Red Sox-Phillies: A Series Preview

Red Sox-Phillies: A Series Preview

It's nice that we can have ourselves a Boston-Philadelphia series these
days without the primary storyline having anything to do with the city
of New York. In 2011, the Phillies and Red Sox are good enough and
established enough in their own right that there's no second-city
inferiority complex necessary—these teams have more than enough positive
recent history now, and they're building a nice little rivalry of their
own. And this time, the two will meet as arguably the two best teams in
baseball, in a series that will see the phrase "World Series Preview"
mentioned more than once
.

Sox-Phils has made for some great interleague action the last few
years, though unfortunately for us, most of it has ended up favoring
Boston. Last year alone, there was Daisuke's no-hitter through seven,
Daniel Nava's grand slam in his first-ever at bat, and a combined 22-4
Boston beatdown of Philly over the course of two games. Boston won four
of six in that season and 11 of 15 total since they started visiting
Citizens' Bank Park. "I think we’ve had a hard time beating them
in the past, the last five or six years I’ve been here," Charlie
recently reminisced. "It would be nice
to win
a series. We need to come out Tuesday and make sure we play good against
them." 

Yeah, it would be nice. The Phils are 5-4 in
interleague play this year—a respectable record, but hardly the
authoritative beatdown that the NL's best and brightest should be
providing of the hated AL, especially considering the team has been
facing off against the weak squads of the AL West. A series win against
the Red Sox, something the Fightins just haven't been able to secure
even in their contending years against the Beantowners, would be huge
for the guys, proving they can hang with the big guns of the AL and all
but ensuring them a winning interleague record.

As is almost always the case at this time in the season, neither
team will be arriving at the showdown with their arsenal fully stocked.
The Phillies are still down two starters and two closers, and with Roy
Halladay pitching on Sunday night against Oakland, the Sox will be
getting a reprieve from facing off against their old friend from
Toronto. Meanwhile, the Sox are missing two big guns from their starting
lineup—big off-season acquisition Carl Crawford, who had finally
started showing signs of being the player the Sox thought they purchased
for $142 mil in December but is now out with a hamstring injury, and
David Ortiz, on pace for one of the best seasons of his career, but
relegated to pinch-hitting duties in this series due to the DH being
unavailable in interleague play. Still, there should be plenty of star
power to go around between the two teams, as evidenced by the marquee
matchup of tonight's series opener: Cliff Lee vs. Josh Beckett, two of
the hottest starters in baseball right now.

The eyes of the baseball world will be on Philly this week for what
is in all likelihood the most highly anticipated interleague series of
the 2011 season. Maybe it's a playoff preview and maybe (probably) it
isn't, but as far as regular-season action goes, you're not gonna get
much more exciting than this. Soak it all in these next three days—and
if you happen to head down to the ballpark, be sure to say hi to JD Drew
and Terry Francona for us.

Report: Nerlens Noel upset with Sixers' situation at center

Report: Nerlens Noel upset with Sixers' situation at center

After being in the middle of trade rumors over the last few months, Nerlens Noel appears to frustrated with his situation with the Sixers, according to the Inquirer's Keith Pompey.

The Sixers have three starting-caliber centers — Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, who's now healthy — heading into this season.

"I think it's just silly," Noel told Pompey. "With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to set something done this summer.

"Don't get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court. But at the end of the day, it's like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn't make any sense.

"And it's just not going to work to anybody's advantage having that on the same team. That's how I'm looking at it. I'm not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated."

The Sixers flirted with having two big men on the court at the same time last season, with Noel and Okafor but with no real success. 

He has a point, and the team knows it.

During the summer, reports swirled saying the Sixers were looking to trade either Noel or Okafor for backcourt help.

Noel, who's in the final year of his rookie contract, doesn't appear to believe the current situation will work.

"I think something needs to happen," he said.

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

When Darren Sproles caught the nifty touch pass from Carson Wentz around midfield, there was little doubt about what would happen next.

"Touchdown," running back Kenjon Barner said after the Eagles' stunning 34-3 shellacking of the Steelers (see Instant Replay)
 
Really? With that many yards to go?

"Touchdown," he said. "As soon as he caught the ball. There was nobody there. That guy in the open field — you're not going to bring him down by yourself. With that much space — touchdown."

Barner wasn't the only one.

"Man, it's Sproles! Did you think he was going to get tackled?" receiver Nelson Agholor said incredulously. 

Uhh …

"Man, listen, it's Darren Sproles, and if you second-guessed him, then I don't know what you're thinking," he said. "I'm surprised if he gets tackled."

So is center Jason Kelce. 

"I was actually celebrating before he scored the touchdown, because I watched the whole thing unfold," Kelce said. "It was just a great play. [Wentz] scrambles out and then has the common sense to when the defender comes to him to dump it over top to Sproles, and that dude, once he gets the ball in space, it's incredibly special."

It sure was. 

First, Wentz stepped away from charging defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who had gotten away from Allen Barbre. 

“I came out and saw Sproles and he just turned up the field,” Wentz said. “Anytime that you can put it in [his hands], something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it.” 

Wentz did a little more than that (see story). After escaping the sack, he rushed to his right and made a right turn. Then he parallelled the line of scrimmage, drawing linebacker Ryan Shazier toward him — and allowing Sproles to get wide open.

Whoops.

"I thought he crossed the line of scrimmage, so I ran up," Shazier said. "It was my fault."

Sproles caught the pass, snaked his way the remaining 50 yards, spinning Steelers rookie safety Sean Davis around a couple times and watching rookie corner Artie Burns flail at him helplessly right before crossing the goal line.

"When they do that, it kind of gets everyone off their job when he extends the play like that," Davis said. "Me being a deep player, I just tried to buy us some time once I saw that we got broken down and let the defense rally up, and it's just a good play [by] him."

An amazing play. It was a 73-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the third quarter, a 3rd-and-8, and put the Eagles up 20-3 (see 10 observations). It was the second-longest catch of Sproles' career and longest since 2009 while with the Chargers (an 81-yarder vs. Baltimore). It was easily the longest TD of Wentz’s career and a main reason he was able to become only the second rookie in team history to reach 300 passing yards in a game (Nick Foles is the other).

“It was so much fun,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Those are the kinds of plays you can’t design. It’s players making plays. … Sproles did his thing and wiggled down there, and it was fun to watch.”

That’s what Agholor should have done. Just watch.

"I was trying to chase him down and almost pulled my hamstring," Agholor said. 

"You see those moves he put on them? Pffft. And DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham) ran downfield — that downfield block. Think about that. We were having a lot of fun tonight man, and I'm very happy about that."

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