Bulls Beat Sixers in Game One Because They're Better, But Rose Injured

Bulls Beat Sixers in Game One Because They're Better, But Rose Injured

I still think we'll win one or two, and I'm still glad we're playing
them instead of the Heat, but man, this Bulls team is pretty good. They
got what essentially amounts to an average game from Derrick Rose (23
points on 9-23 shooting with five TOs, though with nine rebounds and
nine assists), but still easily handled the Sixers, getting fine
contributions from their wings (a combined 36 points on 12-21 shooting
from Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton) and swallowing the Sixers in the
frontcourt, allowing just a handful of layups and completely shutting
many of the Sixers' bigs. The Sixers hung tough for a half but let
things slip away in the early fourth, eventually losing 103-91.

Aside from Elton Brand, who was money all night with his jumper (19
points and 7 rebounds, 8-15 shooting), and Evan Turner, who was the
team's most aggressive scorer and playmaker off the bench (12 points and
5 assists, with a rare five trips to the FT line), it's a lot of mixed
reviews for the Sixers in this one. Jrue attacked early but shot poorly
(16 points on 7-18 shooting) and committed some costly turnovers (three
giveaways to just two assists) early. Lou also got to the line (7-8 FT)
but shot miserably (1-6 from the field), while as per usual, Andre
Iguodala did everything well (six rebounds, five assists, solid D)
except scoring (11 points on 3-11 shooting). And the less said about our
centers—a combined nine points and ten rebounds for the Allen/Hawes
combo, much racked up in garbage time—the better.

Of course, the actual outcome of the game was well overshadowed by the
events of the final 90 seconds, in which Rose, the Bulls' oft-injured
star player, went down with a gimpy knee or some such and laid on the
ground for several minutes. The Bulls could probably beat the Sixers
three more times with a limited or absent Rose, but such an injury would
have untold consequences on both the Bulls' finals chances and the
entire Eastern Conference playoff outlook. (And we'd probably have a
better chance of sneaking out a game or two.) Though it's certainly an
easier matchup for us without Rose, we still wish him the best in
getting healthy and back in the game ASAP—you hate to see injuries so
shaping the outlooks of these series, regardless of opponent. (Not to
mention we might be rooting for them to beat Miami at some point.)

A couple notes for game two: I really hope that Coach Collins stops
overthinking things and just goes with the
Holiday-Turner-Iguodala-Brand-Hawes starting lineup for game two.
Actually, I might prefer Turner over Iguodala to allow Meeks to give us
some three-point production at the two, a look this team might have to
go with a bunch next year if 'Dre gets traded as expected, but there's
no way our All-Star will be coming off the bench in this series. Turner
was the only guy on the Sixers today who really seemed to make things
happen against this stout Bulls defense, and we owe our former #2 pick
the shot to be the breakout performer of the Sixers' (likely short)
post-season run. And Hawes...I just can't see us getting much out of
Lavoy Allen this series, and I just trust Hawes more (albeit still not
much) in the pick-and-pop and maybe battling for an offensive board or
two.

Ultimately, it wasn't a shameful effort, though maybe not a particularly
valiant one either. It's hard to feel too strongly about this game one
way or another, and I guess that's just where we are with this Sixers
team right now. Game Two is on Tuesday and will likely go similarly,
though maybe with Turner in the starting lineup (which I expect will
happen, with Collins going with him nearly the entire second half) we
can get a little juice from that–he seems to get both teams (and the
audience) fired up, at the very least.

If the series proceeds as the game today did, I am glad about one
thing—it makes our team's mission to rebuild (or at the very least,
restructure) in the off-season that much stronger. None of the Spencer
Hawes/Lou Williams/Andre Iguodala trio did much today to demonstrate why
they need to be a part of this team's long-term plan, and hopefully
that will make cutting the cord with all three this off-season a little
bit easier. Still a lot of post-season to play, obviously, and I'd like
to see a bit more from Jrue and Evan before all is said and done, but in
general, I think we're moving in the right direction here—even if
that's cold comfort at best after a loss like this.

UPDATE: Rose is done for the series and the postseason with a torn ACL.

Today's Lineup: A.J. Ellis, as expected, catches Vince Velasquez

Today's Lineup: A.J. Ellis, as expected, catches Vince Velasquez

After arriving to the team Saturday, veteran backstop A.J. Ellis will see his first game action in a Phillies uniform, as expected, in Sunday's series finale against the Mets.

Ellis will catch right-handed starter Vince Velasquez and bat seventh. The catcher doesn't bring much to the plate with his bat, but he calls a good game and was Clayton Kershaw's personal catcher in Los Angeles. It'll be interesting to see how he handles Velasquez.

The 35-year-old is hitting just .194 this season with one home run and 13 RBIs.

In other lineup notes, Tommy Joseph gets the start at first base and will bat cleanup and Jimmy Paredes gets his second straight start in left field. Paredes will hit sixth.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Jimmy Paredes, LF
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.

Super sub Roland Alberg putting on potent show for Union

Super sub Roland Alberg putting on potent show for Union

CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg has been a terror for opposing teams. 

The latest attack from the Dutch bomber happened Saturday, while the Union were gridlocked in a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City. Alberg entered the match in the 65th minute and ended it in the 67th, when he launched a volley that beat goalkeeper Alec Kann. 

“I have to be patient, but when I come on the field, I have to do my thing,” Alberg said. “It’s a great team performance. We did a great job, got three points and we are happy with it.”

He added an assist for the 2-0 win (see game story)

“He’s a wonderful player,” said Union left back Fabinho, who assisted on Alberg's goal. “He came on and changed the game. I saw him and I know what he likes. I give the ball to him and he scores. He has nine goals. It’s nice for him. I hope he scores more.” 

That type of impact hasn’t been irregular for Alberg. With nine goals on the season in just 925 minutes played, the 26-year-old leads MLS in goals-per-90 minutes with 0.88. Only New York City FC’s Frank Lampard is close with .85.

“He’s far and away the leader in our league,” said Union manager Jim Curtin, who originally cited Alberg’s goals-per-90 stat. “He has a special quality.”

Yet, despite that “special quality,” Alberg remains a super sub, buried behind Tranquillo Barnetta at the center attacking midfield spot. He has two goals in his last four games — all coming off the bench.

“I have to show it every training, and then it’s the coach’s decision,” he said. “If [Curtin] uses me as a sub, I’ll do 100 percent my best. And if it’s as a starter, it’s the same thing for me. Of course every player wants to play as a starter, and me too. But it’s a long season. Playoffs, they are coming. So I’m patient.”

Alberg’s potency isn’t lost on Curtin, even if the manager doesn’t switch his winning formula. Though Alberg is pushing for a starting spot, the Union might just be more dangerous with him off the bench.

“He’s a starter on most MLS teams,” Curtin said. “It’s just a matter of having depth at that spot. He’s a very valuable player to our team and shows we have a deep squad. I can’t say enough about how well he’s played in any role. As a starter for us, he’s won us a bunch of games, and his role off the bench, he’s won us some games now, too.”

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Nearing the end of 2016 for Vince Velasquez

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Nearing the end of 2016 for Vince Velasquez

Phillies (59-70) at Mets (66-63)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

Can the Phillies avoid a sweep at Citi Field?

Vince Velasquez looks to recover from his mid-August swoon, while the Mets toss out Robert Gsellman, a pitcher making his first career start and second career appearance. 

Here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon's series finale.

1. Nearing the end
Velasquez's last three starts have been an unmitigated disaster. 

In three games against current playoff teams (a key thing to note), he's allowed 19 earned runs in 16⅓ innings. While he's struck out 23 batters in that span, he's also given up 25 hits and walked five.

Even more concerning are the home runs. After allowing just three homers in nine starts from June 3 to Aug. 4, Velasquez surrendered eight homers in his last three outings. He had allowed just 11 total in his first 19 appearances. 

With all that in mind, it makes sense the Phillies will limit the 24-year-old righty to just three or four more starts this season. He has nearly surpassed his career-high innings total, a mark he compiled in 2013. Having thrown 124 innings this year, the Phils likely don't want him getting beyond 150 innings, at most — 140-145 may be a more realistic target. 

Good news for Velasquez: He has a 1.74 ERA in two starts against the Mets, going 1-1 in those appearances. He's thrown 10⅓ innings against New York and struck out 13. The bad news is that despite allowing just two earned runs against the Mets, he's given up five runs total. 

2. Another new Mets pitcher
The theme of the Mets' season has been pitching injuries. After that same pitching staff brought the Mets to the brink of a World Series win in 2015, their pitchers have found a new home on the disabled list in 2016.

Jonathon Niese is the latest example. In his second start for the Mets after he was re-acquired at the trade deadline, he left with an injury just four batters into the game. He'll undergo left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

So replacing him in the rotation on Sunday is the pitcher who replaced him on the mound Tuesday, Robert Gsellman. 

Gsellman fits into the Mets' rotation, at least appearance-wise. He has the long hair that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard sported during the Mets' NL championship run. As for his actual pitching, his first impression was pretty good. For 3⅔ innings, he allowed six baserunners but no runs while striking out two. He walked three, gave up two hits and hit a batter in the relief appearance.

The 23-year-old righty threw 75 pitches in the outing, most of which were his four-seam fastball. Out of the bullpen, his fastball topped out at 95.6 miles per hour and averaged 94 mph. His slider, which averaged 87.5 mph, and low-80s curveball were his most-used offspeed pitches.

In 20 starts between Double A and Triple A this year, Gsellman is 4-9 with a 3.99 ERA over 115 innings.

3. What does Ellis bring to Philly?
A.J. Ellis, the Phillies' new catcher, is still adjusting to his new team after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday (see story). As Ellis gets set to make his first appearance, here's a look at what he brings to the table.

Before getting to the stats, one must mention Ellis' leadership. The Phillies insisted on getting Ellis back in the Ruiz deal for that very reason, his ability to not only take over as the backup catcher but also provide some intangibles as a veteran backstop. He's been in the league since 2008 and at 35 years old, he can help provide a good perspective to a young Phillies squad.

Ellis has been the personal catcher to Clayton Kershaw, the 2014 NL MVP and Cy Young. The veteran has been solid behind the plate, a must for any long-term backup catcher.

His ability behind the plate has slightly helped offset his major decline at the plate. After a career-worst season in 2014, he rebounded to produce solid numbers at the plate in 2015. However, this season has been even worse than 2014.

Ellis has just six extra base hits in 161 plate appearances and has a .194 batting average. His on-base percentage (.285) is higher than his slugging percentage (.252), neither of which are remotely close to average. He has just one home run and 13 RBIs. 

Well removed from everyday playing time, Ellis will be a minus at the plate for the Phillies. He'll be a solid backstop until Jorge Alfaro rejoins the roster in a few weeks. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Cesar Hernandez does not want August to end. He's batting .321 this month with 25 hits and 10 extra base hits, including three home runs. 

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes has only one hit in five at-bats against Velasquez this year, but that one hit was a home run that knocked in three runs. He had a three-run homer Saturday night.

5. This and that
• Curtis Granderson is 0 for 4 with a walk and hit-by-pitch against Velasquez. Neil Walker is 0 for 5 with a strikeout.

• The Phillies are 11-11 in August despite a 7.26 ERA from their starters this month. They haven't had a winning month since going 14-10 in April.

• Velasquez is 0-3 with an 8.86 ERA in four August starts. However, he has struck out 29 batters in 21⅓ innings.

• The Mets are 23-14 in day games, while the Phillies are 19-27.