Role Reversal: Phils Blow Early Lead, Series Tied 1-1

Role Reversal: Phils Blow Early Lead, Series Tied 1-1

The Phillies opened the NLDS with a dramatic come-from-behind victory on Saturday night, mashing their way out of a 3-0 first inning hole. On Sunday, they returned the favor to the Cardinals, losing a 5-4 game they'd led 3-0 after one.

A game billed as an aces' duel ended with 19 total hits, only a pair of which came off of the teams' combined relievers. Cliff Lee opened the game in dominant fashion, and his offense responded by pouncing all over Chris Carpenter in the bottom of the first. Carp looked stressed in his four innings, clearly frustrated by not getting calls he thought he should've. He was pinch-hit for in the fourth to try to keep a Cards rally going, and it seemed a great thing that Tony LaRussa would be going to his bullpen so early.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals' bullpen completely shut down the Phillies' offense, allowing no runs on only one hit through six innings. Their lineup's three-run fourth erased Lee's shutout, and while the Phils floundered against a handful of St. Louis relievers, the Cards found a way to eek out the tying run in the sixth and the go-ahead in the seventh. That spelled the end of Lee's night, and his offense was unable to pick him up.

On the evening after the Eagles choked away a very winnable game, watching the Phils lose a lead was that much more painful. Everything seemed to be going right early on, with Ryan Howard singling in JRoll and Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez bringing in Hunter Pence all within the game's first frame. Pence added a fourth run when he singled in JRoll in the second, and the Phils looked to be on their way.

Lee threw nine strikeouts, but he saw some Cards hits fall in behind him, and the Phillies couldn't touch the six relievers LaRussa sent out.  

BECAUSE AMERICA WANTS TO HEAR LARUSSA WHINE
In a televised segment from the Cardinals' bullpen, LaRussa complained about the strike zone Carpenter was getting as compared to that of Lee. Carp had nowhere near the command that Lee did early on and clearly didn't have his best stuff. After the game, Lee was asked about the strike zone as well, but he answered with a "Whatever," and proceeded to take his share of the responsibility for the loss without an ounce of blame for anyone else.

LaRussa's players were chirping too, and Jerry Meals continued to have an inconsistent strike zone. However, neither team won or lost because of the calls from behind the plate.

The Phils' veteran bats got off to a great start, but fizzled quickly and left the door open for the Cards to even the series before it heads back to St. Louis.

BRIGHT SIDE
JRoll had three hits and a pair of runs scored. Howard picked up where left off last night, notching a pair of RBI on his first hit. Now he heads home to St. Louis, where he's usually pretty fantastic at the plate. The bullpen was solid, working three scoreless innings. Ibanez connected with Carlos Ruiz to gun down Jon Jay at the plate in the fourth, despite Jay slamming hard into Chooch.

INJURY UPDATE
Albert Pujols has been noticeably hobbled through the series' first two games, and CSN's Leslie Gudel reported after the game that he opted to take a cart ride out of the locker room, as opposed to walking with the team. Pujols had a pair of hits and an RBI on the night. 

BEST OF THE BANK
The sellout crowd of 46,575 was announced to be the largest ever crowd at Citizens Bank Park. Gotta feel particularly bad for the fans who caught both of today's Philly sports losses.

UP NEXT
Cole Hamels faces Jaime Garcia at 5:07 PM on Tuesday night in St. Louis.

Photo by Howard Smith-US Presswire

Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

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Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

Ben Simmons' fellow NBA rookies may not think too highly of him, but when the best basketball player on the planet is giving him pointers, he must be doing something right.

On Tuesday, a photo of Simmons and LeBron James dribbling side by side started making the rounds on Instagram. That's right. The Sixers' number-one overall draft pick and franchise savior is apparently training with the four-time league MVP and reigning world champion.

#Klutch @klutchsports

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Those workouts continued on Wednesday, when 12-time All-Star Dwayne Wade posted a photo of himself, Simmons and James, as well as Richard Jefferson and Jordan McRae. That's some good company for a first-year player to keep.

Good day of work!

A photo posted by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on

What does all of this mean for Simmons and the Sixers? Hard to say, but it can't be a bad thing that the rookie point-forward is spending time with a pair of future first-ballot Hall of Famers. Surely he must be learning something.

That's good news for the Sixers, who hope that Simmons can even come close to living up to the lofty comparisons some have drawn to James already.

Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph starts for 1st time against Gio Gonzalez

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Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph starts for 1st time against Gio Gonzalez

Tommy Joseph is back in the starting lineup … as he's expected to be for most of the final month of the season. Joseph bats fourth behind third baseman Maikel Franco.

Joseph did not start Tuesday night in the Phillies' 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals. The 25-year-old is hitting .251 with 17 home runs and 34 RBIs.

The slugger has a significantly higher average against left-handed pitching than righties, despite clubbing 12 of his 17 homers against right-handed pitchers.

Joseph has yet to faced Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez.

In other lineup notes, Tyler Goeddel gets the start in left field and will hit eighth, while A.J. Ellis gets his second start as a Phillie. He'll catch Adam Morgan.

Here is the full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Adam Morgan, P

For more on tonight's game, read Steven Tydings' game notes.

Villanova season preview: It's Zach Bednarczyk team now

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Villanova Athletic Media Relations

Villanova season preview: It's Zach Bednarczyk team now

VILLANOVA, Pa. — When star quarterback John Robertson suffered a season-ending injury early in Villanova’s 2015 campaign, Zach Bednarczyk was thrown into a difficult spot.

How could an inexperienced redshirt freshman be expected to replace the reigning Walter Payton Award winner? Could the Wildcats still accomplish all of their lofty preseason goals?

In the end, Bednarczyk probably handled it as well as could be expected, performing admirably in some spots (like when he spearheaded a late comeback against rival Delaware just after Robertson got hurt) and poorly in others (like when Penn upset Villanova for the first time in a century the very next week).

But now, after getting almost a full year of experience under his belt, Villanova head coach Andy Talley is expecting Bednarczyk to become a better, smarter player — and, most of all, someone who can lead the Wildcats into the FCS playoffs in Talley’s final season.

“I think the thing that he did last year was that he was a little bit of a gun-slinger,” Talley said. “He threw the ball around a little bit. Now he’s more judicious with where he throws the football, his outlet receivers. He’s not trying to gun the ball in all of the time and make a play.”

While Talley would certainly like his QB to cut down on some mistakes — he threw seven interceptions last season — he does appreciate that Bednarczyk possesses some of the same playmaking skills that made Robertson such a star at ’Nova, including the ability to gain yards on the ground.

In his first season last year, Bednarczyk led the Wildcats in rushing with 515 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to nabbing CAA co-Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

This season, which begins for Villanova Saturday at Pittsburgh, Talley hopes he can match those running totals while becoming a 2,000-yard passer with fewer interceptions.

“Last year he was rookie of the year in the CAA but he really could have been an all-league player if he didn’t throw the ball in some bad spots,” Talley said. “I think he learned the hard way by having the ball go against him. In the last game of the year, we had a chance to tie for the championship and go to the playoffs if we had beaten JMU. And he threw two picks that went back for touchdowns. So he’s sort of learned his craft the hard way.”

That season-ending loss to James Madison still stings for the Wildcats, who finished with a 6-5 overall record and missed out on qualifying for the FCS playoffs for just the third time in eight years.

That’s something they hope to reverse in 2016 under the growing leadership of Bednarczyk, who agrees with his coach that he needs to become a smarter player.

“Last year I definitely took too many risks,” the sophomore QB said. “This year, although I still want to throw the ball around because that’s my strong suit, I definitely don’t want to force anything. I’ll try to cut back on my turnovers. If it looks like it’s too tight of a window to squeeze it this year, I’ll just tuck it and run.”

Bednarczyk will certainly need to be poised in the pocket with Talley admitting that the Wildcats aren’t as deep at receiver as they’ve been in years past. 

At the same time, he may not have to put too many points on the board, considering how good Villanova’s defense can be. Although the unit graduated star linebacker Don Cherry, who’s been in preseason camp with the Eagles, they still boast a veteran unit that includes linebacker Austin Calitro and defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Kpassagnon, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound NFL prospect, is an especially intriguing player for the Wildcats.

“I think all the pro teams have been through to see him,” Talley said. “He can run. He’s tough. He diagnoses well. He’s in our business school, so he’s smart as can be. And he carries that over to the field.”

Kpassagnon, who was named to the CAA preseason all-conference team, is excited for his senior season but admitted that helping the Wildcats rise to the top of a loaded league won’t be easy. Villanova, which opens league play Sept. 17 vs. Towson, was picked fourth behind Richmond, William & Mary and James Madison.

“There’s no dropoff in competition throughout the CAA,” Kpassagnon said. “In some other leagues, there are a couple of teams that you know will obviously win the conference. But with ours, you never know.”

Of course, Villanova has aspirations beyond just winning the league. As always, the Wildcats — who check in at No. 23 in the STATS preseason Top 25 — will look to make a deep run in the FCS playoffs and, perhaps, try to send Talley out with his second national title.

“The goal is definitely a national championship,” Kpassagnon said. “We all believe we can do it. It’s something we have in the back of our heads.”