Five in a Row and Five Games Back

Five in a Row and Five Games Back

Healthier than they've been all season, the Phillies have put together a post trade-deadline run that sees them banging on the door of Wild Card contention in time for the change to playoff baseball weather. Kyle Kendrick, now firmly in the rotation, has been brilliant, and last night he pitched the Phils to their fifth straight win and ninth in their last 11. They now sit five games back in the Wild Card hunt, just one game below .500. 
Kendrick has won five of his last six starts and allowed just two runs in his only loss over that stretch. In last night's 3-1 win over the Marlins, Kendrick went seven strong, holding a no-hitter until the sixth inning. 
Surrendering only two hits all night, Kendrick struck out a career-best eight batters. He escaped a bases loaded situation in the sixth by striking out Giancarlo Stanton and allowed his lone run in the seventh before turning the game over to the bullpen for the final two frames. Justin De Fratus induced a pair of strikeouts, and Jake Diekman got Jose Reyes to fly out for the third. Antonio Bastardo had the closing duties for the night, and he took home the save facing only three batters, the last of whom was Greg Dobbs, who struck out to end the game. 
At the plate, Domonic Brown put the Phils on the board in the fifth with a shot to right after Ty Wigginton drew a leadoff walk. Two batters later, Michael Martinez doubled aboard, then was moved to third by Kendrick. With two outs and Jimmy Rollins at the plate, Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc uncorked a two-strike wild pitch, and Martinez was across the plate before the Miami battery could clean up the spill. Ozzie Guillen hilarity ensued as the Marlins manager protested for a strikeout he wouldn't get until after the damage was done. 
That was all the offense the Phillies would need with Kendrick on the hill and a suddenly solid bullpen locking things down. CSNPhilly's John Finger points out that KK is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA in his last nine starts; including his previous seven relief appearances, his ERA is below 2 at 1.98. Yanked in and out of the rotation and started on a moment's notice when needed, Kendrick has done everything asked of him, and now found a groove that is helping to fuel once-lost playoff hopes. [Full recap and a look at how Kendrick has emerged]
Pittsburgh is the team just in front of the Phils on their way up the ladder, and the Bucs have lost four straight. The Dodgers are a game back of the Cardinals, who hold the final Wild Card slot and lost in San Diego last night. The Brewers, also sitting at 70-71, and the Diamondbacks (69-72) are fighting for the spot too. 
Twenty-one games to go. How many can the Phillies win?
(AP Photo)

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.

The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.

“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."

Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries. 

He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova (8-0) at La Salle (4-2) 
7 p.m. at The Palestra

Villanova, now the top-ranked team in the country, travels to the Palestra on Tuesday night for another Big 5 game, this one against La Salle (the home team), which has won three straight games.

Let's get you ready for the matchup:

Last time out
La Salle beat Bucknell, 83-73, on Saturday.

Villanova won, 88-47, over Saint Joseph’s.

Scouting report
Villanova, which is undefeated, has become the No. 1 team in the country after beating St. Joe’s handily on Saturday. Josh Hart, who had a triple-double in the game, has been a major reason for the Wildcats' success so far this season. The senior is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. 

La Salle has won three games in a row after losing at the buzzer to Texas Southern on its homecoming game. Against Bucknell, Jordan Price had 20 points, while B.J. Johnson had 22. Johnson, a transfer from Syracuse, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game.

What it means
Villanova is the best in the country right now, and it moved up to No. 1 after Kentucky lost to UCLA. Another win will give the Wildcats good momentum heading into their Saturday matchup with No. 23 Notre Dame. A victory would also extend Villanova's all-time record Big 5 winning streak to 16 games.

La Salle head coach John Gianinni could potentially be on the hot seat if the Explorers suffer another poor season. A win against the defending national champions would alleviate any chatter about his status.

Series history
This is the first and only time the Big 5 rivals will meet this season. Jay Wright is 13-2 all-time against the Explorers, and his group blew them out last season, 76-47.

What’s next?
La Salle will head to Miami for the Hoophall Miami Invitational to take on Georgetown this Saturday at the American Airlines Arena.

Villanova travels to Newark, New Jersey, to meet No. 23 Notre Dame at the Prudential Center.