Game Chat: Phillies Trying to Hook the Marlins, Series W

Game Chat: Phillies Trying to Hook the Marlins, Series W

Cole Hamels was dealt a rare loss yesterday, proving once again the Marlins are no joke, but the Phillies can still come out ahead. Game 3 goes off at 1:35, as Joe Blanton (4-5, 5.05) tries to get his groove back against Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 3.00).

Blanton has been miserable of late, we're sorry to say, prompting a bit of a rant after his last awful outing. NASA's finest would have trouble calculating the astronomical earned run average from Heavy B's last three starts, so let's leave the numbers at that. Suffice it to say, he needs to rebound in the worst way.

Blanton defeated Miami in his first start of the season on April 12, which seems like an eternity for him, throwing seven innings of one-run ball.

He's going against Zambrano today, who will battle the Phillies for the first time in a Marlins uniform. The three-time All Star has been solid since coming over from the Cubs, but he's still prone to blow up from time to time, like he did two starts ago versus Colorado, allowing seven through five. He had it together just enough against Washington last week (6 IP, 3 ER) to earn his third victory of the year.

The last time Zambrano came at the Phils was last July, when he had one of those meltdowns we were talking about. Z was tagged for seven runs in a loss, including a Placido Polanco grand slam. Polly hasn't had much success against him otherwise, but Shane Victorino has. Returning to his post in center field yesterday, Vic is 7-for-13 lifetime against the opposing pitcher.

Lineup is below, and yes, that's Hector Luna batting in the cleanup spot today, and no, that's never happened before. Another series win against a division opponent would be huge.

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."