The Biggest Series of the Year (Until the Next Braves Series)

The Biggest Series of the Year (Until the Next Braves Series)

As far as early July series against division rivals, this weekend's three game set with the Braves is about as big as they get. The two best teams in baseball record-wise face off with only 2.5 games separating them in the standings.

If things were to go absolutely horrible for the Phillies this weekend, they could head into the All-Star break in second place. Thankfully, they've tweaked their rotation to set up their big guns to face Atlanta in this series.

Roy Halladay pitches this evening, Cliff Lee goes Saturday afternoon, and Cole Hamels sends them into the break on Sunday. Sure, those three losing on three consecutive days is technically possible, but you're probably more likely to win the Powerball jackpot than that happening.

But first place is not the only thing being fought for this weekend. A series victory and ground gained by either team could be huge for second half momentum, and message sending. The Braves want to show they're a force to be reckoned with while the Phillies want to show the Braves that, while Atlanta is a formidable opponent, they're not quite on the Fightins' level.

For much more analysis on the series and breakdown of the rivalry, check out Jim Salisbury and John Finger's respective takes on this weekend's matchup.

"They are right there with us," Charlie Manuel said. "Our
division is a lot better than it was and the Braves are right there."

Should be an exciting weekend of baseball in South Philadelphia.

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Ben Simmons is on track to return to the Sixers in January, Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday. 

Previous reports indicated that Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in the Sixers' final training camp scrimmage on Sept. 30, would be out three months. Friday's news jives with that, but this is the first time the Sixers have given a timetable.

"It's not doom and gloom," Brown said. "Ben is coming back in January. We are still trying to find information on Jerryd (Bayless). Jahlil (Okafor) is still trying to touch the court in his first preseason game."

With long-term ramifications in mind, there had been some speculation that Simmons' camp wanted him to sit all season. 

This is rather encouraging news and it means the Sixers may avoid watching another of their top picks miss his entire first year.

Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

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Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

Playoff soccer is returning to Chester for the first time in five years, and while fans prep for the Union’s first postseason games since 2011, there is no shortage of seating options for Union tickets on the primary market.

Perhaps most importantly, fans won’t have to break the bank to be on hand as the Union compete for their first MLS Cup in franchise history. Union field level seats are available for both the team’s final home regular season game against the New York Red Bulls and the Eastern Conference Semifinal on October 30 should they advance past the knockout round.

The team’s official website lists feet-on-the-pitch seating starting from $155 per ticket for this weekend’s game against the Red Bulls. The first-place Red Bulls head to Talen Energy Stadium with a first-round bye secured, but Union head coach Jim Curtin expects them to bring the pressure with them on Sunday. Fans can look on up close – and for relatively cheap - as the Union look to hand the Eastern Conference leaders their final loss of the regular season.

The Union will take on either New York City FC or Toronto FC in the knockout round either next Wednesday or Thursday. Pending a victory on the road, they’ll return to Talen Energy Stadium to host an Eastern Conference Semifinal game on October 30. Field level seating is still widely available for the team’s first home playoff game since 2011 and start from $178 per ticket.

2016 marks the franchise’s second MLS Cup Playoffs berth in its seven-year existence. They clinched a first-round bye in 2011 but fell to the Houston Dynamo by a 3-1 aggregate in the Conference Semifinals. The Union bring a much different vibe into the playoffs this season, however, after a formidable stretch from September on nearly drowned their postseason hopes. The team won its last game on August 27 against Sporting Kansas City, losing four games and drawing in two others since. 

Despite the team’s recent struggles, there is a sense of renewment that will carry them into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Records are cast aside and the slate is wiped clean, beginning a new path on the long and often tumultuous road to a national championship.