Phils Get Back to .500, Cole Wins, Dom Homers, Everyone Happy Forever

Phils Get Back to .500, Cole Wins, Dom Homers, Everyone Happy Forever

A dicey game for about six-and-a-half innings there--especially if you were squatting behind home plate--was redeemed in the seventh inning today when the Phils exploded for five runs, all with two outs, off Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos. The Phillies easily held on in the last two frames to get a 6-1 win that makes for all sorts of team benchmarks: Their first home sweep of the year, their first four-game winning streak of the year, and of course, their first time this season with as many wins as losses since they were 6-6 on April 14th.

The biggest personal vindication of the afternoon goes to Colbert Michael Hamels, who had easily his best start of the season (though truth told, all his Miami starts have been pretty good--six runs in 27 innings, with 32 strikeouts and just four walks between his four outings this year) with a final line of 7 IP, 4H, 1ER, 1BB and a season-high 11 K's. Best of all, the Phils' offensive unshackling came just in time to count towards Cole's decision for the game, resulting in his long-delayed second W of the season, his first since April 28th. I don't want to call it a "Vintage Cole" outing because I want to believe this was more of a return to form than a flashback, but in any event, it was fun to watch our ace pitching like one.

And after going hitless in his last eight at bats--a biblical drought considering the tear he'd been on--the Downtown Dom Brown watch was back in full effect in the sixth inning tonight, when Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos generously hung a 3-1 changeup over the outside of the plate to Dom, and he belted it to right for an easy round-tripper. The best thing about it for me was how damn predictable it was--men on base, Phils with the lead, a 3-1 count and a shaky righty reliever on the mound, of course Dom was gonna homer to right. I mean seriously, doesn't this Ramos dude watch MLB Tonight? This be what Dom Brown do.

And in case you need happy funtime stat reminders, it's Domonic's NL-leading 18th homer of the season--Justin Upton is now four back in second place with his 14, and Dom now only trails Chris Davis' 20 for the lead in all of baseball--and his 10th in his last 12 games. With only one dinger today and zero yesterday, though, Dom is really starting to lag behind the homer-a-game pace he's set out for himself, so he should probably make up some ground by going yard thrice tomorrow night against the Brewers. Otherwise he might be spending the whole year playing catchup.

Aside from Dom and Cole, big kudos today go to Ryan "Big Legs" Howard, who again went for the triple today on a drive to right-center and actually got there this time. ("I thought, 'Oh no, not again,'" was Charlie's answer when asked his reaction to Ryno going for three.) And the whole inning was broken wide by Jimmy Rollins, whose single scored Delmon Young for the go-ahead run. J-Roll is also in the midst of maybe the best stretch of his career seeing the ball--though batting third in front of Ryan and Domonic might be helping with that--walking 12 times in his last ten games, after walking just 12 times in the 50 games before that. OBP has always been a concern with Rollins, so it's good to see him doing his part to give Ryan and Dom actual runs to bat in.

Oh, and because it's what anyone who didn't care about the actual outcome of this game is likely going to be talking about, it's probably worth mentioning that umpire John Hirschbeck took one in the wrist in the seventh and laid on the ground for several minutes afterwards, resulting in a 20-plus-minute delay and Jim Reynolds replacing Hirschbeck behind the place. Weird moment at the ballpark that halted what was otherwise a very quick-moving game, but the Phils commenced their rally shortly thereafter, so it looks like Charlie's "Win One For Hirschy" motivational ploy worked. Thanks John!

In Milwaukee tomorrow night for the first of a four-gamer, hopefully which will go better than the last time the Brewers were in town. Unrealistic to expect all four going this well, anyway--nine hits for the game, and one for each slot in the lineup (the eight position starters and Delmon Young as a pinch-hitter). Throw in the afternoon setting and gorgeous weather, and baseball will rarely be as utopian as this.

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."