Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

Five Encouraging Parts of the Phillies Sweep of the Mets This Weekend

We’ve gotten so used to crappy development after crappy development
with our teams this past year that it’s almost unsettling when something
unreservedly positive happens with one of them. But in case you were
too busy this weekend watching game film on Matt Barkley or celebrating
the historic demise of the Lakers and Celtics, the rumors are true–the
Phillies swept the Mets at Citi Field this weekend, winning three games
by a combined score of 18-5. If it was five years ago, this would have
been cause for rioting in the streets; even in 2013, it’s a pretty cool
thing.

None of the three games were even particularly close–yesterday
afternoon’s game was knotted for a while, but the Phils broke it open in
the seventh and the Mets never really fought back. And in the meantime,
a whole bunch of our guys who had been struggling some got to get back
on track. Some of the positives include:

1. Cole’s first win of the season. Hamels had gone a
dispiriting five starts without earning a W, despite going at least six
innings while allowing  three runs or fewer in his last three starts.
He finally got one yesterday, although it wasn’t Cole’s sharpest
performance–he walked an uncharacteristic six batters, his most since
July of last year. But he managed to get out of trouble and only let up
two hits all game, and after giving the Mets one in the first, went five
more scoreless before turning the game over to the bullpen.

2. The Bullpen holding tight. Speaking of which.
After being about as secure as a Playskool piggy bank for four games
against the Pirates, the bullpen was actually on lockdown for this
series, letting up only two hits and one run in seven innings of
combined work, the lone damage courtesy of a John Buck solo blast off
Jeremy Horst in a game the Phils were already leading 9-3. The bullpen
on this team was supposed to be a strength, so it’s good to see that the
Pittsburgh disaster situation does not appear to be a continuing
crisis.


3. Ryan getting on track. Ryan Howard only had one
hit in each of the three games–he was just a pinch-hitter in the third
game anyway–but he made them count, with a game-breaking three-run homer
in the first, a floodgate-opening RBI single in the second, and a huge,
go-ahead two-run double in the third. He ended with seven RBIs on the
series, awesome production from our hot-and-cold cleanup hitter. Ryan’s
clearly still not the MVP candidate he was a half-decade ago, with more
of his one-time home runs dying at the wall and his walk rate
diminishing to near non-existence, but if he can at least stay a net
positive on offense, we won’t be kept up at nights thinking about the
four years, nearly $100 mil left on his contract.

4. Dom and JMJ going back-to-back. Domonic Brown’s
alternately frustrating and tantalizing year continues, as he only went
3-13 on the series, but with one of those three being a three-run blast
that put game two of the series to bed in the fifth inning. John
Mayberry Jr. followed that with a solo blast of his own, continuing his
2011-level production for the season, with ten extra base hits (tied for
second on the team) in just 73 plate appearances. We could really use
at least one of these guys turning out to actually be a good, reliable
everyday outfielder, so we’ll continue to grasp onto these scraps while
gritting our teeth through their 0-4 with three strikeouts games.

5. Kyle going the distance. Kyle Kendrick picked up
just the second shutout victory of his career with a three-hit,
one-walk, five-K blanking of the Mets in the series opener. With his 2-1
record, 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 3:1 K/BB ratio, Kendrick has been the
unlikely ace of the Phils’ pitching staff this year, despite making over
$15 million less than three of our other starters. It might not last,
but going back to the second half of last year now, Kendrick has made a
decisive case for being a reliable back-end starter, if not more. He
probably won’t get optioned to Triple A again at any point this year, at
the very least.

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The Clippers said Tuesday that their All-Star guard will continue to undergo treatment and evaluation by the club's medical staff.

Paul was injured on a first-half play involving Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in Monday night's victory over the Thunder. Paul didn't return in the second half.

The Clippers are 26-9 in 36 games with Paul in the lineup this season. He is averaging 17.5 points, 9.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and leads the NBA with 2.25 steals per game (see full story).

Knicks: Anthony tells Jackson he wants to stay in New York
NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony still believes the Knicks can win and still wants to be in New York when they do.

Another January collapse makes it easier to wonder if either will happen.

The Knicks have fallen off the playoff pace, again proving they can win headlines but not games. It seems like the same old story in New York, even though Anthony still thinks they can change the ending.

"Yeah, we will," he said. "I still believe."

He reiterated that Tuesday in a meeting with Phil Jackson, telling the Knicks president of basketball operations that he wanted to remain with the team, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.

The question is how much Jackson still wants him.

A Fanragsports.com piece by Charley Rosen last week was heavily critical of Anthony, saying his legs are "going, going, almost gone" and that "the only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York."

Criticism of Anthony is nothing new, but this came from a longtime confidant and former assistant coach of Jackson, leading to speculation that those were the same thoughts as the Knicks executive (see full story).

Hornets: Clifford blames poor defense for Hornets' losing streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford points to one factor when explaining his team's five-game losing streak -- a lack of defense.

Charlotte went 0-5 on its recent road trip, surrendering an uncharacteristic 109.6 points per game during that span. The Hornets return home Wednesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, part of a stretch of five-game home stand which Clifford hopes will help turn things around.

But Charlotte's fourth-year coach said nothing will get better until the Hornets start playing better man-to-man defense.

"It starts with our ability to guard our guy," Clifford said. "When you get blown by a lot on the perimeter where you are constantly in need of help, then you are going to give up 3s -- and that's what is happening."

The Hornets raced to a 14-9 start this season and were third-best in the league in points allowed through 23 games.

Since then, things have steadily fallen apart, culminating with Charlotte giving up at least 100 points in eight straight games. The Hornets have since dropped to 12th overall in points allowed (see full story).

Kings: F Omri Casspi out for up to 2 weeks with calf injury
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi will miss up to two weeks with an injured right calf.

The team said Tuesday that an MRI showed Casspi strained a tendon in his calf during practice on Monday.

Casspi is averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

CAMDEN, N.J. — The camouflaged tape wrapped around T.J. McConnell’s right wrist couldn’t disguise the latest hit to the Sixers’ backcourt. 

McConnell suffered a sprain on Saturday in a play against John Wall and was in a splint on Tuesday. He did not participate in practice and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors (see story)

“[I’m] trying to keep it stable and not move it around a lot. I should be good to go very soon,” McConnell said. “I’m leaving [when I play] up to the medical staff. I’ll just tell them how I feel. It’s getting a lot better each day.”

Add McConnell to the list of point guards who have battled injuries this season. Let’s start at training camp: Jerryd Bayless suffered a left wrist ligament injury that ended up requiring season-ending surgery. His absence bumped Sergio Rodriguez into the starting lineup, until Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in late December and missed three games.

That left McConnell as the team’s only healthy true point guard at that point. McConnell played so well as a starter while Rodriguez was sidelined that he remained in the lineup when Rodriguez returned. 

“I obviously want to get back quick, but I know me and my teammates won’t lose that cohesion together,” McConnell said.  

This time around, the Sixers are better equipped to handle the injury of a point guard. They signed Chasson Randle from the Westchester Knicks (NBA Development League) to a 10-day contract on Jan. 10. The team liked Randle for his combo skills that would allow him to play shooting guard in practices and give Gerald Henderson an opportunity to rest. Turns out, they need him at the one spot the most. 

Randle played 16 minutes off the bench in Monday’s win over the Bucks. He scored 10 points (3 for 6 from the field, 2 for 4 from three, 2 for 2 from the line) with two rebounds, an assist and five fouls. Randle took his first shot just 23 seconds after checking in for Rodriguez and made his first NBA bucket, a three. 

“He did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “He stepped up in the game, he made some shots, he got the rhythm of the team going. For us, it’s amazing … he’s just here for a few days and he’s talented and he showed [Monday].”

Now Randle could be the latest point guard to maximize an opportunity created by injury. The Sixers have been impressed by what Stanford’s all-time leading scorer can do on both sides of the court. 

“When you start looking at what we have access to, the physical measurements, his wingspan is elite,” Brett Brown said. “You sit him in a stance and he spreads out, he uncoils. He really can cover some ground with his width, his length, albeit from a point guard position. Some of the deflections he got and defensive plays he made, I thought were outstanding.”