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

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."