Checking In With the 76ers In Week Four of the Lockout

Checking In With the 76ers In Week Four of the Lockout

Yeah, yeah, football football football. Bully for them for getting their
act together with time to spare before the 2011 NFL regular season is
to start, but for those of us more concentrated on the upcoming NBA
season—there's probably a handful of us somewhere, maybe in Los Angeles
and Miami—it's hard to get too excited about football's return when
resolution in pro hoops still seems so far away. Who cares about Kevin
Kolb and Brett Favre when the Sixers don't even know if they're going to
be able to re-sign Tony Battie next year?

There's no particularly promising news on that front to my
knowledge, so the best I can do for you guys is to keep you posted as to
what the boys on the team have been up to while locking out is still in
effect. Here's the lowdown on how some of our guys have been keeping
themselves busy.

Andre Iguodala:

Enrico already told you about 'Dre's aspirations towards business management
(and possibly some dabbling in civil activism), and aside from his
summer reading list, he's also doing some training and made a cameo at
Sweet Lou's kiddie hoops camp. But most of what AI9 has been doing is
listening to pop music, and sharing his opinions about it via his new
Twitter account. Some pearls:

On Lady Gaga: "What do @ladygaga be talkin bout that got her 11.6
million followers???...11.6 million followers??? No one MAN should have all that power!!! ( #kanyevoice)"

On Watching ?uestlove DJ in Brooklyn: "It's mad eccentric in this joint...but I can dig it"

On Big Sean and 21st Century Music Storage: "Big Sean on his way, his cd dope...I said "cd" like I have the actual thing! Album I should say...my bad.."

On Beyoncé: "This beyonce album is the perfect shower music #isaidit...isaidit !"

Oh, and he and ET should be checking the Chicago date of Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne
tour. So if you're at the United Center show on Oct. 6th, keep an eye
out for two dorkily dressed six-and-a-half footers with awkward (and
oddly overlapping) dance moves. Can't miss 'em.

Evan Turner:

Speaking of the Extraterrestrial, he's had the most high-profile training regimen in this off-season, thanks to his working out
with renowned shot doctor Herb McGee, who's trying to get the Kid to
use his guiding hand less on his jumper. Good on Evan for putting in
work, though if he's actually hoping on being able to keep up his career
rate of shooting 50% from the field, he might want to think about
playing in a different basketball league than the NBA. (No high-usage
two guards besides Dwyane Wade even approach 50% in the pros, and
crossover moves aside, Turner's no D-Wade.)

Besides that, the Villain has also been tweeting up a storm, learning about the manipulativeness of girls (awww, Evan!!), singing along to the Backstreet Boys (does anyone actually think "Shape of My Heart" is a classic, though?) and begging for rides
to the Waffle House (bro, there's probably an IHOP within walking
distance). If the lockout continues, Evan and 'Dre might eventually have
a Russian novel between them, composed haltingly in 140-character
installments.

Jrue Holiday:

Now that he's done supporting girlfriend Lauren Cheney
on the US Women's Soccer team (losers), The Damaja is putting in time
for the kids out on the West Coast. The Sixers' point guard held his
first-ever kids basketball camp
in Porter Ranch, California this week, and is prepping another camp at
the SuperGym in Los Angeles in Early August. Featuring special guests
Shawn Marion and John Wall! Watch the awkward promo below. ("Sepulveda?") :

Oh, and not to be left out of the team's pop love on Twitter, he's also been quoting Drake, though saying you ain't went this hard since you was 18 doesn't mean so much when you were 18 like, a year ago.

Thaddeus Young:

The boy Thaddeus has perhaps the most
to anticipate about the lockout ending, given his imminent free agency
and his likelihood to demand a yearly salary in the high-seven /
low-eight digits on the open market. "I think I’m definitely underrated
by many people after all these years," Thad told HoopsHype
recently. "There’s a lot of different aspects to my game: I can take
guys
one-on-one, I can play guys out, I can dridbble… There’s a lot of
things I can do out there." There are indeed, but whether that's enough
for the Sixers to match whatever exorbitant offer he might end up
getting—under what might be a pretty restrictive salary cap by
then—remains to be seen.

In the meantime, Thad says that he'd "like to stay with
Philadelphia, the team drafted me," but qualifies that "my mindset is
that anything can happen." To be continued...

Spencer Hawes:

This guy did this:

Yikes. Basketball really can't get back here soon enough.

Aaron Altherr provides major spark in season debut to lead Phillies past Braves

Aaron Altherr provides major spark in season debut to lead Phillies past Braves

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies are still looking for the real Aaron Nola, but they may have found a useful bat Thursday night.

Aaron Altherr had the kind of season debut he’d dreamed about for the four months he was on the disabled list as he helped the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

Altherr was one of three Phillies to hit home runs on a night when the offense awakened after generating just one run the previous two days in Miami. Altherr, who came off the disabled list earlier in the day after missing four months with a wrist injury that required surgery (see story), drove a two-run homer to left in the fifth inning. Earlier in the game, Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph had back-to-back homers to headline a five-run first inning.

Franco leads the team with 19 homers and Joseph, hitting .375 with six homers in his last 17 games, has 14 in just 57 games with the club.

Altherr, who batted fifth behind Franco and Joseph, also had two hard singles in the game.

“He had a really good night in his debut,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He provided a spark for us. He added to the offense. So I'm happy for that. It's good to get a win. We scored some runs, finally.”

Altherr was projected to be a starter in the Phillies’ opening day outfield until he suffered the wrist injury in spring training. He spent the last four months in Clearwater, rehabbing and, well, dreaming of a night like this.

“Definitely, especially sitting around thinking about how that first game's going to be being back,” he said. “For it to be like this, it was definitely special and I have to thank the Lord above for getting me back here as fast as He could.

“I was hoping to get a home run in the first game, but I definitely wasn't expecting it. Just hopeful. To have it happen like that was definitely awesome.

“It definitely surprised me a little bit because I hadn't really been driving the ball like I had wanted to down in my rehab stints. I'm just glad to know I've got [the power] in there somewhere.”

The Phillies hit all three of their home runs and scored all their runs against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler. He received a ticket to Triple A after the game.

The Phillies batted around against Wisler and scored five runs in the first inning. That was a welcome cushion for Nola, who desperately needed a win after failing to get one in his previous seven starts. The right-hander did manage to earn his first win since June 5, but it wasn’t exactly pretty. He lasted just five innings and threw a whopping 95 pitches as he continued to experience command issues that have been plaguing him in recent weeks.

Nola gave up eight hits and three runs. He walked three and hit a batter. That’s not Aaron Nola’s game. At least it wasn’t in his first 12 starts this season. He recorded a 2.65 ERA over that span and walked just 15 while striking out 85. He has walked 14 in his last eight starts.

“He's not the same guy,” Mackanin said. “He's just struggling with command once again. He's not dotting his fastball like he normally does. His curveball is erratic. He needs to get back on track.

“Sometimes it's harder to pitch when you have a big lead. You know you don't want to blow it. That can affect a pitcher as well. You have to have that mental toughness either way, whether it's a one-run game or an 8-0 game. You don't want to pitch poorly. There's a tendency, well, you have a five-run lead, should I throw more fastballs and challenge? But it was good to see he got a win. I'm happy for that. That should help him. He just needs to get to where he was. He's not there yet.”

Nola described his outing as “fairly OK,” which was probably right on. He got the win, but overall was not sharp. He allowed three runs in the fifth inning.

“I ran into some jams there,” he said. “I left some balls over the plate for them to hit. They took them the other way. The plan was to try to hit the outside part of the plate and they took it away.

“I feel like I have the command for the most part, but there’s some areas I still need to get better at and work to get better at.”

The Phillies used four relievers to close out the game. Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris pitched well. David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez did not. Gomez allowed three base runners and a run, but still managed to get the save. Hernandez allowed a hit and a pair of two-out walks before giving up an RBI double. A number of scouts from teams looking for bullpen help were on hand. Hernandez and Gomez probably did not help their trade value. Four days before the deadline, starter Jeremy Hellickson is still the Phillie most likely to be dealt.

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale returned from his jersey-trashing suspension and threw six effective innings, but John Lackey outpitched him and Aroldis Chapman got the final four outs to save the Cubs' 3-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago's rivalry series Thursday night.

Sale (14-4) was greeted with smiles and hugs from his teammates following a five-day ban for tearing up 1976-style uniforms he didn't want to wear before his previous scheduled start. He had command issues, but worked out of trouble while allowing two runs and six hits.

Lackey (8-7) allowed one run in six innings for his first win since June 8. Chapman, in his second appearance since being acquired from the Yankees, struck out two and consistently hit 102 mph in his first save for his new team.

Kris Bryant, who homered against Sale in the All-Star Game, hit an RBI double off the center field wall in the first inning (see full recap). 

Diaz's homer helps Cardinals beat Marlins and Fernandez, 5-4
MIAMI -- Aledmys Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three runs against childhood pal Jose Fernandez, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 5-4 Thursday.

Fernandez gave up five runs in five innings and fell to 26-2 at Marlins Park.

Miami's Dee Gordon, the 2015 NL batting and stolen bases champion, returned from an 80-game suspension for failing a drug test and went 0 for 4. Ichiro Suzuki doubled as a pinch hitter in the seventh for Miami and needs two hits for 3,000.

Diaz and Matt Holliday homered in the third inning against Fernandez (12-5), who had never previously given up more than one homer in a home game. His only other loss at Marlins Park came on opening day this year against Detroit.

Michael Wacha (6-7) allowed three runs in six innings, and three relievers completed an eight-hitter. Seung Hwan Oh pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his seventh save (see full recap). 

Familia falters again, Rockies rally for 2-1 win over Mets
NEW YORK -- Mets steady closer Jeurys Familia stumbled for a second straight game, allowing two runs in the ninth inning as the Colorado Rockies beat New York 2-1 Thursday for their seventh win in eight games.

Less than 24 hours after Familia's streak of 52 consecutive regular-season saves was snapped, the right-hander entered in the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead, and couldn't hold it.

Trevor Story had a leadoff single and stole second. After fellow rookie David Dahl walked, Daniel Descalso bunted up the first base line. Mets catcher Rene Rivera watched as the ball spun toward foul territory but it stopped fair, loading the bases with no out.

With one out, Familia (2-3) got pinch-hitter Cristhian Adames to hit a slow grounder to the right side. First baseman James Loney booted the ball and Story scored to make it 1-all. Familia then threw a wild pitch, allowing Dahl to cross the plate with the go-ahead run (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Braves 5

Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Braves 5

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Aaron Nola picked up his first win since June 5 as the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, at Turner Field on Thursday night.

Nola was supported by some strong offense. After scoring just one run in losing the previous two games in Miami, the Phils erupted for five runs in the first inning. They hit three homers in the game.

The Phillies had been winless in Nola’s previous seven starts.

The Phillies are 47-57.

The Braves have the worst record in the majors at 35-67.

Starting pitching report
Despite leaving with a 7-3 lead after five innings, Nola was not particularly sharp. He gave up eight hits (one was a fly ball that was lost in the twilight sky), walked three and hit a batter. He needed 95 pitches to get through the five innings.

Nola is 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 20 starts.

Atlanta’s Matt Wisler gave up seven hits and seven runs in five innings. Five of the runs came in the first inning when the Phillies batted around. Wisler allowed two homers, two singles and walked two in the inning.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez was the first Phillies reliever out of the bullpen. He struggled. But Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez combined to close it out.

Gomez allowed two hits, a walk and a run in the ninth, but earned his 27th save.

At the plate
Aaron Altherr, activated off the disabled list earlier in the day (see story), had a big night in his first game of the season with the big club. He hit the ball hard all night and had three hits, including a two-run homer in the fifth.

Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph hit back-to-back homers in the first inning. Franco’s was a three-run shot. He leads the club with 19 homers. Joseph has 14 homers in 57 games.

Adonis Garcia had two hits and two RBIs for the Braves.

Transaction 
Peter Bourjos was placed on the disabled list and Altherr was activated (see story).

Up next
The series continues Friday night. Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.34) pitches against Atlanta right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-2, 6.17).