Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Plenty of fans were on their feet for the final out of the Phillies-Cubs game tonight at Wrigley. The only problem for Chicagoans was that the people wearing red were the hot, sweaty fans doing all the cheering late in this one. It didn't come easy for the Phillies tonight, however.

Cubs starter Matt Garza was fantastic for seven innings on Tuesday night, keeping the Fightins hitless until the fifth inning, but Cubs Manager Mike Quade opted to bring him out for the eighth after having thrown 113 pitches. Garza proceeded to give up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and the Cubs right-hander's effort proved to be for naught, as reliever Sean Marshall promptly gave up a single to Michael Martinez to put two men on for Chase Utley.

Utley came to the plate with ducks on the pond and no outs, having failed to notch a hit in his last fifteen at-bats. It was time for the Phillies leader to finally make some noise.

Utley delivered a double to the gap in left which scored both Rollins and MiniMart to tie things up at two.

The turning point in this one could have been moments later after Utley stole third and Howard went down swinging.

Shane Victorino hit a weak chopper to short, and with the infield in, Starlin Castro went for the play at the plate. Utley didn't appear to get a great jump, and may have even slipped on the grass a bit when Vic first made contact. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto blocked the plate well and Chase was called out on a bang-bang play. You almost expect Utley, with his baserunning prowess, to score there every time.

But the Phils had some exiting two-out heroics left in them in the top of the ninth, rewarding the throngs of loyal Philadelphia fans in attendance.

After John Mayberry grounded out and Carlos Ruiz went down swinging to start the ninth, Ben Francisco came through with a big two-out pinch-hit to center. Jimmy Rollins ripped a ball right at third baseman Aramis Ramirez which ricochetted off him to short. The play was ruled a single.

That brought up Michael Martinez who proved to be the man of the hour, saving the Phillies from dropping two straight to the second-to-last-place Cubs.

Martinez hit a bloop double down the line in right that scored both Francisco and Rollins to put the Phillies up 4-2. MiniMart was so excited with what would prove to be the game winner that he got thrown out caught between second and third. Awful base running, but we'll let it slide tonight.

Mike Stutes must be commended for his two innings of shutout work after replacing Lee, who was pulled after six in hopes of getting some offense out of pinch-hitter Ross Gload. Stutes wasn't perfect, and allowed a couple of Cubbies on board in the seventh, but despite getting squeezed by the homeplate ump, he kept them from crossing the plate and put the Phils in position for the come-from-behind victory.

Antonio Bastardo was filthy in the ninth, striking out the side and earning the save.

The final two innings don't erase the offensive ineptitude for the rest of the night, but damn a come-back victory -- keeping a another potential series win alive -- certainly sends the Phillies and their fans home happy tonight.

*

Cliff Was Solid For Six

Starlin Castro hit a home run in the first inning off of Cliff Lee to put the Cubs ahead 2-0 early. Manuel pulled Lee a bit early in this one because he desperately needed some offense. Cliff's final line: 6.0 IP, 8 hits, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BBs.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.