Worrying Time: Phillies Lose Again, The Doctor Is Not Well

Worrying Time: Phillies Lose Again, The Doctor Is Not Well

No excuses left, sadly.

It wasn't a couple of flukes. It wasn't
the catcher. It wasn't bad luck with the long ball, and it wasn't Doc
needing a couple starts to round into form. Roy Halladay of April 2013
is simply not the Roy Halladay of 2010-11. The question is if he ever
will be again, and from the returns tonight, it's hard to be terribly
optimistic.

Needless to say after this gloom-and-doom intro, the
Doctor got hit hard tonight. A three-run shot from John Bonds Aaron
Killebrew Buck on a pitch Roy left dead-red in the zone in the second
was all that was really needed, but more discouraging to me was when the
Phillies finally got on the board with a scraped-together run in the
bottom of the fourth, and after having a 1-2-3 top of the fourth, Doc
gave the run right back in the next inning on a double and a single in
just the blink of an eye, when in years prior he'd have just started
hitting his groove and mowing hitters down with mechanical
inevitability. In the end, Roy gave up seven in just four innings of
work, two of which were cashed in off Chad "Hey, you made your bed, you
lie in it" Durbin when he relieved the Doctor in that 5th innning. The
Phils lost 7-2.

Nothing about this was encouraging.

The
three-run homer, the bad start to the fifth, those were the worst of it,
but they weren't the whole picture. Doc was missing wide and low all
night, and missing badly--the ESPN crew on the telecast even showed one
pitch to Quintero during warmups that sailed about a foot to the left.
For the second-straight starts, he walked three batters, something he
only did once in all of 2011. The body language was bad, the
communication was bad, everything was bad, bad, bad. Bad Roy Halladay.
You never thought you'd see the day, and certainly not this soon.

And
not like the Phillies really needed a contrasting example, but Matt
Harvey was certainly willing to provide one tonight. The Mets' young
starter certainly appears to have all the trappings of an ace in the
making, a zipping fastball, excellent location and a confidence (yes,
fine, swagger) belying his 23 years. He struck out nine, only
walked one, and gave up just one run on three hits--two if you don't
count that lazy Ike Davis throw to first that Chase easily beat out.
He's a starter the Phillies are going to have to reckon with for many
years to come, as if there weren't already enough of those to go around
in the NL East.

And of course, one of those pitchers used to be
Roy Halladay. But after his first two starts of the season, expecting
that guy to magically reappear anytime soon doesn't seem particularly
realistic. Maybe he's somehow hurt and there's something that can be
done to fix him. Maybe it's mental and there are ways he can unburden
himself. Maybe he just needs to accept there are certain things he can't
do anymore, and use his legendary drive and work ethic to find out how
to maximize his success with the tools he has left. Maybe it's a
combination of all three.

I don't pretend to know the answers. I
just know what everybody else now knows--that the guy wearing #34 for
the Fightins tonight was not the guy who threw a no-hitter in his
first-ever post-season start, who perfecto'd the Marlins on a late
Saturday afternoon in May, who averaged 20 wins a game over his first
two seasons in Philadelphia and seemed a safe pencil-in for about that
many more every year he took the mound in the Red and White. And I have
no idea what the Phillies are going to do without him.

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Ben Simmons rolled his right ankle during scrimmage on the final day of training camp. He was taken for precautionary imaging. The results have not yet been completed.

Jerryd Bayless did not scrimmage because of a sore left wrist, which the team continues to monitor. He sat out of Thursday's scrimmage for the same reason.

Jahlil Okafor participated in Friday's scrimmage in accordance to his load management. The Sixers are being cautious with players as they return from injury. Okafor underwent right knee surgery last season. 

Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

temple-smu-matchup.jpg

Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

Temple (2-2, 0-0 AAC) vs. SMU (2-2, 0-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, Noon, ESPNews

If recent history tells us anything, we should expect to see some crooked numbers on Lincoln Financial Field’s scoreboard Saturday afternoon when SMU visits Temple in the conference opener for each team.

The last two times these AAC programs have met, the final scores have wound up 59-49 (a SMU win in Dallas in 2013) and 60-40 (a Temple win in Dallas last season).

Temple is coming off a 48-20 homecoming demolition of Charlotte. The game was basically over early in the second quarter, a frame in which the Owls scored 28 points to blow away the 49ers. SMU is coming off a 33-3 home loss to in-state rival TCU. The Mustangs hung tough for the first half and the score was 6-3 at the break, but the Big 12 powerhouse Horned Frogs took over in the second half.

Weather could play a factor Saturday, though, as current forecasts call for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in the Philadelphia area all afternoon.

Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s the matchup.

Scouting Temple
The Owls’ offense has been in a much-needed groove since the second half of the narrow loss at Penn State two weeks ago.

Last week, Walker went 15 of 26 for 268 yards and two touchdowns – a 51-yard bomb to Adonis Jennings and a 40-yard quick strike to Brodrick Yancy. On the season, Walker has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 846 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. His favorite target has been Keith Kirkwood, who has 14 grabs for 191 yards and two touchdowns through four games.

It should be no coincidence that Temple’s offensive revival has come with the return of star senior running back Jahad Thomas, who missed the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb. In the two games Thomas has played, he’s got 127 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who also has four rushing scores, leads the Owls with 166 yards on the ground. Last year against SMU, then-freshman Jager Gardner ripped off a school-record 94-yard touchdown run.

One other offensive note: Temple head coach Matt Rhule was finally pleased with his offensive line after the way it played against Charlotte. Earlier this week, he praised offensive line coach George DeLeone and the job he’s done recently trying to get work out the issues on the line. The Owls didn’t give up a sack last week. True freshman Matt Hennessy started at left guard last week while redshirt sophomore Jaelin Robinson saw time at right tackle. Don’t be surprised if they see significant playing time again.

Two things have concerned Rhule defensively – a lackluster pass rush and the tendency to give up big plays.

Through four games, the Owls have yet to establish any sort of consistent pass rush. They have just four sacks through four games. They had 10 in last year’s opener against Penn State alone. The good news for Temple’s pass rush is that SMU starts a freshman QB and his given up nine sacks through four games, so opportunities to disrupt the pocket should be there on Saturday.

Temple’s defense has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage this season, including a 66-yard touchdown run by Charlotte’s Kalif Phillips last week.

Injury-wise, the Owls are relatively healthy. Sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, who was believed to be dealing with a shoulder injury, announced on his Instagram this week that he’d been cleared to play.

Scouting SMU
The Mustangs’ rebuilding efforts took a big hit during the first game of the season when senior quarterback Matt Davis, who played very well against Temple last season and hurt the Owls with both his arm and legs, was lost for the year with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks has stepped in and his tenure so far hasn’t been so hot. He’s completed just 50 percent of his passes this year and has thrown just two touchdowns compared to seven picks.

Despite the inexperience and lack of production at quarterback, SMU will still push the tempo with a fast-paced offense that can rip off chunks of yardage instantly and averages 448 yards per game. A big reason for that is the play of sophomore wideout Cortland Sutton, who has 449 receiving yards and four touchdowns already this season. Sutton, whom Rhule had very high praise for earlier this week, averages 24.9 yards per reception. Sophomore tailback Braeden West is no slouch, either. He’s averaged 93.8 yards per game on the ground this season and has two rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, SMU has a couple of ballhawks in its secondary. The Mustangs are tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions through four games. Sophomore corner Jordan Wyatt is tied for the team lead in picks with three and also leads the Mustangs with 25 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Walker will have to be wary of where Wyatt is at on the field. Senior Horace Richardson also has three picks already for the Mustangs.

While SMU’s takeaway numbers are pretty, the Mustangs’ total defense numbers are ugly. They give up an average of 449.8 yards per game, which ranks 98th out of 128 teams in the FBS. The 27 points the Mustangs allow per game are good 70th in the FBS.

History
Saturday will mark the third meeting between the schools in the last four years and fifth overall. As mentioned above, the two teams combined for 208 points the last two times they’ve met. Those last two meetings have been the only meetings between Temple and SMU that have had definitive finals. They tied in both 1942 (6-6) and 1947 (7-7). So feel free to call Saturday’s game a rubber match.

Storyline to watch: Second test for Temple's secondary
Thus far this season, Temple has faced a triple-option team in Army, an FCS team in Stony Brook, a weapon-filled offense in Penn State and a second-year FBS team in Charlotte. Needless to say, Penn State was the only true test Temple's defense, specifically the new-look secondary, has had to face and it didn't go so well, especially in the first half when the Nittany Lions tore the Owls apart with slant plays for huge chunks of yardage. While the Owls' defense calmed down, the Nittany Lions still finished with 287 passing yards and 403 total yards. Temple's secondary will have its next test on Saturday with Sutton and SMU's receivers. Corners Derrek Thomas, Artrel Foster and Nate Hairston and safety Delvon Randall have a prime opportunity to gain more confidence against a young quarterback with a tendency to make mistakes. Junior safety Sean Chandler is still the unquestioned leader of the group.

What’s at stake: Getting conference play started on the right foot
If the Owls want to be taken as a serious threat to repeat in the AAC East, this is a game they have to have against an inferior SMU team. This is the first of nine straight AAC games, and even though SMU is in the AAC West, this game is still a tonesetter for rest of conference play. The Owls don’t want to fall behind right off the bat. And they really don’t want to fall behind right of the bat this week, with a short week and travel to Memphis for a game on Thursday looming. Yes, that’s two games in five days coming up for Temple.

Prediction
Even if the weather doesn’t hold out, points will be scored at the Linc on Saturday. Just not as many as the past couple of years. At this point in time, Temple just has more talent and it looks like the Owls are finally getting things in sync. Temple 38, SMU 21