Phils Live in a Vance Down by the River

Phils Live in a Vance Down by the River

So there's Cliff Lee, sitting in the dugout for the Phillies' first game since he pitched 10 scoreless innings and still lost, his team unable to put up a single run. Just half an inning into their next opportunity, they loaded the bases and plated a run. It wasn't much, but it would have been enough to get Cliff a W, and on Thursday night, it was enough to get Vance Worley one. 
Worley was the latest Phils pitcher to put in a dominant performance, striking out 11 while allowing just four hits and three walks over a scoreless seven innings. The Phillies would score just one more run (unearned) in the ninth inning, giving the late-night watchers seven straight dual-shutout frames a night after going ten straight in San Francisco. Hope you're a fan of pitching, because it was once again brutal to watch the Phillies at the dish. 
Game notes and photos below. 
NotesJuan Pierre had a good night at the top of the lineup. He drew a walk to lead off the game, advanced to third on a Polly single and an error, then scored on a J-Roll sac fly. In the second, he beat out a thrown from his friend Orland Hudson to grab an infield single (right), then later tripled in the fifth. He's up to a .333 avg. 
More good news from the hill: Chad Qualls pitched his fifth straight scoreless relief inning, giving up a walk but no hits to hold the gate for Jonathan Papelbon. Nothing left the infield in the eighth.
Paps got the save despite walking the leadoff hitter in the ninth, inducing a double play before striking out Jason Bartlett to end the enthralling evening. 
The play of the game came in the sixth inning, when Chooch and J-Roll combined on a double play to shut down a double-steal attempt. As Jeremy Hermida struck out, Chase Headley attempted to pull a throw to second base while Will Venable made for home. Chooch gunned it to second, and J-Roll volleyed it back, where Venable plowed Ruiz, but without success because Chooch = tank. 
Clearly, it was disappointing that the Phils couldn't do more damage against a kid making his second career start in Joe Wieland. Wieland was knocked around in his debut, allowing six earned with just one strikeout in a loss to the Dodgers. The Phils looked to have him ready to unravel again in the first, but let him off the hook, and he never got back on. 
Thankfully, they had Worley, who was nasty and unafraid of testing hitters over the plate nor using his breaking balls in a variety of counts. He struck out the side in the first, the latter two hitters looking. Continuing his trend from last season, seven of his 11 K's were backward on the night. Love seeing those blank yet angry looks on a batter's face as the game continues around him, the defense leaving the field while he stands motionless next to the plate. Or, freaking out, like Mark Kotsay did after Worley won a full-count, two-out, two runners on battle in the seventh.
Usually in a battery with Brian Schneider, Charlie Manuel wanted to change things up and caught Worley with Ruiz. 
TonightCole Hamels pitches in front of his home crowd against righty Edinson Volquez. 
Photos by Christopher Hanewinckel-US Presswire

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers at Bucks
3:30 p.m. - CSN/CSNPhilly.com/streaming live on the NBCSports App

The Sixers (12-26) look to get back in the win column when they face the Milwaukee Bucks (20-19) at the Bradley Center in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Let's take a closer look at Monday afternoon's matchup:

1. Back on the Embiid express
The Sixers have started to show flashes of coming together and finally turning the corner on their massive rebuild. However, they are nowhere near the point that they can remove the biggest piece of the puzzle and still expect to win games.

The Sixers found that out again on Saturday night, as they were pummeled during the second half of a 109-93 loss to the Washington Wizards with Joel Embiid sidelined for rest.

The team didn't want to use the rookie phenom's absence as an excuse, but it was clear his presence was missed.

“We didn’t have that extra oomph,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “Obviously, the omission of Joel Embiid clearly is impactful, but that’s the challenge. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Embiid and his 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game will be back in the lineup against the Bucks.

2. Freak of nature
The Sixers won't be the only squad with a star in the making on the court Monday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown plenty of potential since he was selected by the Bucks 15th overall in the 2013 draft (Anthony Bennett, who was recently released by the Brooklyn Nets, was taken No. 1 overall that year, for those of you keeping track at home). But the man known as "The Greek Freak" has taken his game to new heights this season.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting in addition to 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game this season - all career highs. He's also coming off a 33-point, eight-rebound and six-assist performance in the Bucks' 111-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With Antetokounmpo playing point guard full time now and the Bucks' starting five boasting players all above 6-foot-7, it's hard to determine how the Sixers will match up on defense. Whatever the plan is to slow down "The Greek Freak," it will have to be a total team effort.

3. Protect the paint
All of that size and athleticism for the Bucks is a big reason they attack the rim so much. Milwaukee is tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead in points in the paint with 50.6 per game.

The Sixers were dominated on the low block for 54 points by the Wizards on Saturday with Embiid out. For the season, they rank 14th in the league in points in the paint allowed at 42.3 a night.

One thing that might help the Sixers is their shot blocking. They swat 5.6 shots a game (sixth in the NBA), which could deter some of those romps to the rim by the Bucks.

4. Injuries
T.J. McConnell (right wrist), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Khris Middleton (hamstring) is out for the Bucks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Bucks.

• Ersan Ilyasova spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Bucks (see story on his return to Milwaukee). This will mark the fourth time he has faced his former team.

• Jabari Parker, selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft right before Embiid, has emerged this season with 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

The Sixers will get Joel Embiid back in the lineup when they meet the Bucks on Monday afternoon in Milwaukee, but they'll be without their starting point guard.

T.J. McConnell will miss Monday's game with a sprained right wrist suffered in Saturday night's loss to the Wizards in D.C., the Sixers announced Monday morning.

McConnell reportedly did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and is back home in Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old McConnell has been a presence this season for a Sixers team that desperately needed something from the point guard spot. In 38 games this season, McConnell has averaged 4.8 points, 5.8 points and 4.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists a night in an average of 22.3 minutes a game.

The highlight of McConnell's season, of course, came last week when he nailed the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Sixers a 98-97 victory over the Knicks.

Sergio Rodriguez is expected to start in McConnell's place Monday against the Bucks.