Polanco Goes Deep for 2,000th Hit in Phillies Win

Polanco Goes Deep for 2,000th Hit in Phillies Win

It wasn't a walk off or even the game winner, but Placido Polanco's 2000th career hit was a memorable one. In the bottom of the eighth on a soggy evening at Citizens Bank Park, Polly deposited the 1-0 offering from David Carpenter into the flowerbeds in left center. A two-run blast that otherwise amounted to little more than insurance for the Phillies in their 5-1 victory over the Astros went into the books a milestone.

Polanco became the 17th active player to reach 2,000 hits, one part of an all-around productive night for the All-Star third baseman. He also drew a walk after fouling three pitches off his foot during a gritty at bat in the second inning, and twice reached on a fielder's choice, scoring both times. The home run was his first since September 10, 2011.

Spread over two stints, Polanco has spent parts of seven seasons with Philadelphia during his 15-year big league career. He's amassed 732 hits while wearing red pinstripes -- 36.6% of his 2,000 -- and is 75 hits away from surpassing his total in a Detroit Tigers uniform.

[watch video of Placido Polanco's 2,000th hit here]

The bottom half of the Phillies order delivered along with Polly on Monday night. Batting out of the five spot for only the third time in his career, Carlos Ruiz was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Chooch kept the inning alive for Polanco in the eighth with his two-out single, otherwise he might be stuck on 1,999. John Mayberry added two hits, and Freddy Galvis had three, including a pair of RBI singles.

Yet perhaps the real story of the game was Joe Blanton, who battled the elements to pick up his fourth win of 2012. Heavy B pitched seven scoreless innings, and went out to start the eighth, but was quickly pulled after surrendering a lead-off bomb to pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez. Still a strong outing for Blanton, who allowed six hits and walked one while striking out seven. Antonio Bastardo, Chad Qualls, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the eighth and ninth.

Blanton is now 4-3 on the season with a 2.96 ERA. He's unbeaten in his last four appearances, three of those victories, lowering his ERA from 4.34 in the process.

It's still raining, and the forecast calls for more on Tuesday, so it's possible the 1 p.m. start will either be delayed or postponed. The hope here is it won't break up this club's rhythm -- the Phillies have taken two straight for the first time since April 30-May 1. Whenever they take the diamond next, it'll be with a chance at their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here: