Lee Vs. Kershaw with Phillies Going for Fifth Straight

Lee Vs. Kershaw with Phillies Going for Fifth Straight

Until last night's comeback, the last time the Phillies reeled off four consecutive wins was before Memorial Day. Even though they're still ten games below .500, there is a certain excitement with the team suddenly that you could almost touch, something that's been missing since then, maybe even all season. The excitement is fragile, but it exists.

No, we're still not using the P-word around here, just saying it's fun having the whole band back together -- and winning.

[PROGRAMMING NOTE: We will be doing a LIVE BLOG for the 3:10 start. Check back and join us then]

That feeling could go up in smoke at any moment, but today the Phils are trying to do something they haven't accomplished all season: a three-game sweep. The way events have been unfolding lately, we couldn't think of a much better person to follow Roy Halladay than Cliff Lee. However, we'll settle for cautiously optimistic today, because Lee will be head-to-head with the L.A. Dodgers and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw (7-5, 2.84) is off to another fine season in 2012 for the Dodgers [Ed. note: despite having truly awful taste in music], but not quite as untouchable as a year ago when he led the league in wins, earned run average, WHIP, and strikeouts. He still cracks the top 10 for WHIP (6th) and Ks (4th), but run support has often betrayed him, and thus his record.

Despite his recent success, the splits suggest the Phillies have owned Kershaw. In seven regular season starts, he's 0-4 with a 4.95 ERA against Philly, and in four playoff appearances it's a far worse 0-1, 8.31. However, all but one of those games came prior to 2011, when the 24-year-old's career really took off. The Phils somehow dodged the bullet last season, and in their meeting on June 4, Kershaw held his own in a no decision, allowing three earned off eight hits over seven innings. Fightins won.

Of course, the Phils were without Chase Utley at the time, too, and he has enjoyed facing the right-hander. Utley is 4-for-13 with a couple of doubles and a home run off of Kershaw. He's in the lineup for the third day in a row, so we'll see if he can do some more damage.

Meanwhile, Lee (1-6, 3.92) has been pitching better of late, earning his first W before the All-Star break obviously, but it didn't translate into number two last time out. He battled through six innings in Colorado over the weekend, surrendering nine hits, but holding the Rocks to three runs, two of them earned. Not dominant Cliff by any means, but effective Cliff -- unfortunately, also losing Cliff.

Lee has incredible numbers against the Dodgers, sporting a 2-1 and 0.90 in four starts. On June 5, he held LA to two runs over 7.2, and struck out a season-high 12.

We wouldn't go so far as to say the Phillies hold the upper-hand in this pitching match-up, but we like the way it breaks down on paper. We like the way things have been breaking on the diamond over the past week as well. If they can keep it up today, we'll be staring at the second longest winning streak of the season. Not sure what the appropriate reaction will be, but we hope to find out.

Crash kills Nebraska punter, former Michigan State punter

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Crash kills Nebraska punter, former Michigan State punter

WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have died in a car crash in Wisconsin after working at a kicking clinic, a sheriff's department official said Sunday. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the crash.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Lt. Thom Moerman said speed was likely a factor in the single-vehicle crash that happened around 11:45 p.m. Saturday.

The 24-year-old Sadler, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was driving. He and 22-year-old Foltz, of Greeley, Nebraska, both died at the scene. Delahoussaye, 21 of New Iberia, Louisiana, was also a passenger. He was treated at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and released. A statement from LSU said his injuries were minor and that he was scheduled to return home Monday.

Moerman said in a statement that Sadler lost control on the wet pavement, left the roadway and struck a tree.

The University of Nebraska said Sunday the team will skip this week's planned Big Ten media days in Chicago because of Foltz's death. Officials with Michigan State didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Foltz was a three-year starter for the Nebraska team and last year he was named the Big Ten's punter of the year. Foltz graduated from Nebraska with a degree in agronomy in May. He led the Big Ten in punting last year at 44.2 yards per kick and ranked fifth in school history (42.6).

Nebraska Coach Mike Riley said Foltz was respected on the team, and had a positive influence on everyone he interacted with.

"The young men in our football program are hurting but I know that their strength of character and resolve will bring us together and we will honor Sam every day moving forward," Riley said.

Several hundred friends and teammates of Foltz gathered outside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Sunday afternoon to remember him. Several players talked about how hard Foltz' worked and his faith in God.

"Sam was a kind and thoughtful young man who was a leader on the playing field, in the classroom, and in his community," Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie D. Green said in a statement. "He was an exemplary student-athlete who grew as a player and as a person on his path to recent completion of his degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and anyone who knew him can testify that he had an enduring influence on those around him."

Sadler was a four-year starter and four-time academic All-American at Michigan State. He finished his college playing career after the 2014 season. He drew something of a cult following during his playing days because of his sense of humor and wit.

"I just asked my waitress what sport she thought I played. Her answer? Disk golf. Time to reevaluate my life," Sadler once tweeted.

He helped get his own mock Heisman Trophy candidacy rolling one season by pushing the hashtag (hash)sadler4heisman. He would also regularly exchange funny lines on Twitter with the (at)FauxPelini account, a popular parody of the former Nebraska and current Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini.

"Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player, but also from an academic standpoint and in the community as well," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day."

Dan Tracy with Kohl's Kicking said both Sadler and Foltz had been working at a weekend clinic at the camp in Wisconsin. Tracy said the camp ended early Sunday after an announcement about the deaths.

A statement from kicking camp director Jamie Kohl said the staff was mourning with the players' families and football programs.

"We mourn today with all of the people who were better men and women for knowing Sam and Mike," Kohl said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

PITTSBURGH --- Utility infielder Andres Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday.

Blanco was injured when Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco slid into his hand during a play at third base. Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who hit a solo home run off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon in the first inning. Blanco is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday.

"If you get hit in the head, you probably want to take a little bit more precaution than if it was another part of your body,” Rupp said.