Being up 3-1 will be huge for Pens

PITTSBURGH — The Penguins can’t clinch their playoff series tonight, but they can essentially put away the Philadelphia Flyers.

Winning tonight would give the Penguins a 3-1 edge in games, and the Flyers won’t be able to come back from that.

So while winning tonight’s game won’t wrap up the series, it will make finishing the Flyers a formality.

Philadelphia’s best chance was at the start of Game 3 on Sunday. The Flyers came out with admirable intensity, but they couldn’t get anything past Matt Murray.

The third-year goalie held off the Flyers until the rest of his teammates caught up with the pace of the game. It had to be discouraging for the Flyers to come out with that kind of onslaught and have nothing to show for it.

Take care of business tonight, and the Penguins will have made a big down payment on advancing to the next round.

Off base

It’s perfectly understandable that the Pirates’ Josh Harrison is upset about having his left hand broken by a pitch.

For one thing, it’s painful. It’s inconvenient. The injury will prevent him from doing his job for the next six weeks.

But Harrison wasn’t particularly logical in his complaint that Pirates pitchers were not protecting him by throwing close to opposing hitters.

Harrison was hit by 23 pitches last season, and that’s a lot. It’s a mistake, though, to think those pitchers were trying to hit him with those 23 pitchers.

Good pitchers have to establish both sides of the plate. If a pitcher never comes inside, a hitter doesn’t have to bother looking there.

Harrison is one of many players who crowds the plate with his stance, then dives forward even more when he starts his swing. That approach works for him, but he has to realize that getting hit is an occupational hazard.

After Harrison was hit and knocked out of the game by the 96 mile per hour pitch, Ivan Nova’s first pitch of the next inning hit the Marlins’ J.B. Shuck in the butt.

The umpires warned both benches, and that was it.

Did hitting Shuck somehow avenge losing Harrison for six weeks? No. It was a gesture by Nova, and that’s all it was.

Nothing else was accomplished.

SUBHEAD: Too cold

OK, it’s April 18, so it’s no longer early. It’s still cold, though, way too cold to sit in a baseball park and watch a game played under awful circumstances.

MLB threw the Pirates a bad curve when two or their first three home opponents were teams that make only one trip to Pittsburgh. That increases the urgency to play the games through the cold and snow because the opponent won’t be back in town.

Truth be told, the teams would rather play the games as scheduled, no matter how cold and miserable it is. It’s the lesser of two evils since the alternative is getting stacked up with doubleheaders later in the season.

The way teams protect pitchers these days, nobody wants doubleheaders.

SUBHEAD: One more thing

Happy birthday, Steve Blass. He turns 76 today.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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