Bucs at Phils: Lefty On Lefty in the Cold

Bucs at Phils: Lefty On Lefty in the Cold

The offense did knock the cover off the ball but you have to look at the Phillies coming away with a win in Jonathan Pettibone's MLB debut as a positive for Charlie Manuel's club. Now they look to build off that victory by handing their ball to their ace, Cole Hamels.

[Before we get to the game, how about Chuck manning first base during BP this afternoon as seen in the photo above? Reminds me of a story I wrote about him throwing BP to Pat Burrell back in the day. Which I couldn't find a link to. Anyone?]

Cole Hamels (0-2, 6.4) is still looking for his first victory of the season and will take on fellow left-hander Jeff Locke (1-1, 5.17) for the Buccos. Let's hope Cole doesn't go on a Cliff Lee-like run last season and have to start checking off the win-less months.

Cole has been much improved over his last two starts, allowing just 4 earned runs -- after a miserable 13 earned runs in his first two starts of 2013. The Phils have gone 0-4 over those four starts. Friendly game note we may have just jinxed: the Phillies have NEVER lost 5 consecutive starts made by Colbert Hamels.

Hamels will not have the support of one Chase Utley in the lineup this evening -- although Chase did just fine when he was used as a pinch hitter last week. Freddy Galvis gets the start at second as Utley gets a regular-old rest day. The team is in the midst of a 17-games-in-17-days run. So rest now seems logical.

Chooch Cometh

Carlos Ruiz will begin a rehab assignment tonight in Clearwater and will appear in Reading this weekend. He'll be eligible to return to the Phillies this Sunday, April 28th when the take on the Mets in New York.

7:05 pitch per usual. Hope you brought your winter coat because it's cold as _____.

Tonight's Lineup: Rollins, Galvis, Young, Howard, Mayberry, Brown, Revere, Kratz, Colbert

Sixers-Thunder 10 observations: Joel Embiid electrifies in debut

Sixers-Thunder 10 observations: Joel Embiid electrifies in debut

Joel Embiid and Dario Saric playing in a regular-season game for the Sixers? Check.

Russell Westbrook being, well, Russell Westbrook? Check.

An overzealous fan giving Westbrook a crude salute and getting tossed from the arena? Yeah, check that one off too.

The Sixers' tight 103-97 loss to the Thunder in Wednesday night's season opener at the Wells Fargo Center had a little bit of everything (see Instant Replay).

Let's take a closer look at the action with 10 observations.

1. Embiid is already a rock star among Sixers fans thanks to his personality and social media antics, but if his game ever matches his fame, look out. When he caught the ball at the free throw line during the first quarter and did a mini "Dream Shake" to bury a jumper for his first NBA points and then followed it up on the other end with a massive swat of a Westbrook layup attempt, he gave the crowd an in impressive glimpse of his vast potential. He was even showered with “Trust the Process” chants when he stepped to the free throw line during the second half. Embiid finished the game with 20 points on 6 of 16 shooting and seven rebounds along with two blocks.

2. That's not to say the big fella was without his faults. After spending two years on the sidelines, Embiid was understandably amped up and tried to do too much at times on both offense (held the ball too much, four turnovers) and defense (over-helping on rotations, which left the paint open). Like anything involving Embiid, it's a process.

3. Note to fans: Westbrook is already a supremely focused and competitive player. He doesn't need any help to get going. However, one Sixers fan took it upon himself to rev up the Thunder's All-Star point guard with a special salute in the first quarter before being promptly ejected (see story). No wonder Westbrook scored 12 of his game-high 32 points in the first quarter and finished just one assist shy of a triple-double.

4. Saric didn’t have a great shooting night (2 of 12 from the field for five points), but he still looked relatively solid in the victory. The Croatian showcased the versatility that had the Sixers salivating over him for the past two years, including a number of pump/head fakes to get defenders off balance before he missed the ensuing shot. He was overmatched inside when OKC went to its super-sized lineup with mustache afficionados Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (combined 33 points and 17 rebounds) down low. But that’s more on Brett Brown leaving the rookie out to dry than Saric’s ability.

5. Speaking of Brown, I’m not sure if the Sixers will ever value possessions like they should under a head coach with his Spurs pedigree. However, just 14 for a squad that has finished 30th, 30th and 29th in that category during Brown's first three years at the helm is definitely a step in the right direction.

6. Surgery for a meniscus tear didn’t do anything to hamper Jahlil Okafor’s post moves. The second-year big man looked spry after playing in just one preseason game before the opener. His shot was a tad rusty (4 of 10), but Okafor managed eight points in 16 minutes.

7. I’ve been critical of the Sixers’ defense over the years mainly because … it was non-existent. That wasn’t the case Wednesday until the fourth quarter. They were outscored, 34-22, in the final period. For the most part, the Sixers closed out to shooters and rotated with purpose on the defensive end of the floor. They held the Thunder to 41.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point range. Not bad when the “crown jewel” of the D in Embiid was limited to 22 minutes.

8. Jerryd Bayless might want to hurry back from that wrist injury. Sergio Rodriguez had the ball on a string all night long for the Sixers. The point guard had 12 points to go along with nine assists, zero turnovers and countless dribble moves that left Thunder defenders grasping at air. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t played an NBA game since 2010.

9. Sauce Castillo lives! OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but Nik Stauskas was excellent. He was decisive with his movements and got himself going by driving to the rim. The guard posted 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting off the bench. Perhaps coming into a season without the pressure of having to live up to being the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft and playing with close friend T.J. McConnell are what the third-year player needed.

10. Wednesday’s game was a thriller down to the end, but you can’t help but feel that some of the extra juice that would have been in the building for No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was missing. Instead of suiting up, Simmons held a press conference to discuss his health after foot surgery (see story).