Mike Martinez! Phillies Secure Seventh-Straight Series Victory

Mike Martinez! Phillies Secure Seventh-Straight Series Victory

That's more like it. The Philadelphia Phillies have completed their seventh series victory in their last seven match ups. The win against the rival Mets stretches the club's record to 29-16 against the NL East, the best intra-division win-loss in all of baseball.

Despite a barrage of overnight rumblings that Ryan Howard is possibly the worst thing since unsliced bread, the Big Piece opened up today's scoring with a two-out RBI liner into right, scoring Chase Utley from second.

Later, in the fifth, third baseman Michael Martinez shocked the baseball world by launching an absolute bomb over the Modell's sign in right. Thankfully, as noted on the broadcast, the gentleman on the receiving end of Michael's very first major league home run was a proud Phillies fan. The ball was, reportedly, returned to Martinez for safe keeping. Right on.

The Phils final three runs would come in the eighth thanks to a base-loaded walk off pitcher Pedro Beato and a two-RBI single from Jimmy Rollins, bringing in Dom Brown and Brian Schneider.

Immediately after, Schneider was pulled from the ballgame, leaving Carlos Ruiz to catch the eighth and ninth.

With Ruiz behind the dish, Juan Perez went Ricky Vaughn and walked the first three batters he faced, prompting the Phils to opt for the returning Ryan Madson in what was, at the time, a seven-run ballgame. Attempting to work out of his inherited bases-loaded jam, Madson forced a quick double play, though struggled to do more. He would hit a batter, walk a batter and give up three runs on two hits before getting pulled for Antonio Bastardo, who struck out Justin Turner to end the inning without any further blood loss.

Bastardo would close out the ninth, but not before giving up one extra run in the ninth on a two-out Luca Duda triple. It was Antonio's first run allowed in his last nineteen appearances. One batter later, Michael Martinez would make an impressive grab at third to rob Ronnie Paulino of a hit and end the game.

I'll leave you with that, as the U.S. Women are now headed for extra time. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."