Pow-Pow-Power Phils Win in the Desert

Pow-Pow-Power Phils Win in the Desert

Obscured in the Phillies loss to start their series in Arizona was a five-run ninth inning. After going scoreless for the first eight innings, the bats came out to hang some garbage runs when most east coasters had switched off the set.   
On Tuesday night, they picked up where that ninth left off, breaking a scoreless tie in the fourth with an injection of power we've rarely seen in 2012. Hunter Pence was a surprise addition to the lineup after missing Tuesday's game with a shoulder issue and undergoing an MRI earlier in the day, but he looked fine in the fourth, when he knocked one out to right with Jimmy Rollins was on base.
After a Ty Wigginton double, Laynce Nix crushed one over the right field wall, and the Phils had a 4-0 lead. But the gun show wasn't over just yet. 
In the seventh, Nix singled to start the inning and was moved over to second on a single by Brian Schneider, who was back in the battery with Vance Worley. After Polly sac'd them both up a base, Juan Pierre appeared to fly out to left, but a great sliding catch by Jason Kubel was ruled by second base ump Angel Hernandez to have fallen in. 
With the bases loaded, Pete Orr (star of yesterday's recap) smacked a triple to right, plating all three baserunners to give the Phils a 7-1 lead. 
Vance Worley's night was done, which was a great thing for the Diamondbacks. He'd been freezing them through six frames, striking out six—all looking. Worley allowed just one run on a homer by Cody Effing Ransom in the fifth. 
Jose Contreras took over in the seventh, and it wasn't pretty. The D'backs pulled three doubles in a row, then added a sac to bring the score to 7-4. Antonio Bastardo came in to induce the final out.
A familiar face was on the mound for Arizona in the eighth, when Mike Zagurski relieved Bryan Shaw. Shane Victorino must not have been feeling much sentimentality, capping Zagurski with a homer to lead off the inning. That's Vic's second straight game with a long ball and his fourth of the season to uhhh lead the team... 
Chad Qualls was touched for the very first time in the eighth, when he allowed a solo homer to Kubel before striking out three in a row, all swinging. 
Jon Papelbon earned the save (do people still say that?) with a perfect ninth, closing out an 8-5 Phillies win. 
I don't think anyone's calling the Phillies' offensive woes a thing of the past, but the game was something of a relief. No, Josh Collmenter is not Matt Cain, but there are more than enough Collmenters in the league, and this is what the Phils need to do when they're on the hill. 
Vancehall ReggaeGotta love another great start from Worley, who won his second straight, again keeping his walks and hits to the same number of innings he pitched. Hard to ask for much more than that. There were concerns coming into the season that hitters had figured him out toward the end of last season, sitting on his out-pitch. But we're still seeing the cold stare of opposing hitters who just got rung up looking, and Worley's ERA is a tidy 2.16. Nice to see the walks limited to just one, too. MOM! I WANT THE TRUUUUUCK!

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."