I don’t play many video games and I don’t vote in many fan polls, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel the same way. And if you don’t, you can cast your vote for the cover boy for “MLB ’12 The Show” over at MLB.com starting today. The candidates: Buster Posey, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce…
Through the first three games of the much-anticipated second-round playoff series between the Capitals and Penguins, Sidney Crosby has been nearly invisible, while Alex Ovechkin has been a runaway freight train.
Playing head-to-head for most of the first three games, Crosby is still looking for his first point and is a minus-3. Ovechkin has one goal and two assists in the series, but it’s his physical play that has made the biggest impact. Through three games Ovechkin leads both teams with 21 hits and 35 shot attempts.
“The great thing is that there’s one of them in this league and we’ve got him,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said of his 30-year-old captain. “He’s very physical, he’s a sniper, he’s quick. You talk about skill, power and determination; all those things, he’s got a lot of that. Last night he showed why he’s a force.’’
Ovechkin imposed his will on the Penguins in Game 3, with 18 shots attempts and nine hits. Six of those shots were blocked and five missed the net, but Capitals center Jay Beagle said Ovechkin’s impact might be felt later in the series, when all those bumps and bruises take their toll. Ovechkin currently leads the NHL in playoff hits (49) and shots (43).
“He’s had a huge impact” Beagle said. “You see him finishing the body. No one wants to go back for a puck when you’ve got a guy like that coming full speed at you ready to finish his check.
“He had some big blocks in Game 1 and Game 2. There are a lot of things he’s doing great.”
Ovechkin finally scored his first goal of the series 8:02 into the third period of Monday night’s 3-2 loss when he snapped a rising wrist shot through a screen and off Matt Murray’s glove hand.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray said Ovechkin possesses one of the hardest shots he’s ever faced but said he should have caught Ovechkin’s shot Monday night. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who watched from the bench, said there’s not a lot of advice he can give the 21-year rookie goalie when it comes to facing Ovechkin.
“I think he knows he shoots pretty hard so I didn’t’ have to tell him that,” Fleury said. “He’s fine. He challenges the one-timer. (Ovechkin) will score sometimes. He’s one of the best scorers in the league. He’s got a good shot. You’ve got to do your best in front of him. If it goes in then screw it and keep going.”
Making sweeping judgments just one month into the Major League Baseball season is always a risky proposition. After all, we're talking about a small sample size — not even one-fifth of the 162-game slate — so it's hard to tell exactly which early-surprise teams will be out of the running down the road.
But at 15-11, the Philadelphia Phillies so far are showing that they're not laying down just because they were widely expected to struggle in 2016.
Just ask the Nationals. The suddenly youthful Phillies' three-game sweep of the NL-East leaders last week felt like a head-scratcher for Nats fans, but it was a series that showed that Pete Mackanin's club might no longer stuck in the seemingly perpetual quagmire of a rebuild.
"Every time we play somebody, I get the same question, but it's a good question because of course we [believe in ourselves]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said via MLB.com. "We played the Mets, we played them well. We just got done sweeping the Nationals and that was one of those teams where we wanted to gauge how good we were."
Of course, the Phils had already been hard a work trying to retool the roster under the direction of new President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail. Once known for a core featuring stars like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, Philly's now getting major contributions from the likes of Vince Velasquez, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola — not exactly household names, but potential building blocks that are all under 25.
So, can this last? Are the Phillies ahead of schedule?
Well, though they're winning, the Phillies certainly aren't exactly dominating any one area of the game. Their better-than-expected pitching staff owns a so-so 3.93 ERA, which is helping to keep this team afloat. The staff will need to keep this up, because the offense is currently ranked 29th in the majors in on-base percentage (.289) and 28th in OPS (.651), which explains why this team can have a winning record despite a minus-23 run differential.
As the Phillies fight to show that they aren't a mirage, the one thing that does seem real for the team and its fans is that there might finally be light at the end of the tunnel. The rebuilding plan appears to be paying dividends early on, and perhaps sometime soon, this club could pose as a serious threat to the Nats and the rest of the NL East for the division crown.
"The players should feel proud of what they've done so far this season, no matter what happens down the road," Mackanin said. "The biggest thing for me was how we reacted after going 0-4 at the beginning of the season. What have we gone, 15-6 since then? It's a good feeling."
BALTIMORE – Ryan Flaherty was in the original starting lineup at shortstop and Manny Machado at third base for Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees.
About 40 minutes after the lineup came out, Machado was listed as the shortstop and Flaherty at third base.
Machado came to talk with manager Buck Showalter about the lineup change.
“I talked to Manny in detail about it, got his feelings about it. This is the way we’re going to go tonight,” Showalter said.
“Manny made the case he wants the Orioles to win. That’s all we talked about. What all this about [is] ‘if you want me to play third, I’ll play third. If you want me to play short, I’ll play short.’ He’s in.”
Last year, Machado started seven games at shortstop when J.J. Hardy was on the disabled list with a groin injury.
Flaherty and Paul Janish also played there. He played there twice when Hardy was out last month.
Those were the first games Machado, who played shortstop exclusively until coming to the Orioles in Aug. 2012, had played there since.
Flaherty subbed for Machado at third in late 2014, too.
Showalter said that Pedro Alvarez, who played there on Sunday after Hardy left the game, with an injury, is an option at third base.
“He’s played more third base than Manny has. There’s some options there. I’d like to keep them all open. I’d also like to keep from moving guys around a lot,” Showalter said.
Flaherty, who was surprisingly sent down to Norfolk eight days ago when the Orioles wanted 13 pitchers, is happy to be back.
“Every day up here is a good opportunity. Every time you have a chance to help the team in whatever way it is, then that’s a good opportunity,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty hit .421 in five games with the Tides.
Showalter is uncomfortable with a three-man bench, and the Orioles could add Janish after his wife delivers the couple’s third child this week.
“We’d all rather get back to 12 [pitchers] and four on the bench. It’s been tough,” Showalter said.