Wigginton's 6 RBI Power Another Hamels Win

Wigginton's 6 RBI Power Another Hamels Win

The only downside to Memorial Day Weekend is that moment you realize it's almost over and you start taking inventory on whether did enough or relaxed enough, no matter how much of either you crammed in. First you're ecstatic that the three-day summer kickoff is coming, then it's in full swing, and before you know it, you're telling people it feels like Sunday and isn't it weird Game Of Thrones isn't on while fighting off the thought that you'll be at work tomorrow before giving yourself that hey at least it's a four-day work week pep talk. Well, whether your long awesome weekend met its end on a beach, in traffic hell, on a couch, or in a backyard over a fire, at least the Phillies softened the landing with an 8-4 win to start a three-game set with the Mets. Right?
Cole Hamels notched his Major League-leading eighth win of the season with a fine eight-inning effort, and Ty Wigginton put in a career afternoon, knocking in six runs. Hamels was charged with each of the Mets' four runs despite allowing only seven hits and one walk. Twice the Phillies had two-run leads only to have the Mets catch up, each time on a home run. Neither the heat nor the pair of longballs got to Hamels though, and Wigginton made sure he had enough run support. 
More on that below, if you missed or want to relive it. 
The Phils grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning after Mets starter Jonathon Niese got Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco out, then walked Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, who was batting cleanup. Wigginton then got the team's first hit of the day, doubling to right. Great to see the offense wait out a pitcher who had started to struggle, letting him throw balls until he served up a meatball. 
Hamels was punished for walking Lucas Duda in the fifth when Vinny Rottino followed it up with a homer to tie the game at 2. Cole answered with back-to-back strikeouts before getting Niese to ground out and end the inning. The offense immediately got the lead back for him, with Wigginton taking one of his two BBs on the day before John Mayberry Jr BLASTED one to left. The Phils were up 4-2 despite it being only their second hit of the afternoon. 
In the bottom of the sixth, Scott Hairston homered in Kirk Nieuwenhuis to knot the game again. And, in the next frame, the Phils once again regained the lead with Wigginton at the plate. With Bobby Parnell now on the mound, JRoll started the inning with a single for the Phils' third hit. Polly grounded out but moved him over (more on that below), Pence walked, and Shane sac'd Jimmy over to third. Parnell was throwing straight heat, but Wigginton waited for a fat pitch and roped it to center, plating Rollins. 
Cole had a 1-2-3 seventh, then got the Phils' only hit in the eighth (nice to see Jon Rauch keep all his clothes on this time around) before rewarding Charlie Manuel for letting him come back out and face the top of the Mets' order. He allowed a double to pinch-hitter Andres Torres, who got to third on a groundout by Nieuwenhaus. Daniel Murphy grounded out to Galvis, who continues to be outstanding at second base, and David Wright brought his league-leading batting average to the plate. Cole battled him into ground out to third, a tough play handled well by Polanco to end the inning without letting the Mets tie again. 
Then it was Manny Acosta's turn be in Ty Wigginton's highlight reel. Acosta allowed a pair of singles before striking out Victorino, and Wigginton put out to left center, RUINING Jonathan Papelbon's save opportunity. 
Papelbon was already warmed up though, and he had to wait through a pitching change, so Charlie sent him out anyway. 5-8 got the Mets to go down 1-2-3, and it was all barbecue sauce for the visitors. 
NotesAfter the aptly named Justin Turner turned his ankle when caught in a third inning rundown [video here], David Wright had to move over to shortstop in the fourth inning. Turner was himself a fill-in at SS, with Ronny Cedeno already hurt. Wright's inexperience at the position did come into play later, when Polanco grounded to the pitcher, who turned and threw it to Wright as he ran to cover second. It would have been a very close play, but Wright was well in front the bag and never tagged it before throwing to get Polly out at first. Can't see the base, can ya Russ? (Debby Wong, US Presswire)
Wigginton would knock Rollins in after he'd advanced to third, giving the Phils a 5-4 lead. Had it not been for Wigginton's homer in the ninth, that run might have stood up as the winner. Wright also had a throwing error, but that was in the first inning, before he made the move to short. 
He was also 0-4 on the day, plummeting his average to .373. Everyone point and laugh at David Wright!
Chooch, who is third only to Wright and Melky Cabrera in NL batting average, had to sit the afternoon out, scratched with a tight right hammy. You just rest up, Most Valuable Panamanian. 
Hairston has Cole's number. Check out these career stats against him
Reuben Frank pointed out that Cole hadn't allowed more than three earned runs since September of 2011, dating back 14 starts, and Brian Schneider also caught him that day. Not going to hang anything on Schneider though, especially the day after he caught Kyle Kendrick's shutout. 
With the Braves losing their eighth in a row, the Phillies are no longer in sole possession of last place in the East. Both clubs are four games back. 
It was a great day for watching baseball, as well as remembering why many of us had the day off today. Spending time with friends and family, relaxing, or yes, even working, are all great ways to respect the ultimate sacrifice of so many US servicemen and women. Thank you to our fallen soldiers, the families they've left behind, and to those currently serving. 

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

In his second-to-last game in a Phillies uniform, Ryan Howard will man first base and bat fifth against the Mets on Saturday afternoon (1:05/FOX).

Howard went 1 for 4 Friday night with a double. The first baseman has three home runs and five RBI in 44 at-bats against the Mets this season. 

Andres Blanco takes Freddy Galvis’ starting spot at shortstop and bats second. Galvis left Friday night's game with hamstring tightness. Blanco has not made a start since Sept. 16, but is batting .294 against the Mets this year.

Cameron Rupp catches and bats sixth for the second day in a row. Rupp went 2 for 3 on Friday night with an RBI. Jimmy Paredes and Aaron Altherr follow Rupp in the lineup and man the corners in the outfield.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Andres Blanco, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Phil Klein, P

And the Mets lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Curtis Granderson, CF
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. T.J. Rivera, 2B
7. James Loney, 1B
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C
9. Bartolo Colon, P

Love Isn't Always on Time: Approaching the Ben Simmons injury rationally

Love Isn't Always on Time: Approaching the Ben Simmons injury rationally

Does it hurt? Yeah, it hurts. 

You know when the last year the Sixers went into the preseason without a devastating injury to a frontcourt player hanging over their heads was? 2011. Back when LMFAO was big. Since then, it's been:

2012: Andrew Bynum
2013: Nerlens Noel
2014: Joel Embiid
2015: Joel Embiid
2016: Ben Simmons

Even the Blazers, heretofore the NBA franchise with the most cursed big-man luck, got years, decades in between the NBA tragedies of Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, and Greg Oden to grieve. The Sixers seem unprecedently determined to get their bad juju all out of the way at once. 

The last item on that list was, of course, announced last night - Simmons has a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot -- and is especially tough, mostly because it was so unforeseeable. Andrew Bynum had a long history of injury. Nerlens Noel was ruled out for the season before draft night, as was Joel Embiid. But as far as we knew, Ben Simmons had lived a long and healthy life that, failing a Shaun Livingston-type freak injury, was just going to continue in its elongated healthiness. Foot trouble was definitely not in the plan. 

It's also tough because it proves we're not out of the woods yet. Not like anyone thought Philly was gonna win 40 games and challenge for the playoffs this year, but certainly most of us allowed ourselves to believe that the worst was over, and that karma was gonna finally owe us for a little while. Turns out, we may be through with the past, but the past isn't through with us. Doug Collins musta really sold this team's soul to get us to that Game 7 against Boston in the conference semis four seasons ago. 

But we can deal. For better and worse, Sixers fans have developed a hard-earned resilience to news of such maladies, and this revelation isn't nearly as bad as some other casually-in-crisis press releases we've had to deal with in recent years (yet). So once we're done processing the initial sorrow that comes with hearing we're not going to get to see our No. 1 overall pick play meaningful basketball as soon as we deserve, let's make our parents proud by being good little Process Trusters, and approaching this situation rationally: 

This is only a two-month injury. 

This isn't yet, and shouldn't be, a season-ender. ESPN estimates Simmons will be out eight weeks; a wise bet would probably have him staying sidelined a little longer than that Just to Be Sure. Christmas seems like the reasonable mental goalpost for his return, which means -- barring setbacks -- at most he'd miss the team's first 30 games. 

That's a lot, but not really: Jahlil Okafor missed 29 games last season, and I don't think most of us even remember injuries as being a particularly notable part of his rookie year. By this point, the Sixers are used to going entire seasons without proof of life from our star rooks. Two months? We can do that standing on our heads. 

This doesn't necessarily mean anything for Simmons' long-term prospects. 

Feet-related injuries are rivaled only by head stuff as the scariest thing you can see on an NBA medical report — especially for big men, as memories of giants like Walton and Yao having their careers plagued by such maladies continue to reverberate. In Simmons' case, his injury is reminiscent of Nets center Brook Lopez, who lost the better part of several seasons to recurring problems stemming from an initial foot fracture. 

But as that above list shows, the great majority of NBA players to have suffered this injury -- presumed to be an avulsion fracture, not the ghastlier Jones fracture -- have bounced back from it pretty quickly, and not been subsequently effected. Pau Gasol and Mike Bibby both went on to have long, productive, mostly health-drama-free-careers -- hell, Pau just averaged 19 and 13 in 72 games as a 35-year-old. C.J. McCollum suffered the injury as a rookie just three years ago, and I'd already forgotten it was even part of his story. Our Once and Always Dark Lord-willing, it doesn't have to be part of Simmons', either. 

The Sixers — and Simmons — were gonna be bad anyway. 

Not like this much hurts the Sixers' playoff chances, which were basically 0 to begin with. As much excitement as we could have expected from the early parts of this season, "wins' was not gonna be part of the deal just yet — Vegas set our over-under at 27.5, and most of our local experts have logically taken the under. Hopefully we actually get at least one of our first 17 this year, but with a poorly balanced rotation consisting mostly of rookies and free agents, W's were always gonna be slow-coming. 

And I personally believed that Simmons was gonna take a while to blossom himself. We'd get some gorgeous passes and fun full-court shenanigans, sure, but we'd also get a lot of clanked jumpers, missed rotations, and soul-sucking isos that take up 18 seconds of the shot-clock and still finish where they started. He'll still have that rough adjustment period two months or so later, but at least with the season already underway and the rest of the squad maybe finding their footing a little, hopefully there'll be less pressure on him to do everything immediately. 

Simmons can still put in work while sidelined. 

Remember how horrific Nerlens Noel's shooting form was coming into the NBA? The upside of him missing a year with his torn ACL was that he was able to spend a good portion of his should've-been-rookie season rebuilding it. He's still not Kevin Garnett on offense and likely never will be, but he was able to reach Respectably Bad at the free-throw line, and that alone will make an enormous difference in the arc of his NBA career. 

Simmons' jumper isn't nearly so broken, but he could also use the work. Time spent perfecting his mechanics while he doesn't have any other aspects of the game to really worry about could be huge for Benny's early development, and hopefully will give him the confidence to take -- if not yet make -- those open jumpers when first presented to him. 

We still have the two other guys. 

Truth is, Simmons was only the rookie I was third-most-excited about on the Sixers this year, and the other two -- Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who we've waited a combined four seasons for -- are still on track to play. Of course, putting all (or at least half) our eggs in Emiid's basket is never gonna be a particularly secure feeling, and the mind goes even catatonic considering the possibility of Embiid also getting hurt before season's start. But if (knock on lumber-yard) this as bad as the preseason news gets for the Sixers, and we enter with just the two mega-hyped rooks, with a third on the way shortly... that's still cupcakes and sprinkles as far as I'm concerned. 

So yeah, this is a bad weekend, and a rough development for a fanbase who'd finally begun to let their guard down the teensiest amount. That said, it's not the end of the world, the end of the season, or really the end of anything besides our foolishly unbridled optimism. A valuable lesson in hoping for the best and always fearing the worst, but just because we're not floating in the clouds anymore doesn't mean we're plummeting to the ground yet, either.