While You Were Watching Football, the Phillies Were Continuing their Sneaky Hot Streak

While You Were Watching Football, the Phillies Were Continuing their Sneaky Hot Streak

All summer long people wrote the Phillies 2012 campaign off for dead -- ourselves included -- but as casual fans would continue to ask me on a regular basis, "Do the Phillies have a legit shot at making the playoffs?" The answer has remarkably switched from, "No way." to "It'd take something crazy, but it's feasible."

A sweep of the lowly Rockies, including two wins on Sunday as most of us watched football instead of the local nine, was the latest in their solid play that's brought Charlie Manuel's club just 6 games out of one of the two wild card spots in the National League.

As Kulp wrote about earlier in the season in his standings watch, he was pretty much hoping they could reach the .500 mark on the season. That's remarkably achievable now. They're just two games under thanks to having won 15 of their last 21.

Perhaps the biggest boon to any playoff pipe dreams? Their upcoming schedule is quite favorable.

How about a four game set with the pathetic Houston Astros next weekend after three with the Fish at CBP starting this evening? Then a set with the Mets.

A few weeks ago the Phillies were near the very bottom of the list. Today, only the Dodgers and Pirates are significantly ahead of Philadelphia, with Arizona having fallen a half game back and the Brewers all even at 6 back.

Sure, it's going to take a lot of balls bouncing their way. But as Jonathan Papelbon said after closing out two games yesterday, they've been getting those bounces lately.

From Sully:

“We’re getting some breaks,” Papelbon said. “The errors tonight helped
us extend our lead. I don’t think we got a single break the first 80 or
90 games of the season. Now we’re getting some and taking advantage.”

I think it's safe to classify the Rockies awful defense as many breaks.

We joked earlier in the season when their playoff odds at CoolStandings.com was less than a tenth of a percent. Today, it's just 0.7 percent. But! They've got some cupcakes on the schedule.

Just need plenty of those bounces.


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No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek first road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek first road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions (5-2) upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth-most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue (3-4) fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15-for-23, 11 touchdowns) and next-to-last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.