game was played on the 18-year anniversary of the Rangers' dramatic, 4-2, Game 6 victory over New Jersey in the Meadowlands, a victory that pushed that classic series to a Game 7 and eventually led New York to its first Stanley Cup in 54 years. That game, of course, was preceded by a guarantee from Rangers captain Mark Messier, who delivered three goals en route to the victory.
This time, there's no Game 7.
NOTES: The Empire State Building's tower lights were lit in red and blue on Friday to cheer on the Rangers. ... Mogul and TV personality Donald Trump was at the game. ... Devils C Travis Zajac left the ice briefly in the second after being slashed on the left hand by the Rangers' Brandon Prust. No penalty was called. ... New Jersey is 4-1 in overtime in the postseason. New York finished 2-3.

Phillies stand tall, beat Cardinals in 10

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
ST. LOUIS – Cliff Lee didn’t have a win in six starts this season entering Friday night, but more unsettling for the competitive and combative left-hander was the fact that the Phillies had won just one of his those six games.
Lee didn’t turn down a more lucrative offer from the Yankees two winters ago and an enticing overture from the Texas Rangers, who have appeared in the last two World Series, to come to a team that would regularly lose when he took the mound.
So you probably can blame Lee when his emotions spilled over in the middle of Friday’s game at Busch Stadium. Lee exchanged a few heated words with Shane Victorino after the center fielder badly misplayed a long fly ball that turned into a leadoff triple in the fourth inning.
Manager Charlie Manuel had to intervene.



“They had a little heated words, that’s all right,” Manuel said afterward. “It’s good sometimes.”
Lee didn’t factor in the decision by the fightin’ Phils figured out a way to win a game he started.
Hunter Pence launched a two-run, opposite field home run on the first pitch he saw in the 10th inning to deliver the streaking Phillies a 5-3 win in St. Louis. Pence’s game-winning home run snapped a personal 0-for-13 spell.
After following up a season-high six-game winning streak with a season-high four-game losing streak, the Phils have won three straight, including back-to-back games over the defending World Champion Cardinals at Busch. The Phils (24-23) remain in last place in the National League East but are once again over the .500 mark.
“We just need to win some games – it’s what we need to do,” Manuel said. “Hopefully we can continue.”
While Pence supplied the decisive blow in the 10th, the game’s most pivotal play may have come three innings earlier. If nothing else, it was the bets defensive play of the season from the Phils.
After Jose Contreras replaced Lee and got the first two batters he faced out to begin the eighth, he gave up a two-out hit to Yadier Molina and was replaced with Jake Diekman. On the second pitch Diekman threw, Matt Adams ripped a ball to the right-center gap.
With Molina chugging around the bases, Victorino gathered the ball and fired to Freddy Galvis. The rookie second baseman unleashed a strike to catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was violently knocked to the dirt by Molina in a play at the plate.
Ruiz held on and received a gentlemanly pat in the rump from Molina, his catching counterpart. Afterward, Manuel gave Galvis props for his relay throw – a pea from right-center field.
“He was out there pretty deep, he did a good job,” Manuel said. “He’s amazing. I love to watch him, that’s the reason I rave about him a lot. He’s absolutely unreal. To be a rookie in the big leagues and have a knowledge of a game like that, and play that tension-free, loose baseball. That’s unreal.”
The game-saving play began a run of three scoreless innings from the Phillies bullpen.
Raul Valdes got the win. He escaped a two-on, out-out jam in the ninth, striking out both Tyler Greene and Matt Holliday, before turning the ball over to Jonathan Papelbon.
Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 frame in the 10th to improve to 14-for-14 in save chances.
Lee hasn’t won a game since Sept. 26, 2011. In his last 11 starts dating back to last season, Lee has a 2.61 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 10 walks in 76 innings.
But he has just one win over that span.
“You can't really control it as a pitcher,” Lee said of the 0-2 record next to his 2.82 ERA after seven starts. “I did have a two-run lead that I let slip away, so some of that's my fault."
Lee’s start at Busch Stadium was his first against the Cardinals since blowing a 4-0 lead in Game 2 of the National League Division Series to the eventual World Series champions last October. Lee would once again find himself with a lead against the Cardinals on Friday.
After Placido Polanco and Galvis hit back-to-back, one-out singles in the second, both came around to score on a single from Jimmy Rollins and on the second straight at-bat that Juan Pierre reached via error in the game’s first two innings.
Lee gave both runs back almost immediately.
He gave up back-to-back doubles in the second, as the Cardinals trimmed their deficit to 2-1. In the third, Rafael Furcal led off with a game-tying solo home run.
Lee surrendered the lead an inning later – but the defense behind him was just as much to blame.
Freese led of the fourth with a bomb to deep center that literally sent Victorino running in circles in pursuit. The ball fell in just in front of the wall and Freese ended up on third base.
Two pitches later, Molina singled to center to give St. Louis a 3-2 lead. One batter later, Victorino and Pence converged on a fly ball but neither caught it.
The second misplay in the outfield didn’t lead to a run. But it probably further fueled Lee’s need to air out his three-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder.
“It’s going to stay between us,” Lee said, refusing to talk about the altercation.
Victorino dismissed reporters seeking comment. If Lee couldn’t send a message in the dugout, he tried to do so at the plate and on the bases.
When he led off the seventh inning with a single, Lee picked up the Phillies second hit since the second inning. The other hit was also off his bat.
After making good at the plate, Lee decided to show off his foot speed, too. When Juan Pierre ripped a double to the gap in left-center, Lee broke off first base and made a mad dash around the bases, culminating with him crossing the plate uncontested to score the game-tying run.
But Lee’s work on the mound, at the plate and on the bases couldn’t put an end his winless streak.
“He’s going to win some games,” Manuel said. “He’ll win his share. When it’s all said and done, he’ll win his share.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Phillies' bats explode in win over Cards

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
ST. LOUIS – The Phillies will enter Memorial Day weekend in last place.
They have not been in last place this deep into a season since 2005, Charlie Manuel’s first year as Phils manager.
The ’05 Phillies had the likes of Mike Lieberthal, David Bell and Kenny Lofton as regulars. Of course, the current roster is filled with similar, non-All-Stars, too.
But the rotation from seven seasons ago was Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cory Lidle, Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla. There wasn’t a Cy Young Award winner among them.



The ’05 rotation finished with a 4.20 ERA, ninth in the National League.
With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels atop the current rotation, pitching should never be a problem. Losing streaks should be near impossible.
But coming off an April that saw the offense struggle and the bullpen crumble, it’s been the starting pitching that has surprisingly mediocre in May. For the second straight outing, Joe Blanton couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning on Thursday night in St. Louis.
Thankfully for Manuel and Co., the offense saved their starter and survived a marathon 10-9 victory over the defending World Champion Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
“We had them all the way, son,” Manuel joked afterward of a game that saw Blanton cough up a 6-0 lead. “We played it out. Suspense is always good – as long as it comes out all right.”
Rookie Freddy Galvis and pinch hitter Mike Fontenot hit back-to-back, two-out run-scoring doubles to help snap a 7-7 tie in the sixth inning and Ty Wigginton socked a solo home run two innings later for an all-important insurance run.
Although the Cards crept back with single runs in the seventh and eighth, Jonathan Papelbon shut the door on the Phils’ second straight win by recording his 13th save in 13 chances in the ninth. Tyler Greene hit a loud, long out to deep center field with the game-tying run on first base to end the game.
“There was some fingernail biting,” Manuel said. “(Pitching coach) Rich Dubee went running for the phone to get to the closer.”
The closer and the late, clutch offense shouldn’t have been necessary. The Phillies new-look lineup, with Carlos Ruiz hitting cleanup for the second straight game and Jimmy Rollins back at the leadoff spot after missing three games on paternity leave, gave Blanton plenty of support early.
The Phils gave Blanton a 6-0 lead through the first two innings. Galvis’ two-run single in the first and Shane Victorino’s two-run double in the second – both with two outs – keyed an offense that knocked St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook out of the game in the fourth.
But like Cliff Lee against the Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series in October, Blanton managed to give the comfy lead back.
After throwing two scoreless innings to begin the game, Blanton blew up in the fourth. Carlos Beltran, David Freese and Yadier Molina hit consecutive, two-out, run-scoring hits to turn a 6-0 deficit into 6-4.
Two innings later, holding a 7-4 lead, Blanton was cooked.
The fifth inning began with a solo home run from Matt Holliday. Beltran followed with a double.
Two batters later, Molina launched a game-tying two run home run to send the 40,135 Cards fans into a frenzy – and, later in the night, one into a streaking fit in center field. Molina’s home run ended Blanton’s night.
“He was elevating some fastballs and getting hit,” Manuel said. “It looked to me like they’re were pretty patient with him. They were looking for balls they wanted to hit, and that’s a good way to approach hitting. Holliday’s home run: he was very patient, waited for a good ball to hit and hit it.”
For the second straight start, Blanton was gone after 4 1/3 innings. After sporting a 2.81 ERA in his first seven starts of the season, Blanton has a 13.50 ERA in his last two.
Blanton, a free agent at the end of the year and seen as possible trade bait this spring, hasn’t done anything to help his value in his last two trips to the mound. He has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 19 hits, including six home runs, in his last 8 2/3 innings.
The Phils All-Star laden rotation is a pedestrian 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 starts this month. Take away Cole Hamels (4-0, 1.75 ERA in five starts) and those numbers are downright ugly.
The non-Hamels contingent of the rotation – Halladay, Lee, Blanton, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick – are 4-6 with a 4.51 ERA and 21 home runs allowed in 18 starts.
“We’re talented, we’re going to get better,” Manuel said. “I look for Halladay and Lee to definitely get better. If we can get them some runs, they’re going to get better.”
An offense that banged out a season-high 18 hits saved Blanton on Thursday. But for the Phils to climb out of the basement of the National League East, and stay out of it, they’re going to need all of their starting pitchers to return to form.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Devils thwart Rangers rally, win Game 5

By IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — Ryan Carter snapped a tie with 4:24 left, and the Devils survived for a 5-3 victory over the Rangers after blowing a three-goal lead in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night.
The Devils, who led 3-0 before the first period was half over, have a 3-2 edge in the series and can advance to face the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals with a win at home on Friday night. If the Rangers can stay alive then, Game 7 would be back in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The Devils seemed primed for an easy win when Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored within the first 4:13 of the game. Travis Zajac made it 3-0 before the Rangers woke up and began chipping away.



Brandon Prust brought New York within 3-1 before the first period was over, and Ryan Callahan made it a one-goal game in the first minute of the second. The Garden really rocked when Marian Gaborik tied it at 3 just 17 seconds into the third with his first goal of the series.
But the comeback was all for naught. Carter put the Devils back in front, and Zach Parise sealed it with an empty-net goal in the closing seconds.
"I thought we probably played our best game of the series tonight," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
Once Gaborik tied it with an unassisted goal that ricocheted in off the skate of goalie Martin Brodeur, it appeared the Rangers would ride the comeback all the way to one of the most stirring wins in team history — one that would rival victories over New Jersey in the classic 1994 East finals.
Carter made sure it wouldn't happen.
Ilya Kovalchuk knocked Michael Del Zotto off the puck in the right corner, and Gionta sent a pass in front to Carter — who had just charged in front from the bench — for a quick shot that beat Henrik Lundqvist.
"You have to (keep it together) this time of year," Gionta said. "You have to have a short memory. Fortunately we did and came out with the victory."
New Jersey was outshot 28-17 overall and had only six shots in the third period, but two of them went in. Now the Devils are on the verge of their first Cup finals appearance since they won their third title in 2003.
Brodeur who has been the backbone of every Devils championship kept his focus throughout the third period when he was loudly taunted with chants of "Mar-ty, Mar-ty" after New York got even.
The Rangers were ultimately done in by another terrible start. For the 13th straight game in these playoffs, the team that scored first in New York's contests has gone on to win. The Rangers had been on a pattern of win-one, lose-one, but now they are on the verge of elimination with their second two-game losing streak in a series this year.
The only time the Rangers have won two straight in a playoff series is when they overcame a 3-2 hole in the first round and knocked out Ottawa.
The Rangers burned their timeout in the first period, and Devils coach Peter DeBoer spent his with 10:17 left in the game after his club was forced to ice the puck. Parise implored his teammates on the bench to, 'Come on boys.' and the messages from the coach and the captain did the trick.
New Jersey surely never thought it would be in this kind of fight after storming in front early.
Not only didn't the Rangers have the strong start they craved and insisted they needed, they were practically run out of their building less than 10 minutes in.
The same problems that plagued New York in its 4-1 loss in Game 4, when the Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, cropped up again in front of the home fans that grew frustrated and angry early.
Gionta got the Devils going 2:43 in when he gathered a rebound of Mark Fayne's shot right in front of Lundqvist, steadied himself without any pressure from the defense, and slipped in his third goal of the playoffs to start the barrage.
Elias made it 2-0 just 1:30 later on New Jersey's fourth shot of the night.
After Kovalchuk fumbled the puck just inside the blue line, he dived to keep it from leaving the Rangers' zone. The puck eventually came to Adam Henrique at the right point for a shot that was stopped by Lundqvist. Elias got it in front and scored his fourth.
Tortorella used his timeout then, but it made little difference. He appeared to be calm as he moved back and forth behind the bench while talking to his players. Whatever the message was didn't sink in.
New York generated a couple of scoring chances soon after that were either turned aside by Brodeur or thwarted by the Rangers themselves. Gaborik was set up in front after teammate Ruslan Fedotenko got the puck to him after a wraparound the Devils net, but the Rangers' struggling leading scorer fired a shot over the net from close range.
Fedotenko was in the middle of another chance moments later when he sent a shot in on Brodeur. The rebound came out to Derek Stepan, whose drive from in close was smothered by Brodeur.
The Devils shrugged those off and went back to padding their lead.
Just 5:26 after Elias' goal, Zajac made it 3-0 with his seventh of the playoffs. Bryce Salvador wiped out Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the offensive zone and started the play going the other way. Zajac got a clean shot from just inside the right circle that sailed past Lundqvist and beat him inside the left post at 9:49.
The tide began to turn the Rangers' way the rest of the period as they allowed only one shot the rest of the period and began cutting into the seemingly insurmountable deficit.
Prust, making his return following a one-game suspension for an elbow he delivered to the head of Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov in Game 3, showed off a bit of scoring touch when he converted on a breakaway with 4:19 left in the first.
Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky turned over the puck in the neutral zone to Fedotenko, who fed a pass to the streaking Prust in the New Jersey end. Prust surged past the hardcharging Zidlicky and slid a backhander past Brodeur for his first goal of the playoffs.
The Rangers managed to outshoot the Devils 9-6 in the lopsided first period, but continued their sudden defensive dominance well into the second.
But not before they cut the Devils' lead down to a goal just 32 seconds into the second.
Brandon Dubinsky, back from a foot injury, fired a shot from the left point that was deflected in front and caromed toward the left corner. Artem Anisimov flung the puck back toward the crease and it struck the left skate of the driving Callahan and got past Brodeur. The goal stood up after a brief video review.
New Jersey didn't record its first shot of the period, and its second since its third goal, until Henrique put a puck in on Lundqvist 6:23 into the frame.
Lundqvist made just 12 saves en route to the loss and the Rangers allowed five goals for the first time all postseason.
To make the finals now, New York will have to win a third consecutive seven-game series. The Rangers have already played 19 postseason games.
Notes: Dubinsky had been sidelined since he was injured in the Rangers' victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the first round. He sat out all seven games of the second round against Washington and the first four against New Jersey. John Mitchell was scratched to make room in the lineup. Prust's return forced D Steve Eminger to sit out after he played the two previous games. ... Kovalchuk now has 10 assists in the postseason.

76ers force Game 7 in Boston

By DENNIS DEITCH
dendeitch@gmail.com
PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers and Celtics, Game 7, Memorial Day weekend.
Not every attempt at going retro works ... but this is one of those times where it certainly does.
The Sixers, fueled by a clutch performance by Jrue Holiday and juiced by an emotional appearance by Allen Iverson at a raucous Wells Fargo Center, are shipping back to Boston after earning an 82-75 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"You can't think of any kind of consequence," Doug Collins said. "You have to play with confidence, play with poise.



"At the end of the game we were smiling, having fun ... and I love that about our guys."
The Sixers had outplayed Boston between the whistles the entire game. The only thing that kept the Celtics hanging around for a while -- and in fact holding a 36-33 halftime lead -- was some odious free-throw shooting. The Sixers missed eight of their first 13 attempts, while the Celtics made their first 18 shots at the foul line before missing.
Otherwise, this was the Sixers' night. Much of the credit goes to Holiday, who had been getting soundly outplayed by All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for most of the series.
In this one, Holiday took charge, showing an ability to handle the ball, direct traffic and both make big shots and set up teammates. He finished with 20 points and six assists in an effort reminiscent of his Game 4 effort a year ago against the Heat in the Sixers' last elimination-game survival.
That win only allowed the Sixers to last until Game 5. This time, they and the Celtics will meet in a winner-take-all showdown Saturday.
The Sixers were able to be the aggressors thanks to a game plan that stopped Boston's ploy to attack passes deep in the backcourt. They came out running the baseline and throwing alley-oops. Only a couple found the mark, but the willingness to play above the rim set the tone.
"Jrue stayed in the attack mode," said Doug Collins, whose team outscored the Celtics in the paint, 42-16. "He knows he has to score for us."
Again the third quarter proved pivotal. The Sixers outscored Boston 27-20 in the third, as the ball movement was crisp and the shot distribution even. Five Sixers scored in double figures, and Elton Brand finally had a stellar effort (13 points, 10 rebounds) result in a win.
"Last game we had shot over 50 percent (in the first half) and we were only up three points," Brand said. "Tonight we were down three points, but we felt we played well.
"We came out and played well in that third quarter, and Boston has been the best team in the third quarter during the regular season. It's been a pivotal quarter this series."
"Heart of a lion," Collins said of Brand. "What he does for our team is amazing."
The arena had a rise in intensity brought on by both Iverson's appearance and the words of Kevin Garnett, who said Philadelphia had "fair-weather fans" after Game 5. Garnett led Boston with 20 points, but he needed 20 field-goal attempts to get there and was booed lustily every time he touched the ball.
"For our fans -- that's who this win was for," Brand said. "Someone was talking bad about our fans, so it was good to get this win for them."
With that comes the sixth Game 7 in a Sixers-Celtics playoff series. The last one came in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals, 30 years to the day of Wednesday's win.
The Sixers won that game, with Andrew Toney earning his "Boston Strangler" title by dropping in 34 points in Boston Garden.
There will be a Game 7 on that same parquet floor -- different building, but the electricity in this rivalry that had hibernated for too long is back.
"There have been so many Game 7s in this league," said Rivers, who had played a Game 7 in Boston during his playing days with Atlanta. "These young guys don't know I played and they definitely don't know Doug played.
"It's going to come down to players making shots. That's what it will come down to Saturday."
Like in 1982, Collins wants that win in the hostile environment.
"I want more. I want more," he said. "We're going to get greedy. We want more."

Cole stymies Nats in Phillies' win

By ROB PARENT
rparent@delcotimes.com
PHILADELPHIA - Cole Hamels didn't play any manly pitching games with Bryce Harper Wednesday night, but Hamels did bully the Washington Nationals from his pulpit at Citizens Bank Park.
Hamels went eight strong innings and Jonathan Papelbon earned his 13th save as the Phillies salavaged some respect from the Nationals with a 4-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park.
Hamels was nearly unhittable over the course of his 114-pitch outing. What he didn't bother with were any thoughts of a repeat of his actions the last time the Phillies and Nationals played, when Hamels welcomed Harper to the bigs by intentionally plunking him with a pitch, then casually owned up to it later.



That earned Hamels a suspension, but in this hyped revisit with the hot Nationals rookie, Hamels said he paid no attention to their juicy past.
"I had nine guys I had to face," said Hamels, now 7-1 with a 2.19 earned run average. "That never entered my mind."
He certainly seemed zoned in to the job at hand. Hamels didn't allow a hit until, with one out in the sixth inning, leadoff hitter Danny Espinosa flared a double down the left field line.
That may not have ruffled Hamels, but maybe that's because he'd receive immediate help from Carlos Ruiz, who after an ensuing hit by Harper blocked the plate well enough to take a superb Hunter Pence throw and lay a tag on Espinosa for the second out.
The Nationals then got a third straight hit on a Ryan Zimmerman single, but Hamels escaped damage by getting Adam LaRoche on a grounder to second.
Ruiz, making his first Phillies start out of the cleanup spot, helped all night long. He went 3-for-4 with a run scored to play a large hand in the Phillies (22-23) putting an end to a four-game losing streak. Ruiz did take a foul tip off his right wrist that required x-rays, but they were reported to be negative. All remains positive around Carlos Ruiz.
"He's definitely built himself into an All-Star caliber catcher," Hamels said. "We've always known that, but to get that sort of recognition from everybody else is good for him. ... You don't look at a catcher to be the guy that has the big bat but he's pulling it out. It's nice to see."
While Hamels cruised through the early innings, the offense-challenged Phils put threats together in the second and third innings against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson (1-2).
Ruiz opened the second with a single, but was still at first with two outs. Then Freddy Galvis and the reborn Mike Fontenot scratched out singles to plate Ruiz with the first Phillies run.
In the third, Pence -- pushed up a spot out of the cleanup position for this game (and probably beyond) -- drew a two-out walk. Ruiz then singled, and Shane Victorino knocked in Pence with a double for 2-0.
It stayed that way, thanks to Hamels and his fortunate sixth inning, until the bottom of the seventh. Fontenot, promoted from Class AAA Lehigh Valley May 12, spanked a double to open the inning, his sixth hit in 13 at-bats as a Phillie. He was sacrificed to third by Hamels, then surprised everyone -- scoring on a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by Juan Pierre.
"Had the right people," Charlie Manuel said. "Had the right runner and the right bunter."
That would be Pierre, who has excelled during his career in small-ball specialties.
"I was already thinking of bunting on my own," Pierre said. "But when he put the squeeze on, I was like, 'Just get it down on the ground.' It did kind of shock me that he put it on, but I was already in that mindframe, so that made it a lot easier."
That unusual Manuel call might have been part of a bigger plan, as the manager said he'd attempted to get the team to have a little fun.
"I was trying to loosen 'em up," Manuel said. "They're tight. Shouldn't be tight on our team. We let you play."
For the Phillies, any plan to release the pressure of a team too streaky of late is a plan worth hatching. Even Manuel might have needed some help in that regard.
"He was walking up and down a little more," Pierre said. "Smiling a little bit. I don't think he'd smiled for about three days in a row."
Added Pence: "Everybody just has to play baseball, not press and not get too (tight). Because in Philadelphia, the meter is 'Panic-Happy-Panic-Happy.'"
Hamels gave up a triple to Jesus Flores to start the eighth, but a would-be RBI flare by pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi was snagged on a dead run in shallow left by Galvis. That gave Hamels strength and he finished out the inning without allowing Lombardozzi to score.
Victorino helped ensure a night of gladness in the bottom half, turning on an inside fastball and flying it into the stands in right. That gave plenty of pad for reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who gave up a homer to LaRoche but still made it through.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Devils strike back, tie series with Rangers

By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
NEWARK — Martin Brodeur made 27 saves and survived a third-period punch to the chin by old buddy Mike Rupp as the Devils defeated the Rangers, 4-1, Monday night in Game 4 to even the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-2.
Zach Parise had two goals and an assist and Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac beat Henrik Lundqvist less than four minutes apart in the first period in a series where the intensity and the emotions are picking up.
Brodeur even notched an assist in the third, on Parise's empty netter, capping a game in which the Devils maintained their composure and bounced back from a 3-0 shutout in Game 3, while the Rangers took several uncharacteristic penalties and seemed rattled from the start.
Game 5 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.



This game was one where the chippiness increased with each period. New York's Marc Staal whacked Patrik Elias in the back of the knee with his stick in the second. Ryan Callahan, the Rangers captain, and New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk tussled. And finally, Rupp, a former Devil who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for New Jersey in 2003, jabbed Brodeur in his crease in the third after a stoppage in play.
That almost set off a free-for-all among the players on the ice, especially after Brodeur reacted like he had been hit by a roundhouse right.
The best action, though, was along the benches where Devils coach Peter DeBoer screamed at Rangers coach John Tortorella in what he must have perceived was an intentional attack on his goaltender in a game in which the Rangers were once again dominated. The two coaches also sniped at each other on Sunday, complaining about pick plays and embellishing penalties. Indeed, these are the makings of another classic series in this rivalry.
The Rupp punch came about four minutes after Parise scored on a power play to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead and for all practical purposes, ended the game.
Ruslan Fedotenko ruined Brodeur's bid for his 25th career playoff shutout with just over five minutes to play.
The Rangers pulled Lundqvist, who had shut out the Devils in Games 1 and 3, with less than three minutes to play, and Brodeur made two outstanding saves to keep it a two-goal game.
Parise finally iced the game with his second of the game and sixth of the playoffs. It was a clearing pass that found its way into the net. Brodeur notched the assist on the play for his fourth of the playoffs.
This game — which did not include New York's Brendan Prust, who was suspended for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 — was decided early because the Devils finally found ways to beat Lundqvist.
The Devils dominated much of the play in Game 3, and the first period of Game 4 was even worse for the Rangers. They looked slow, were outhustled on nearly every shift, and they didn't get a shot on goal until roughly halfway through the period.
By then, New Jersey already had a 1-0 lead, on a goal by Salvador, and was cruising.
Salvador's see-eying shot through a half-dozen players from the left point sneaked by the Rangers' netminder for New Jersey's first goal since the third period of Game 2. New Jersey's Jacob Josefson, playing for the first time since breaking his left wrist on April 3, failed to deflect the shot on the way in, and New York's Anton Stralman seemed to screen Lundqvist, who seemingly never saw the wristshot.
Zajac's goal gave the Devils a 2-0 lead at 11:59. It was New Jersey's first two-goal lead in the series and Parise had a big hand in it.
New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus sent the puck along the boards and New York's Michael Del Zotto made two mistakes. He didn't flag down the puck and then he allowed Parise to skate past him, setting up a 2-on-1. Parise lifted a pass over the stick of a prone Dan Girardi, and Zajac one-timed the pass into the upper portion of the net before Lundqvist could react.
Parise extended the lead to 3-0 early in the third period, just four seconds after Derek Stepan was sent off for high sticking. Kovalchuk took a shot from the point that Lundqvist could not control and Parise whacked the rebound into the net.
NOTES: Veteran Petr Sykora, who had played in every game for the Devils this season and won the 2000 Stanley Cup with New Jersey, sat, as Josefson returned to the lineup. ... With Prust forced to miss the game, the Rangers dressed seven defenseman, including Stu Bickel who returned to the lineup after sitting for Game 3. ... Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider had his three-game goal scoring streak snapped. ... The Devils' win was played on the 18-year anniversary of New Jersey's 3-1 victory over the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. That was also a Game 4, and that also tied that series, 2-2. New York went on to win that series in seven games.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Red Sox rock Blanton, get even with Phillies

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
PHILADELPHIA – Matched up against potent Boston Red Sox lineup, Joe Blanton was overmatched.
In the second inning, Joe Blanton gave up a leadoff home run. The next batter singled.
Two more singles. Grand slam.
Blanton was gone after four innings. He gave up nine runs on 13 hits in his worst start as a Phillies pitcher.
But that game was nearly two years ago, on June 12, 2010 at Fenway Park.
Blanton nearly matched it with what was easily his worst start of 2012 at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.



Beginning with a leadoff home run from Mike Aviles to begin the game, Blanton was beaten up to the tune of seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of an ugly 7-5 loss to the Red Sox. Blanton served up a career-high four home runs.
“I just threw a lot of pitches down the middle tonight,” Blanton said, “and it's not good results when you do that.”
The loss snapped Blanton’s three-game winning streak and ended the Phils’ season-high streak at six. Entering the day with a chance to leap frog the New York Mets in the National League East, the Phillies (21-20) remain in last place, a place they’ve called home for two straight weeks.
The Red Sox, who reside in last place in the American League East, wasted little time playing batting practice with Blanton.
Blanton struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 third inning. On either side of that frame were a lot of Red Sox base runners.
After Aviles put the Sox up 1-0 in the first, Boston put two more on the board in the second, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Sweeney began the inning with back-to-back hits and Blanton helped them around the bases with a throwing error.
In the fourth, Blanton allowed back-to-back home runs to begin the inning. After rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks deposited his fifth home run in 16 major league games into the seats in right center, Saltalamacchia followed by hitting one in the same section, only several rows deeper to make it a 5-1 game.
“It's one of those games where you throw close pitches and they don't go your way and it seems like every other pitch is down the middle and gets hit hard,” Blanton said. “It was just one of those days."
In the bottom half of the inning, the Phils rallied and Blanton’s night nearly came to an end. With on run in, one runner on, one out and eight-hole hitter Freddy Galvis up, Pete Orr emerged from the dugout and entered the on-base circle in place of Blanton.
But after Galvis hit his second home run in as many games, and third of the season, to make it a 5-4 game, Blanton was sent back out to hit. He would ground out and Jimmy Rollins followed by striking out to end the fourth inning.
“When Freddy homered, it’s 5-4 and it’s still early in the game (so) I sent him back out there,” manager Charlie Manuel explained. “I felt like he still had some left. I had confidence in him going back out there and pitching an inning or two.”
With the Phillies back in the game, Blanton still couldn’t get on track. Dustin Pedroia led off the fifth with a single and David Ortiz followed with a booming, two-run home run to dead center as the Red Sox padded their lead to 7-4.
Two batters later, after allowing his eighth hit in 4 1/3 innings, Blanton exited.
The defeat was Blanton’s first since April 22. In between defeats, he was 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA.
But on Saturday, Blanton allowed as many runs as he had in his previous four starts combined (seven).
Despite Blanton’s dud, the Phillies had ample opportunities to collect their seventh straight win. They out-hit the Red Sox 14-11.
Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who came into the night having one earned run in three career starts against the Phillies, exited a 7-4 game after six innings. Like Blanton, he gave up eight hits.
Facing a mishmash Boston bullpen that included Vicente Padilla – he must have heard it was Pat Burrell Retirement Night – the Phils offensive fired blanks.
In their last five innings, the Phillies put 12 runners on base with a walk and 11 hits. They scored just once.
The Phillies were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“We hit. I felt like our hitting was good all night,” Manuel said. “At the same time, we had a chance to win the game and we left 11 guys on base.”
Shane Victorino, who had a hit in each of his previous three at-bats, ended a bases-loaded, eighth-inning rally when he popped up to short on the first pitch he saw from Alfredo Alceves.
“I would swing at that every single time; It just beat me,” Victorino said of a 94-mile-per–hour cutter over the heart of the plate. “I tip my hat to him. I went up there looking for a cutter. I got the pitch I wanted and he just beat me.”
The Phils’ offense was also victimized by a highlight reel-worthy defensive play during that stretch.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the seventh, Carlos Ruiz crushed a ball to the gap in right-center. But Boston center fielder Ryan Sweeney broke out into a full gallop and made a full-extension, diving catch to rob Ruiz of extra-bases and the Phillies of two runs.
“A tremendous play,” Manuel said. “Sometimes you’re having a bad night at the plate offensively but you can win the game with defense,” Victorino said. “Sweeney’s catch right there exemplifies a position where you make a defensive play that turns the game, turns the tide.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sixers rally for improbable Game 4 win

By DENNIS DEITCH
dendeitch@gmail.com
PHILADELPHIA - There are moments of doubt, and there are moments of resignation.
In the first half of Friday night's Game 4 between the 76ers and Celtics at Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers had everyone in the building thinking about anything other than there possibly being a Game 6 in Philly on Wednesday.
The Sixers were going to lose Game 4, and quietly bow out in Game 5. Had to be.
Then the doom eased into disappointment, which soon became curiosity, then turned into pride.
Then, amazingly, they took the lead. And after spotting Boston the first 12 points of the game, the Sixers scored the final nine points over the final 83 seconds.



Sixers 92, Celtics 83. Series tied. See you back in Philly Wednesday.
For anyone who experienced the game in its entirety, the final score is preposterous. Less than six minutes into the game the Sixers trailed 18-3. At one point late in the second quarter they were shooting 7-for-35 (20 percent) from the floor, flirting with the Mendoza Line in a statistic where Ty Cobb percentages still are pretty shabby.
Even early in the third quarter there were reasons to wonder not if the Sixers could win, but how badly they would lose. In the opening minute of the second half Elton Brand won a jump ball ... only to have Rajon Rondo out-hustle the Sixers to it and start a fast break.
Yet the Sixers started to chip away, thanks in part to Boston switching personalities with them. In the third the Celtics were the team taking and missing long jumpers. Meanwhile, Evan Turner -- who got in two separate altercations with three different Celtics -- started to slice into the lane and bring the Sixers closer. Lou Williams, king of scoring when momentum shifts, started to heat up.
However, in the fourth quarter it was the Thad Young and Lavoy Allen show. When Boston went to a small lineup, that frontcourt sliced and diced the Celts at both ends. They combined for 12 points in the fourth quarter, seemed to be grabbing every board, blocking every shot, picking up every loose ball.
Finally, down the stretch, Andre Iguodala stepped forward. He hit a long jumper to give the Sixers the lead, 85-83, then followed it with a 3-pointer.
The building exploded. The series was tied. And back to Boston they'll go.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Phillies hold on for fifth straight win

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
CHICAGO – Ten months earlier, Roy Halladay suffered through one of the most agonizing starts of his career at Wrigley Field. The throwback pitcher who takes pride in finishing what he starts had to take himself out of a game.
After throwing four pitches in the fifth inning, Halladay backed off the mound, tried to catch his breath and then couldn’t go on. Heat exhaustion knocked Halladay out as Drew Carpenter was summoned in to take his place.



Halladay was unavailable to the media afterward. In perhaps a show of solidarity, his catcher, the normally affable Carlos Ruiz, politely declined to talk when the game was over.
Ruiz takes his catching responsibilities personally. Wearing a glum expression as he sat in the cramped visiting clubhouse, it was almost as if Ruiz felt he let his starting pitcher down.
The Phillies' talented battery returned to the scene of the crime Thursday night and even if they didn’t have last July on their minds, they sure played like a tandem eager to get a victory at Wrigley this time around.
Halladay held the Cubs in check for eight innings while the red-hot Ruiz had four hits and three RBIs as the Phillies swept their second, two-game series of the week, beating Chicago 8-7.
“Better weather, that’s for sure,” Halladay joked about taking the mound on a night when it was 30 degrees cooler than that muggy, forgettable evening last July.
The victory, which got dicey in the final inning when rookie Jake Diekman took over for Halladay and couldn’t corral his command, moved the Phillies (20-19) above the .500 mark for the first time since Opening Day and it extended their win streak to a season-high five games.
It also snapped a run that saw them lose five straight Halladay starts coming into the night. Prior to this season, no Halladay team had lost five of his starts in a row since the 1999 Toronto Blue Jays.
The win was also Halladay's first ever at Wrigley Field.
“We’ve won five in a row now, we’re over .500 and I think that’s the bigger picture, it’s what we’re all excited about,” Halladay said. “We’ve been playing a lot better lately. Ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Like I said after my last start, whether you get the win as a starter or the team gets a win, as long as you’re walking out with a win you’re not going to complain.”
Halladay, who allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking zero, picked up his first win since April 16. In the five games in between wins, Halladay had his worst start since joining the Phillies – coughing up a 6-0 lead in Atlanta – but pitched well in the remaining four games.
In four of those five games, the Phillies had scored a total of five runs for Halladay. They matched that total in the first seven innings at Wrigley on Thursday, thanks in part to Ruiz (4-for-5).
With two on and two out in the first, Ruiz ripped a run-scoring single to left to hand Halladay a 1-0 lead before he took the mound. In the fifth, Ruiz rapped a RBI single to right.
In between, Hunter Pence ripped a two-run double in a three-run second inning that chased Cubs starter Chris Volstad from the game. Volstad, a former Marlin, has given up eight runs in eight innings of two starts against the Phillies this season.
In his career, Volstad is 2-6 with a 6.22 ERA (50 earned runs in 72 1/3 innings) against the Phils.
Long after Volstad left, the Phillies tacked on three important runs in the eighth. Ruiz was once again right in the middle of the rally.
He collected his fourth hit of the night with a two-out, RBI double to right. The four-hit game was the first for Ruiz since Sept. 25, 2011.



“He's hot. He's been playing great, man,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I can't say enough about him. And good he is, because we definitely need it. We need every bit of that.”
“I feel great,” said Ruiz, who had six multi-hit games this month. “When you feel great at home plate you’re going to have a lot of good at-bats. I feel relaxed. I’m seeing the ball well. I’m using the whole field and I have a very good idea at the plate and I’m swinging at good pitches.”
Ruiz, who is hitting .429 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 15 games this month, isn’t just garnering well-deserved All-Star Game consideration, but he’s putting up numbers that would make a strong argument that he’s currently the best catcher in baseball.
Ruiz leads all major league catchers in batting average (.363), hits (42), OPS (1.024) and on-base percentage (.405). He’s second in home runs (seven) and extra-base hits (16).
Among National League players, regardless of position, Ruiz is third in hitting, trailing only New York’s David Wright (.411) and St. Louis’ Rafael Furcal (.367).
“He takes what you give him, he never seems to get greedy… he sees the pitch well,” Halladay said of Ruiz. “Those are tough guys to pitch to, when you make a mistake, they’re going to get you. When you make a good pitch, they go the other way with it. For me, the best catcher in the National League right now. We’ve said it for years. Unfortunately you have to really hit to get that notoriety and he’s doing that right now. Hopefully people take notice.”
Halladay and his battery mate share a mutual admiration.
“I’m so happy he got that win, you know?” Ruiz said. “It was a big win for us and also for Roy. He pitched real well today.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Devils even series with Rangers

By IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — David Clarkson's deflected goal 2:31 into the third period snapped a tie and lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers that evened the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece on Wednesday night.
Clarkson built off the momentum created by Ryan Carter's goal late in the second period that tied the game, 2-2. Ilya Kovalchuk had given the Devils a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal in the first. Defenseman Bryce Salvador added two assists, and Martin Brodeur stopped 23 saves for the win.
"We had to keep going to the net, and I think we were doing some good things," Clarkson said. "We've been playing some good hockey and we've got to continue to do it. That is a big win for us."
Marc Staal and Chris Kreider scored in the second for the Rangers, who lost their third straight Game 2 after winning the series opener. Top-seeded New York, which had 24 saves by Henrik Lundqvist, hasn't had a two-game lead at any point in these playoffs.



Game 3 will be Saturday in New Jersey.
New Jersey got even at 2 when Salvador wound up for a shot at the blue line and fired a drive that Carter — with his back to the net — brilliantly deflected past Lundqvist with 1:51 left in the second. Marian Gaborik stood up straight in front of Salvador, but didn't drop down as many of his teammates have to try to block the shot. For that, he was pinned to the bench by coach John Tortorella, even through New York's power play in the third.
Gaborik returned to the ice with 8:40 remaining.
The Devils kept the pressure on the Rangers at the start of the third and wiped out the good work New York displayed in the second. After spending much of the first penned in their own end, the Rangers rebounded to erase their early deficit and briefly take the lead thanks to their previously inept power play.
With Alexei Ponikarovsky off for interference, Staal fired a shot that sailed wide of the net and struck the back boards before popping back in front and pinballing into the net off Salvador and Brodeur at 2:23. The goal was originally credited to Derek Stepan, who was in front, but the puck managed to miss him both on the way toward the net and on the bounce back.
Staal nearly netted another moments later when he ripped a drive that Brodeur had to lunge fully to his left to snare with his glove.
Kreider, the rookie from Boston College, scored for the second straight game to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 12:19. Anton Stralman let go a shot from above the right circle that ticked Kreider's stick and fluttered past Brodeur for the rookie's fourth goal. He had to wait to get it because it was first given to Stralman before being changed during a commercial break.
But that was hardly the longest delay of the night. Before Kreider's power-play goal, the action was stopped for about eight minutes as arena workers struggled to get the door to the Devils' penalty box opened. Travis Zajac stood patiently as he waited to have a seat in the box. He even managed to laugh as did New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer and the usually stoic and agitated Tortorella.
Zajac, who first was sent to the Rangers' box, stayed in New Jersey's sin bin for only 1:47 before Kreider scored the Rangers' second power-play goal of the night.
New York registered the first six shots of the period before New Jersey had its first about 8 minutes in, but the teams were even at 17 through 40 minutes.
Lundqvist had a bit of glove magic of his own midway through the second when a shot by Anton Volchenkov was deflected by Kovalchuk but tracked and grabbed by Lundqvist.
The Devils got their elusive first goal of the series, and the all-important lead in the game, when Kovalchuk connected on the power play late in the first period.
After Brian Boyle was sent off for slashing Zach Parise, the Devils continued their puck-possession prowess in the Rangers' end. New Jersey moved the puck all around the zone in search of a clean shot that could get past the diving New York defense and perhaps challenge Lundqvist, who made 21 saves in the series-opening win.
Marek Zidlicky curled with the puck to the center of the blue line and slid a pass down to the left circle to Kovalchuk, who calmly and patiently drifted in and snapped a shot up and under the crossbar in the upper corner of the net for his sixth goal of the playoffs and fourth on the power play.
The Devils didn't record a shot on goal until 6:01 in when Patrik Elias put a wrist shot in on Lundqvist, but New Jersey finished the first period with an 8-5 edge in shots — despite having six more blocked by the Rangers.
Whether Brodeur was kidding or not about wanting Rangers to be injured by blocking shots, the home team wasn't deterred from getting in front of drives. New York forward Brandon Prust was doing a bit of a dance in front of the dangerous Kovalchuk, trying to deny any potential drive, even though he was defending without a stick.
When Kovalchuk finally scored later in the period, he let out a big yell — part celebration and an exclamation of relief — as he skated in front of the glass behind the net.
NOTES: The Rangers were 10 for 61 (16.4 percent) on the power play in the postseason before Wednesday. This marked the second time they netted a man-advantage goal in consecutive games, but they fourth time they scored two in a game. ... The Devils returned defenseman Peter Harrold to the lineup and sat rookie Adam Larsson. Harrold replaced Larsson in the lineup late in the season and started the first nine postseason games. Larsson played in the previous five games. ... Salvador already had a career-best six points in the playoffs before Game 2.

Robbinsville softball gets back to MCT final in 11

By RICK FORTENBAUGH
rfortenbaugh@trentonian.com
EWING - Although it had an anti-climactic ending, just call it one of the great games of the year in area high school softball.
In an 11-inning classic, defending-champion Robbinsville just got past Notre Dame, 3-2, in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament at Armstrong Park on Wednesday night.
With the victory, the Ravens advanced to the title game Thursday night at 7 o'clock against Allentown, which won its semifinal over West Windsor North.
Notre Dame appeared in good shape when it took the lead in the top of the 11th when Maddie Schafer led off with an RBI single and advanced to third.
When a runner was safe on a fielders' choice, the Irish then had runners on first and third with no outs in their quest for the all important second run.



It didn't happen as ND hit into a line drive double play and Lauren Fischer got the third out with her 11th strikeout of the game.
In the bottom of the 11th, Robbinsville bunted the runner to third and tied it on a bloop single by freshman Hannah Olsheveski. From there, the Ravens won it when two Notre Dame pitchers combined to walk three straight batters and force in the winning run.
Earlier, ND started the 10th inning by moving the runner to third, but Fischer struck out the next two batters, including an epic 12-pitch at bat by Annie Marcopolus.
Notre Dame, which carried a 12-game winning streak into this game, had an opportunity in the seventh when a walk and bunt single by Marcopolus placed runners on first and second with no outs.
The key play to the Ravens turning back that challenge was throwing out a runner at third base on a bunt.
In a game with a very wide strike zone, Notre Dame took the early lead when it scored in the first inning. After Fischer walked lead-off hitter Marcopolus, who than advanced on a wild pitch, Sarah Coyne put down a sacrificed to advance the runner at third.
Maddie Schafer then hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Raven second baseman Christine Levering made a nice diving stop, but her only play was to first as Marcopolus scored.
Notre Dame freshman Julia Tosti, meanwhile, sailed through the first three innings by facing just 10 batters. She was also backed by some strong defense, including an alert play by Coyne at second to beat the runner to first.
As is so often the case with the defending state champions, Fischer got Robbinsville going in the bottom of the fourth by blasting a double in the right centerfield gap.
From there, Rebecca Freeman hit a line drive to left fielder Gabby Milo. Fischer got a late break from third, but was still able to beat the relay throw and slide under the tag on Freeman's sacrifice fly.
The outstanding defensive work for the Irish continued in the fifth inning when shortstop Lexi Chianese made a great diving catch up the middle. This came after Notre Dame nearly took the lead in the top of the inning on an error and sac. Fischer got out of that jam by getting Marcopolus to hit a liner to left.
Robbinsville also nearly took the lead in the bottom of the sixth when Nicole Piet and Freeman singled. But Alyssa Giampolo, who came on relief in the fourth inning, was able to turn back the Ravens by striking out three batters in the inning.
Notre Dame 100 000 000 01 - 2
Robbinsville 000 100 000 02 - 3
WP-Fischer. LP-Giampolo. 2B-Fischer. RBIs: ND-Schafer 2. R-Olshevski, Wojton, Freeman.

ASHMORE: Kovalchuk earns his money for Devils

By MIKE ASHMORE
For The Trentonian
NEW YORK - It's never enough for Ilya Kovalchuk.
No matter what the Devils star does, it seems he's never able to justify his lavish 15-year, $100 million contract in the eyes of many. Wednesday night, however, he showed the hockey world why he makes the big bucks.
Two nights after a disappointing Game 1, Kovalchuk set the tone for the Devils by scoring their first goal at 13:39 of the first period to help lead the Devils past the Rangers, 3-2, and tie the best-of-seven series at one game a piece. It was the kind of game that many expected in his first full season last year, but never seemed to get.



The 29-year-old Russian scoring machine was dealt to the Devils as part of a blockbuster deal with the Atlanta Thrashers midway through the 2009-10 season. But between a perceived lack of production -- he "only" scored 31 goals last season -- and a reported conflict with then-head coach John MacLean that was believed to play a part in the Devils great's dismissal from the bench, and New Jersey fans have wanted more.
Way more.
And Kovalchuk, who scored 37 goals and added 46 assists during a point-per-game regular season, delivered once again in Game 2.
"Kovalchuk has been a horse for us all year, and tonight was no different," said Devils fourth line center Ryan Carter, who scored New Jersey's second goal. "On the power play, he's a difference maker. He's got that shot, and I think he's the kind of guy that can carry us through."
Carter, of course, isn't just referring to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the fabled hardware itself. With the series tied heading into Saturday's pivotal third game, that certainly isn't as out of the realm of possibility as it may have felt after a disappointing series-opening 3-0 shutout defeat.
For their part, with all the talk of blocked shots making waves in between games, the Rangers made an uncharacteristic defensive gaffe to allow Kovalchuk to notch his sixth goal of the postseason. Marek Zidlicky's beautiful cross corner feed trapped all four Rangers on the wrong side of the ice, allowing Kovalchuk to walk in all alone. But it wasn't only the New York players who were surprised by that development.
"I think plays when we move it around well and we get shots, that opens up spots for other people and you get them running around," said Devils star forward Zach Parise, who picked up the secondary assist on the play.
"A lot of times on the power play, you don't score on the initial chance. You get it on the second and third wave, and that's what opened him up there and got him the goal."
And the goal was a beauty.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is regarded as one of the best in the world in one-on-one situations, but had absolutely no chance on a point blank Kovalchuk wrister that was over the Vezina Trophy finalist's glove before you knew it.
"It's nice to score, it seems like whoever scores first wins the games so far," Kovalchuk said. "We were just a little more patient (on the power play), and we wanted to wait for them to lay down so we could take it and go around. That's what we did."
If the Rangers don't better defend Kovalchuk - the most skilled player on either team - he could lead the Devils right around them to a stunning Stanley Cup Finals playoff berth.
And that would be worth every penny.

Phillies' checking line takes down Cubs

By RYAN LAWRENCE
rlawrence@delcotimes.com
CHICAGO – No matter how many times the Phillies add a starting pitcher, someone wants to subtract one.
Perhaps it began with the ill-advised trade for Roy Halladay, trade away Cliff Lee winter of 2009.
When the Phillies re-signed Lee the next winter, rumors of trading away Roy Oswalt or Joe Blanton began.
When he arrived to spring training three months ago, Blanton heard the same questions. In the last week, more rumors surfaced involving Blanton and Cole Hamels.



Despite the aforementioned Halladay for Lee switcheroo three winters ago, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. almost always adheres to the adage that you can never have enough pitching. He’ll trade away prospects; but he won’t trade away major league starting pitching.
The reasoning is simple: rare does a season go by that a team relies solely on five starting pitchers. The Phillies have bared witness to this in the last two months when both Cliff Lee and Vance Worley have landed on the disabled list.
In their place, Kyle Kendrick has stepped in and showed off the value of the starting pitching depth Amaro thought enough of to sign him to a two-year, $7.5 million deal in February.
Rushed back into the rotation on short notice, Kendrick held the Cubs to one earned run in six innings as the Phillies took a 9-2 win Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. Carlos Ruiz’s one-out home run in the eighth snapped a 2-2 tie and helped the Phils extend their season-high win streak to four straight games.
The Phillies (19-19) are back at the .500 mark for the first time in two weeks.
They haven’t had a winning record since Roy Halladay won on Opening Day.
Halladay takes the mound Thursday night in the finale of two-game series at Wrigley.
For the fourth time in four starts, Kendrick was not credited with a win.
But for the third straight start, he put the Phils in position to get a win.
Following a disaster in Phoenix three weeks ago, when he allowed seven runs on 11 hits in three innings, Kendrick has been nearly as effective as his rotation mates. Kendrick has a 2.12 ERA in his last three starts.
Summoned into duty when Worley was scratched a day earlier, Kendrick retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced. That run only ended because Juan Pierre couldn’t corral a can-of-corn fly ball to left with one out in the fourth.
The next batter, Alfonso Soriano, hit a two-run home run. It was the only damage to Kendrick’s ERA.
Following Soriano’s home run, Kendrick retired eight straight before turning the ball over to the bullpen.
Kendrick, who hadn’t pitched in a week, threw a season-high 93 pitches. Fourteen of those pitches came in on at-bat: the Bryan LaHair plate appearance that ended with Pierre’s unseemly error.
After Kendrick’s night ended, Jose Contreras, who had allowed runs in each of his last two appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh before turning the ball over to the back of the bullpen.
The offense was supplied by a couple of familiar sources: Ruiz and rookie Freddy Galvis. Ruiz led off the second with a single and scored when Freddy Galvis hit a two-out double later in the inning.
After Soriano’s home run put the Cubs in front 2-1 in the fourth, Pierre made up for his outfield miscue with a two-out double in the top of the fifth. He scored the game-tying run when Shane Victorino followed with an infield single.
The score stayed 2-2 until Ruiz came up against Cubs reliever Shawn Camp in the eighth. Ruiz teed up an 80-mile-per-hour slider and launched it over the ivy in left for his seventh home run of the season.
Ruiz, who finished 2-for-4 to raise his average to .343, is two home runs away from tying his career high of nine, set in 2009.
While Ruiz’s home run was all the bullpen would need, the Phils tacked on a half dozen insurance runs in the ninth.
Ignited by Galvis’s second double of the game, the Phils scored six times in their final at-bat. Galvis, who has 11 doubles this season, is hitting .400 with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs in his last seven games.
Hector Luna’s grand slam capped the offensive explosion in the ninth and sent the majority of the 38,678 Cubs faithful to the exits.