Phillies Hope to Break Franchise Win Record, Have Charlie Pass Gene on Final Night of Season

Phillies Hope to Break Franchise Win Record, Have Charlie Pass Gene on Final Night of Season

Game 162 is already here. It doesn't seem so long ago that we were shoveling snow, freezing our asses off and and clinging to every Twitpic of a Phillie with a palm tree in the background.

Now, 161 games later, we know the team's tremendous regular season will mean far less without some hardware at the end of October. Nevertheless, this group of Phillies has the opportunity to make history on the final night of the season.

Just a week ago, there was a general panic that the Phils had cost themselves a shot at the record books by playing the add-ons to their expanded roster for almost a week-straight following the clinch of their fifth consecutive NL East title.

But tonight, the club has the chance to set a new franchise record. A victory and sweep of the Braves would put them at 102 wins, a mark never before set by a Phillies team.

As if that isn't enough, just one more victory would also push manager Charlie Manuel ahead of Gene Mauch for the most wins ever by a Phillies manager.

Lineups, playoff scenarios, the pitching matchup, and a quick word on Charlie after the jump…

On Charlie Manuel
John Gonzalez put together a nice piece this morning recapping Manuel's tenure here in Philadelphia. Beginning with the manager's start as a throw-in in the Jim Thome acquisition (we kid…sort of), Gonzo takes us all the way through to Charlie's current status as one of the most revered coaches/managers in our city's history.

Manuel hasn't always been perfect. This website, for instance, has been tracking his every in-game strategic blunder since 2008.

But Charlie has had his finger on the pulse of this team in a way that possibly no other manager could. We may argue over the minutiae of which reliever to move to in the eighth or if he should have sat this guy on that day, but its nearly impossible to argue against his results.

The steward of five division titles and this town's first professional championship in 25 years, Charlie Manuel is about to become—with our apologies to the great Gene Mauch—the biggest winner in Phillies history.

Pitching Matchup
Doing his best to set records for his club and manager, Joe Blanton is scheduled to take the mound tonight for the Phillies. This will be Blanton's seventh start of the season, but just his second since returning from injury.

It is unknown how long Big Joe will be allowed to go; Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo are all expected to throw in an effort to keep the pitchers somewhat on schedule and to ease some concerns heading in to the postseason (see: Bastardo). In the event the game breaks in just the right way and Cole Hamels is credited with the win, the Phillies will become the first team since the 1972 Orioles to have three pitchers finish the season with at least 15 wins and an ERA under 3.00.

Fighting for the Braves' Wild Card hopes is Tim Hudson. Hudson is the owner of a 16-10 record over 32 starts, a 3.23 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. In his last start against the Phils, he allowed 4 earned on 6 hits in 6 innings of work.

Playoff Scenarios
The Atlanta Braves are currently tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Wild Card. All the history and records aside, this game could help to determine who the Phillies play in the NLDS.

A win against the Braves and a St. Louis victory over the Houston Astros would result in the Phillies hosting the Cards over the weekend and sending Ryan Howard to his hometown for Games 3 and (if necessary) 4. The reverse scenario would pit the Phillies in a first round matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Finally, should both Atlanta and St. Louis win or lose, they would be forced to break their tie in a one-game playoff. Then again, should the Braves win the Wild Card and the Diamondbacks tie the Brewers for the second best record in the NL, the Phillies would actually square off against Milwaukee.

Got all that? Good.

Rosters for Tonight's Ballgame
Charlie Manuel's 9/28 lineup:

Rollins SS, Utley 2B, Pence RF, Howard 1B, Mayberry Jr. CF, Ibanez LF, Polanco 3B, Ruiz C, Blanton P

And for the Braves:

Bourn CF, Prado LF, Jones 3B, Uggla 2B, Freeman 1B, McCann C, Diaz RF, Wilson SS, Hudson P

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05. See you post-game.

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In an unrelated Mets note, Jose Reyes was pulled from the ballgame Wednesday after reaching base in his first at bat. His BA currently sits at .3371. He has opted to sit down for the remainder of the afternoon in order to protect that average. Ted Williams frozen head is probably spinning its gra--uh, wherever it is.

To surpass him, Ryan Braun will need to go at least 3-4 tonight in order to win the NL Batting Title.

Jose Reyes—Sportsman of the Year. Leggoo Braaaunnn.

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.

Eric Semborski, from Temple club hockey to NHL goalie for a day against Flyers

Eric Semborski, from Temple club hockey to NHL goalie for a day against Flyers

Eric Semborski woke up Saturday and drove to work in Voorhees, New Jersey.

It was just an ordinary morning for the 23-year-old, a Temple graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sports management.

Little did he know, in a couple of hours his world would turn upside down.

Semborski, who works for Snider Hockey and at Flyers Skate Zone running goalie clinics and roller leagues, hadn’t played competitively since suiting up for the Owls’ club team in the spring of 2015.

That was until Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, where, someway, somehow he was draped in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey and squaring up blazing shots off the sticks of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, just to name a few.

Quite the promotion, huh?

“It’s surreal, really,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”

Could anyone?

“I couldn’t imagine the rush,” Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling said.

Incredibly and astonishingly, Semborski turned into an NHL goaltender for a day as Chicago’s second string to Darling, who suffered a 3-1 loss to the Flyers.

How Semborski was found and summoned by the Blackhawks is still somewhat of a mystery, even to the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, native himself. Once Chicago received word that regular starter Corey Crawford had to suddenly undergo an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital, the Blackhawks started scrambling for an emergency backup to Darling.

“I was at work, at the rink in Voorhees just coaching,” Semborski said. “My boss called me and I missed it. I walked off the ice and started talking with someone from the Flyers, he started asking me, ‘Where’d you play hockey, what’s your playing history?’” 

Semborski was confounded.

“I didn’t even know what he was getting at,” he said. “I asked, ‘Why are you asking me this?’ And he said, ‘Oh, Chicago needs a goalie.’ I just lost it. He said, ‘Go home, get your stuff and if they’re going to use you, they’ll call you.’ I left right away.

“I was like, OK, this probably isn’t going to happen, there’s no way.”

Ten minutes later …

“I’m in the truck and I got a call from Chicago,” Semborski said.

Who was it?

“I just know his name’s Tony,” Semborski said. “That’s all I know.”

How the heck did the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups since 2010, find a regular, hard-working guy living in Manayunk to be their reserve netminder?

“No idea,” Semborski said, still in awe talking after the game outside the locker rooms. “I think it had something to do with me working with Snider Hockey, working at Voorhees. They asked around and people just threw my name out I guess. I really don’t know how it happened. I’ll have to get to the bottom of that and thank some people. I have no idea who gave them my info, but whoever did, thank you, because it was awesome.”

So Semborski hustled from Voorhees to Manayunk, packed up his gear — including his old Temple mask, sporting the words “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff” — and quickly made his way to the Wells Fargo Center. He arrived around 12:30 p.m. before puck drop at 1.

“I hit some traffic on 76 (Schuylkill Expressway), of course,” Semborski said. “I got here as fast as I could in my street clothes. No time to put on a tie.”

Once Semborski signed his amateur tryout, it became real. He walked into the visiting locker room and there were the Blackhawks and his NHL jersey, a makeshift uniform with Crawford’s No. 50.

“It was hanging up when I got in there,” he said. “I guess they took Crawford’s and threw a name on it and made it work.”

Prior to hitting the ice for warmups, Semborski got acquainted with his teammates.

“Dream come true,” he said. “That was so cool, just hanging out with those guys. They made me feel welcomed right away, started joking around.

“When I got there, they put my number on the board and said I’m throwing in $200 for the holiday party. That was pretty good. I told them, ‘You better take credit because that’s all I got.’”

What about his big-money contract?

“No, I should be paying them for this,” Semborski said. “That was awesome.

“I signed some stuff when I came in, I don’t know what it was. I’m happy with a hat and the memories.”

Especially taking the net in warmups.

“I was a bit rusty, but no matter how much I play, I’m not going to be ready for them,” he said. “It was fast and I couldn’t even catch my breath because I was trying to take it all in. That was the best 20 minutes of my life out there skating with them.

“You’re playing against the best guys in the world. I knew I wasn’t going to stop most of them. I was lucky if it hit me.”

As for the game, Semborski didn’t play.

“Well you almost saw it,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said, referring to his frustration with a three-goal second period by the Flyers.

“That probably would have been a big mistake,” Semborski said with a laugh.

“That would have been so cool, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The experience was awesome.”

What did Quenneville think?

"That’s part of the process with all of the teams, they have the local amateur guys or sometimes guys who have played pro before," he said. "But with our cap situation, we needed an amateur, so he fit all the criteria and it was a good opportunity for him. ... It’s kind of a cool experience for the kid."

So Semborski sat on the bench, padded and ready. He smiled and watched, supporting his new team.

He, of course, is a Flyers fan, but …

“Not today,” he said with a smile. “Every other day, yeah, but not today.

“When I first got out there, I was like, ‘All right, if [the Flyers] score, don’t stand up. Just relax.’”

Semborski admitted to Chicago breaking his heart in 2010 when it beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.

“That was one of the hardest things I ever watched,” he said. “But today, that’s all forgotten. I’m a ‘Hawks fan today.”

Afterward, Semborski said his phone was flooded with 70-something text messages and 20-plus phone calls.

“I’m going to have to start calling some people,” he said.

His first will probably be to a special loved one.

“It’s my dad’s birthday,” Semborski said. “So, happy birthday, Dad. Best present ever for you.”