Manuel Says Phillies Are Due to Down Boston; Bastardo Or Stutes to Close?

Manuel Says Phillies Are Due to Down Boston; Bastardo Or Stutes to Close?

"You're playing in the Super Bowl! Didn't you hear?"

That's what former Red Sox player and current MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar yelled at Ryan Howard in a jam-packed Phillies clubhouse prior to this evening's game against Boston at the friendly-yet-sticky confines of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

The build up for the marquee American League-National League matchup is palpable, with national media showing up in droves. But for the Phillies, it's just another series against a quality opponent. At least that's what they're saying.

"This is two good ball clubs. I think it's going to be good for [the media], good for the fans, and good for baseball. It's not the playoffs and it's not the World Series. We're talking different stages, but any time we play it's an important stage. When we play a team of this caliber it's good for us," Manuel told us in the dugout prior to tonight's game.

"We haven't beaten them since I've been here," Charlie said of the Phillies futility against the Red Sox in interleague play. "But then they're due for us to get 'em. That's how I look at it."

Dueling Aces

The pitching matchup for tonight's first game is about as exciting as baseball fans can hope for. Cliff Lee (8-5, 2.87) takes on Josh Beckett (6-2, 1.86), two of the hottest hurlers in all of baseball. It's another great pitching matchup in a stretch that's seen quite a few of them, and will see another on Thursday when Cole Hamels takes on Jon Lester.

Clifton Phifer Lee hasn't allowed a run in a team season-high 23.0 innings. He's coming off consecutive complete game shutouts and is 4-0 with a 0.27 ERA in June. How do you like 'dem apples?

Stutes Or Bastardo To Close?

With Ryan Madson hitting the 15-day DL this afternoon, the big question before the game this evening was who Charlie Manuel would use to close. Manuel said he was leaning towards Bastardo but that could change based on the situation.

"If I have to really pin somebody down to be the closer for a period of time, Bastardo would probably get the first nod," Manuel told us before the game. "But if we get up there tonight in the eighth inning tonight and you see three right-handed hitters up there, more than likely Stutes will be in. You see a couple left-handed hitters, Bastardo might pitch the eighth. Dubee and I will decide that when we get there."

Potent Boston Lineup A Little Less So in NL

With David Ortiz's days in the field pretty much done, Big Papi will not be in the starting line up this evening for Boston. Adrian Gonzalez will play first base and bat third while Darnell McDonald (.109 batting average) will be the Sox feared cleanup hitter and play left field.

Full Sawx Lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, McDonald, Varitek, Cameron, Scutaro, Beckett.

The Phils bats will counter with a standard lineup with Dom Brown playing right field: Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard, Victorino, Ibanez, Brown, Ruiz, Clifton Phifer Lee.

7:05 first pitch from CBP. Wait 'til you can see the whites of the enemy's eyes before booing.

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Ben Simmons is on track to return to the Sixers in January, Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday. 

Previous reports indicated that Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in the Sixers' final training camp scrimmage on Sept. 30, would be out three months. Friday's news jives with that, but this is the first time the Sixers have given a timetable.

"It's not doom and gloom," Brown said. "Ben is coming back in January. We are still trying to find information on Jerryd (Bayless). Jahlil (Okafor) is still trying to touch the court in his first preseason game."

With long-term ramifications in mind, there had been some speculation that Simmons' camp wanted him to sit all season. 

This is rather encouraging news and it means the Sixers may avoid watching another of their top picks miss his entire first year.

Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

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Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

Playoff soccer is returning to Chester for the first time in five years, and while fans prep for the Union’s first postseason games since 2011, there is no shortage of seating options for Union tickets on the primary market.

Perhaps most importantly, fans won’t have to break the bank to be on hand as the Union compete for their first MLS Cup in franchise history. Union field level seats are available for both the team’s final home regular season game against the New York Red Bulls and the Eastern Conference Semifinal on October 30 should they advance past the knockout round.

The team’s official website lists feet-on-the-pitch seating starting from $155 per ticket for this weekend’s game against the Red Bulls. The first-place Red Bulls head to Talen Energy Stadium with a first-round bye secured, but Union head coach Jim Curtin expects them to bring the pressure with them on Sunday. Fans can look on up close – and for relatively cheap - as the Union look to hand the Eastern Conference leaders their final loss of the regular season.

The Union will take on either New York City FC or Toronto FC in the knockout round either next Wednesday or Thursday. Pending a victory on the road, they’ll return to Talen Energy Stadium to host an Eastern Conference Semifinal game on October 30. Field level seating is still widely available for the team’s first home playoff game since 2011 and start from $178 per ticket.

2016 marks the franchise’s second MLS Cup Playoffs berth in its seven-year existence. They clinched a first-round bye in 2011 but fell to the Houston Dynamo by a 3-1 aggregate in the Conference Semifinals. The Union bring a much different vibe into the playoffs this season, however, after a formidable stretch from September on nearly drowned their postseason hopes. The team won its last game on August 27 against Sporting Kansas City, losing four games and drawing in two others since. 

Despite the team’s recent struggles, there is a sense of renewment that will carry them into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Records are cast aside and the slate is wiped clean, beginning a new path on the long and often tumultuous road to a national championship.