Inside the Standings: West Coast Baseball Edition

Inside the Standings: West Coast Baseball Edition

Of course April 16 is far too early to make much of the standings in the NL East... but it's not too early to take a peak, and who's that in first?

You see, the problem is not so much that the Phillies currently reside in fourth place in this season nine games old, trailing the upstart division-leading Nationals by 2.5. The problem is that the Nationals are actually in excellent position to build up a solid lead over the course of the next week and a half.

Tonight, Washington begins a four-game set with the lowly Houston Astros, followed by three games with a Miami Marlins squad that hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire so far, and finally three with the San Diego Padres, who you will read more about below.

Meanwhile, the Phillies are beginning a 10-game west coast swing tonight. Depending on how they fare, and whether or not the Nats can capitalize on the seemingly light slate ahead for them, this could quickly become a fairly intimidating lead before a month's worth of baseball has even been played.

So far, the Nationals are taking care of their business. They took two of three off a sorry Cubs team, two of three off the moderately surprising Mets -- but they're still the Mets -- and three of four off an average Reds club. If they can keep it up, Washington's series with the Los Angeles Dodgers starting April 27 could be on a collision course to feature two of the best records from the National League.

I suppose we should be grateful the Phillies will manage to avoid the white-hot LA Dodgers on this trip, owners of the best record in baseball and a six-game winning streak. In fact, the Dodgers aren't on the docket until June, and hopefully at least Chase Utley will be back by then.

Instead, the first west coast swing of the season features dates in San Francisco and San Diego, both of whom have been slow out of the gate, with a stop in Arizona on the way back, where five of the club's six wins have come at the expense of the aforementioned.

The Giants (4-5) got off to a rough start in Arizona, eating a three-game sweep served up by their division rival, but have since rebounded. San Fran is 4-2 over their last six, with the big difference coming on the mound. After allowing five or more runs in each game against the Dbacks, the Giants have held opponents to three or fewer in all four of their victories.

So far, the missing link is still Tim Linececum, who will start tonight's game against the Phillies. Lincecum is 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA in two starts, most recently allowing six earned runs in 2.1 frames against the Colorado Rockies. If he finally gets it going tonight, this series becomes a big early test for Philly.

The Padres (2-8) have been mired in a perfect storm of putrid offense and lousy pitching. They've been held to two or fewer runs in half their games, while allowing four or more in eight of ten so far. In the National League, only the Pirates have been worse at the plate across the board.

Let's be perfectly honest: the Fightins haven't been much better than San Diego at the dish, but Philly's starting pitching is keeping them in games. Pads starters on the other hand have thrown just 54.1 innings, while their relievers have been called upon for 38. By comparison, the Phils have only needed 22 innings from their bullpen in 2012 -- a huge disparity for 6% of the way through the season.

The Diamondbacks (6-3), as we mentioned, may have padded their win total a bit by jumping all over the Giants and Padres, but the Rocks may have pulled them back down to earth over the weekend. Colorado took two of three off of Arizona, a club that has had little trouble producing runs (tied for 4th in the NL), though they haven't exactly kept anybody other than San Diego off of the scoreboard.

The Dbacks have posted five or more runs in two-thirds of their games so far, but the Giants and Rockies also averaged that total against Arizona, revealing possible vulnerabilities for the reigning NL West Champions. Whether the Phillies can take advantage remains to be seen, but there is at least an expectation that runs should not come quite as easily for Zona either.

We'll check back in with the standings when the Phils return home, where they'll be getting back down to business with a series of NL East opponents -- including a head-to-head with the pesky Nationals.

On deck: Cubs, Braves, Nats, Mets

Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

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Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

As the Western Conference Finals are taking place in Oakland, the Sixers are looking for new talent of their own in California.

This week, members of the Sixers' front office are attending pre-draft workouts organized through multiple agencies, including BDA Sports Management, CAA Sports, Landmark Sports Agency, Octagon and Wasserman Media Group.

While the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, these workouts are opportunities for them to evaluate players that could be fits for their 24th and 26th selections.

On Thursday, the list of workout participants included projected first-rounders Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) and Cheik Diallo (Kansas), according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

The scouting process takes NBA teams coast to coast. Earlier this week, the Sixers reportedly attended a private workout with Excel Sports Management in New York City, in which Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray participated.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own practice facility, bringing in a total of 12 prospects thus far.

As the draft nears, 57 early-entry candidates withdrew their names from the 2016 draft.

NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry scored 31 points, raising his arms in the early moments to awaken Golden State's raucous crowd, and the defending champion Warriors staved off elimination with a 120-111 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

The MVP made a snazzy layup late and dished out six assists, while Klay Thompson added 27 points as Golden State sent the best the best-of-seven series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday night. Golden State trails 3-2 and is trying to become just the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

"We're not going home! We're not going home!" Curry yelled at the top of his lungs in the waning moments.

Kevin Durant scored 40 points and Russell Westbrook added 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals for the Thunder, trying for the fifth NBA Finals appearance in franchise history and chasing just the second championship after the 1978-79 Seattle SuperSonics won it all.

The record-setting, 73-win Warriors, coming off their first back-to-back defeats all season, had been blown out in two losses at Oklahoma City by a combined 52 points.

Durant's 3-pointer with 4:34 left got the Thunder within 103-98, then Curry answered with a three-point play.

Curry scored seven points in a 58-second stretch of the second quarter, but the Thunder didn't go away easily.

Trailing 58-50 at halftime, Oklahoma City came out of the break with a 9-2 run. Westbrook's 3-pointer with 6:06 left in the third put Oklahoma City ahead 68-67 for its first lead of the night. But Golden State led 81-77 going into the fourth and began the final period by scoring five unanswered points.

Curry shot 9 for 20 and also had five steals, while Thompson had his 11th 20-point game for the second straight postseason despite shooting 2 for 9 from 3-point range. Draymond Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Steve Kerr thought his Warriors might have an edge against the percentages of teams having trailed 3-1 because they're the defending champs and were playing at home, where they have been nearly unbeatable.

Kerr called for center Andrew Bogut to do more and the 7-footer delivered with a playoff career-high 15 points and 14 rebounds for his second double-double this postseason and seventh of his career.

Marreese Speights had a pair of three-point plays on follow shots and a 3 in the second quarter to give Golden State a nice lift off the bench. He had nine points in four minutes during that stretch and 14 points overall for his fifth double-digit scoring game this postseason.

With his 1,248th career postseason point in the third, Curry passed Wilt Chamberlain (1,246) for second place on the franchise's playoff scoring list.

Kerr's message
Coach of the Year Kerr sent a message to Warriors fans Wednesday on social media requesting they arrive on time Thursday and bring their best.

The always-raucous supporters obliged.

"It's a big game. We need our crowd behind us," Kerr said beforehand. "We know they'll be here, and the 6 o'clock start makes things difficult for a lot of people to get here on time. So the first couple games we had a pretty late-arriving crowd. So it's kind of a reminder to be here early, if possible."

Tip-ins
Thunder: The franchise lost in the finals in 1977-78, 1995-96 to Kerr and the Chicago Bulls and in `12. ... Steven Adams sat down with his second foul at the 9:34 mark of the first quarter. The Thunder had seven fouls to Golden State's one after the first. ... Oklahoma City took Game 1 at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost only three times all season. ... The Thunder started the game 3 for 14.

Warriors: Green picked up his fifth technical of the postseason. He also has at least one steal in 16 straight playoff games. ... Golden State missed six of its first seven 3s. ... The Warriors supported Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager with "Sager Strong" T-shirts for sale to support awareness and research for leukemia and lymphoma, both blood cancers. ... Curry became the fifth player in franchise history with 200 postseason free throws.

Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez strikes out 12 in Marlins' win over Rays

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Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez strikes out 12 in Marlins' win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jose Fernandez struck out 12 in seven innings Thursday and won his sixth straight start for the Miami Marlins, a 9-1 decision over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Fernandez (7-2) struck out eight of the last 10 batters he faced and struck out every hitter in the Rays lineup at least once. The 23-year-old right-hander from Tampa gave up six hits in beating his hometown Rays for the first time in three tries. He finished the game with 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings, highest among major league starters.

Adeiny Hechavarria and Chris Johnson homered for the Marlins, who won three of four in their annual series against the Rays.

Hechavarria's third home run drove in the final two runs of a three-run second inning off Rays starter Drew Smyly. Johnson made it 5-0 with his second homer an inning later, Johnson's first hit in 22 interleague at bats (see full recap).

Rockies silence Red Sox, Bradley's hit streak
BOSTON -- Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story and Dustin Garneau hit two-run homers and the Colorado Rockies stopped Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 29-game hitting streak with a 8-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

The win ended a three-game losing streak by Colorado and it ended a four-game winning streak for the Red Sox. Bradley's major league-best streak was halted when he went 0 for 4 after moving up to the leadoff spot for the first time this season.

Jon Gray (2-2) gave up a two-run home run to David Ortiz in the first, but pitched six scoreless innings before leaving in the eighth.

Clay Buchholz (2-5) took the loss. He pitched three perfect innings before things came apart in the fourth, when he gave up Gonzalez's homer with the other two coming the following inning (see full recap).

Happ leads Blue Jays past Yankees
NEW YORK -- J.A. Happ pitched seven strong innings, Edwin Encarnacion and Devon Travis had two-out RBIs, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-1 on Thursday to win the three-game series.

CC Sabathia was the tough-luck loser for New York, allowing just two unearned runs. Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game since going on the disabled list May 4 with a strained right hamstring.

Happ (6-2) allowed one run on three hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and three walks. He has given up three earned runs or fewer in 19 of his last 20 starts.

Sabathia (3-3) retired the first seven batters before an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius on Travis' grounder with one out in the third (see full recap).