Immediate Impact: Francisco, Valdez, and Mayberry Help Phils to Opening Day Win

Immediate Impact: Francisco, Valdez, and Mayberry Help Phils to Opening Day Win

While their passion is undeniable, some
Philly fans' fickleness is both predictable and unbecoming. It's these
fans who wait an entire off-season for baseball to return to
Philadelphia on the first day of April, crossing off every day that
passes on their calendar, only to let their first boos rain down less
than two hours after the first pitch of the season. A little patience,
people.

Now, to be fair, the Phillies offense was not creating
much of anything at the plate, and they were certainly not making Brett
Myers and the Astros pitchers work, so maybe a little ribbing couldn't
hurt.

In fact, Jimmy Rollins said after the game that hearing it
from the fans before the bottom half of the ninth may have lit a fire
under their asses.

"We had a couple of fans jumping on us right on top of our dugout," said
Rollins. "It was kind of comical. He was talking about American Legion
ball, and how his team would have done better than that. I don't know,
but maybe it inspired us. The next inning we came out and only made one
out and found a way to win."

Jimmy led of the bottom half of that final inning with a single. That
was followed up with more singles than we've seen in some entire
homestands in recent memory from this club. A single by Ryan Howard, a
lone popout by Raul, and singles by Ben Francisco, Carlos Ruiz, and then
the walkoff winner from John Mayberry Jr.

The veterans like Jimmy and Howard stepped up, but they got assits
from the guys many list as question marks. Charlie must be pretty
excited with the transformation into today's exclamation marks.

So where does this opening day in Philadelphia rank in recent
Phillies history? According to Jimmy Rollins, the same spot he batted in
the order today, third, behind the opening of Citizens Bank Park and
the day they received their World Series Championship rings.

But
this one may have ranked a bit higher for John Mayberry Jr. who hit his
first career walkoff winner and received a lovely shaving cream pie to
the face from Ryan Madson.

As mentioned, John Mayberry Jr. wasn't
the only non-regular to come through late in this one. Ben Francisco
notched a key hit as did Wilson Valdez that kept this game alive.

"That's why we're here," Wilson Valdez said. "I learned from last
year. I'm the kind of player who likes to learn everyday. When I had a
chance to play, in that kind of situation, I just try to do my job. We
fight and make things happen."

The rest of the team appreciates the greener guys stepping up in the clutch.

"It's good to get it out of the way," Ryan Madson said of the
immediate contributions from guys like Benny, Wilson, and Mayberry. "If
you can do it once, you can do it 100 times."

And they'll try to do it again tomorrow with Cliff Lee on the mound.

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in I Am Legend, and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

If healthy, Ryan Howard is expected to start all three games in the Phillies' final series of the season Sept. 2-4 at home against the Mets.

He might also start the entire Braves series.

The Phillies' final six games are all against right-handed starting pitchers: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Josh Collmenter in Atlanta; Robert Gsellman, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard with the Mets. That could mean six starts for Howard before his time with the Phillies expires.

Howard's batting average has been below .200 for practically the entire season, but he's been much better since the All-Star break, hitting .259/.325/.598 with 11 homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs in 123 plate appearances (see game notes). He went 0 for 6 in his last two starts but homered in each of his two previous starts to reach 23 for the third year in a row.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup Tuesday against Teheran:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Matt Kemp is out of the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jace Peterson, 2B
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Mallex Smith, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

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