Checking in on the Sixers' Tanking Operation Before Their Orlando Visit

Checking in on the Sixers' Tanking Operation Before Their Orlando Visit

As of a couple weeks ago, the Sixers have pretty well committed
themselves to tanking this season—whether they actually meant to do so
or not—going 1-11 in their last 12 games. When you look at that stat and
consider that the team wasn't all that good to begin with, you'd think
they'd be well on their way to a top five pick by now. But while it only
takes two to tango, it takes a whole lot more to tank...o...and the
Sixers haven't gotten the kind of cooperation from the teams beneath
them that they need to keep slipping in the standings. Here are the
records of how the teams I wrote about the Sixers possibly catching in
the standings since I wrote that article about two weeks ago:

Toronto Raptors: 1-5
Minnesota Timberwolves: 1-5
Detroit Pistons: 1-4
New Orleans Hornets: 1-5
Washington Wizards: 2-4

Thanks
a lot, guys. Thanks to your impressively pathetic efforts, the Sixers
(at 15 games under .500) remain tied with the Raptors for just the
tenth-worst record in the league, a game "behind" the Timberwolves and
1.5 behind the Pistons. At least the Cavaliers have managed to go 3-3
(and the Suns 4-2) over that timespan, both bringing themselves to
within tanking distance for the Sixers.

Looks like out-losing
the bottom teams is gonna be nearly as big a challenge for the Sixers as
actually re-entering the playoff race would be. Still, you can only
lose the games on your schedule, and the Sixers will have a tough (but
not impossible) loss tonight when they visit the Orlando Magic, still in
second in the tanking rankings, though now well behind the historically
bad (again) Charlotte Bobcats. Sixer fans will no doubt recall that
Operation Bottom-Out officially began with the Magic's home
embarrassment of the Liberty Ballers at the Wells Fargo Center a couple
weeks ago, which ended with Coach Collins smilingly denouncing his team
and pining for Nik Vucevic, briefly making the Sixers' suckiness a
national story.

6:00 tip from Amway Center. Will the Sixers care
enough about their prior defeat to actually try to win this game in
Orlando? Is that something we even want? Will it be funny to try to
watch Spencer Hawes scrap for rebounds and loose balls, desperate to
earn Collins' love back? Eh. Go Pistons, Cavaliers and Timberwolves in
their respective games tonight.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.