One, two, three four five ridiuclous wins for the Sixers after absurd Rockets OT victory

One, two, three four five ridiuclous wins for the Sixers after absurd Rockets OT victory

How about this for a lead: Tonight, in his first-ever start in the NBA (filling in for MCW and his bad arches), Tony Wroten--the point guard the Sixers bought from Memphis for a couple free tickets to the Please Touch Museum--racked up a triple-double, with 18 points, 11 dimes and ten boards, easily setting career highs in assists and rebounds and tying his career high in points. And guess what? That was only the third-most remarkable thing, and only the second-most remarkable performance, about the Sixers-Rockets game tonight.

The first-most, of course, was that they won at all--in overtime, by a score of 123-117. James Harden not being there for Houston certainly helped matters, though we countered that a little with Michael Carter-Williams' absence, but regardless, the Rockets probably should have taken care of business in this one, leading for the great majority of the second half and getting a 34-point, nine-three-pointer performance from Jeremy Lin. But the Sixers got a little lucky with a late-game three to tie it up, Chandler Parsons got off a lousy shot to win it, and the teams went to OT, where the Sixers just had a little too much magic for the Rock Boys to handle.

And the person who hit that late three? None other than our starting two-guard James Lee Anderson---who, after scoring 55 points across his first eight games as a 76er, dialed up an absolutely incredible 36 points on 12-16 shooting, more than doubling his previous career high. Anderson's 36 is the second-most points for any non-Iverson Sixer in a game this century, falling just short of the 37 our old friend Willie Green put up against the Raptors at the end of the '06-'07 season. (Yes, that actually happened. Joe Smith had 26 and 11!)

And of course, it was Anderson who hit the biggest shot of the night, that contested top-of-the-arc three with six seconds to go that really had no business going in but decided hey, let's go in anyway, live dangerously, see what happens.

Not generally the kind of finally possession that dreams are made of, but as the prophet Jerry Reed once said, when you hot, you hot. And Anderson was certainly that tonight, hitting a couple looks early and finally locating his season-long-missing groove from deep, ending up a most acceptable 6-8 from deep. Anderson had gotten flak from a lot of people for only hitting on 9-27 from three to start the season, but after his night tonight, he's raised his percentage from range by ten points, and is now shooting an imminently respectable 43% from deep. Has Sam Hinkie taught us nothing? Patience. Trust the process.

Anderson's hot shooting aside, it looked like the long-overdue emergence of Bad Evan Turner in the second half of this one might have been enough to do the Sixers in on its own. Evan was 6-10 at halftime, but went 3-13 for the rest of the night, taking far too many of the kinds of shots--pull-up jumpers, threes, pull-up threes--that he'd been so good at avoiding (and so smart to avoid) early this year.

To Brett Brown's credit, he seemed to make the conscious decision of taking the ball out of Evan's hands late in the fourth when it was clear he was spiraling out, letting the steady hand (!!!) of Tony Wroten run the show, with Spencer and Thad taking over as the offensive focus. And to Evan's credit, he played a large part in cooling off the red-hot Jeremy Lin on defense in the second half, and got a couple nice baskets in OT driving straight to the basket--no small feat with Dwight Howard and his six blocked shots (though c'mon, at least two-three of those were crystal-clear goaltends) patrolling the paint. ET also got to pad his stats a little at the end with some garbage free throws, ending with a very respectable 23/7/5 stat line, even if he needed 23 shots to get there.

And Wroten...dear lord, he was magnificent tonight. The decision-making is still pretty touch and go, and he always seems to go for the jaw-dropping whip pass even when a simpler pass will suffice (or no such pass is even really there in the first place), but he is just so dangerous turning the corner on the pick-and-roll, and if he can ever get anything even resembling a reliable jumper, he is going to be an absolute terror in this league. It's pretty clear at this point that at the very least, the Sixers got one of the steals of the off-season in T-Wrote, and the development of his game should be one of the top priorities for Brett Brown over the next few seasons.

Before we wrap on this one, we gotta take a minute to shout out the Big GOPper, Spencer Hawes, who chipped in 18 points, nine boards, four assists, three blocks and three steals, as well as playing excellent--no, really, excellent--post defense on Dwight Howard. And even though it'll never not be hilarious when he pulls up from behind the arc, we should probably point out that Spence is now shooting a stunning 17-34--that's right, 50%--from downtown, making his range shooting a legitimate weapon for this Sixers team. You still gotta put up with the occasional out-of-bounds fumble of the post feed here and there, and he's in danger of being posterized the second he steps on the court, but Hawes has been a legitimate starter for us this year, and should be able to fetch us a nice return come trade season if he's able to keep it up a little longer.

5-4. The Sixers will reach double digits in games this season, Friday night in Atlanta, before they post their first losing record. I didn't think they'd even have one yet. Can we just give Brett Brown the Coach of the Year trophy right now? Just give it to him. Don't be jerks about it.

Best of MLB: Padres score 4 off Papelbon in 9th, take series from Nationals

Best of MLB: Padres score 4 off Papelbon in 9th, take series from Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The San Diego Padres' three-city road trip didn't begin well. Earning their first series victory against the Washington Nationals since 2011 is helping to turn it around.

Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf hit back-to-back homers off Shawn Kelley in the eighth inning and the Padres added four runs off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth to beat the Nationals 10-6 on Sunday.

"We've been on the road for a little bit, and it's definitely good to come here against a team like this and get two wins out of it," said Schimpf, whose team suffered a four-game sweep in St. Louis before winning two of three in Washington.

Ryan Buchter (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth to earn the victory.

With the game tied at 6, Wil Myers drew a one-out walk off Papelbon and moved to second on a wild pitch before Yangervis Solarte's RBI single. The Padres added two more singles to load the bases, setting up Alexei Ramirez's three-run double (see full recap).

Matz earns 1st win since May as Mets beat Marlins
MIAMI -- Helped by a couple of small victories against Giancarlo Stanton, Steven Matz earned a big win for the New York Mets.

Matz pitched six innings Sunday for his first win since May, twice escaping trouble by getting Stanton to ground out with a runner in scoring position, and the Mets took the rubber game of their series against Miami, 3-0.

"It was good to go out there and put up zeroes and get a win," Matz said.

The Mets won two of three games in the series and returned home trailing second-place Miami by half a game in the NL East.

"This was crunch time for us," manager Terry Collins said. "We couldn't lose any more ground. This was a good series for us to win."

Matz (8-6) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six. Pitching despite a bone spur in his elbow, he had been 0-5 in his past nine starts with an ERA of 4.73 (see full recap).

Reimold's HR helps Orioles beat Indians 5-3 for 3-game sweep
BALTIMORE -- This is how good things are going for the Orioles at home this season: After blowing a late-inning lead, Baltimore launched the game-winning uprising with a third strike.

Pinch-hitter Nolan Reimold hit a decisive two-out homer in the ninth inning after Pedro Alvarez reached on a strikeout, and the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 5-3 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

Cody Allen (2-4) began the ninth by striking out Alvarez, but the ball eluded catcher Roberto Perez. After fielding the bouncing ball off the backstop, Perez hit Alvarez in the helmet with the throw for an error.

"As long as I have been playing baseball the rule is you run down the baseline," Alvarez said. "I saw the ball get away from him and I just ran down to first base."

A sacrifice bunt and a strikeout followed before Reimold lined a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats (see full recap).

DeShields homers as Rangers top Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Delino DeShields is known for his speed, stealing 101 bases in 2012 in the minors, not for his power.

DeShields homered in the seventh inning to break a tie and the Texas Rangers defeated the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Sunday.

DeShields, who was recalled Thursday from Triple-A Round Rock, walked and doubled before leading off the seventh with his third home run. DeShields hit a 2-1 pitch from Luke Hochevar out to left.

"It so happened that today I was the guy that got us the go-ahead run," DeShields said. "I was just trying to hit the ball hard. I wasn't looking for anything specific. I wanted to get on base. Before I had gotten on base in every at-bat.

"With the game tied and if I get myself in scoring position, there's a good chance for me to touch home plate. I got into it pretty good and got it over the fence, but the main focus was just putting the barrel on the ball and try to get on base."

The loss dropped the Royals to 48-49, the first time the World Series champions have been below .500 since May 15 when they were 18-19. The Royals have lost 13 of 19 games in July (see full recap).

Andres Blanco breaks finger as beat-up Phillies drop series to Pirates

Andres Blanco breaks finger as beat-up Phillies drop series to Pirates

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PITTSBURGH -- Andres Blanco isn’t the type of player who will generate a lot of headlines over the course of a season.
 
But the 32-year-old utility infielder is a favorite of manager Pete Mackanin for his ability to fill in capably at all four infield positions. The nine-year veteran is also popular in the clubhouse for his pleasant nature and unselfishness.
     
The Phillies will be without Blanco for 15 days and maybe longer after he suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning of Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates when spiked on the hand by Gregory Polanco on a play at third base (see Instant Replay).
 
Blanco will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday night before the Phillies open a three-game series against the Marlins at Miami.
 
“It’s a tough loss,” Mackanin said. “He is a valuable part of the team. He’s a guy with experience and he’s dependable. Hopefully, we’ll get him back a quicker than we hope. I don’t like the idea of being without him for long.”
 
Blanco will be examined by Phillies’ team doctors Monday in Philadelphia.
 
He needed four stitches to close a cut on the finger. There is a chance he will need surgery both because of the fracture and the risk of possible infection caused by the dirt from Polanco’s spikes getting into Blanco’s bloodstream through the cut.
 
Blanco was making his second straight start at third base in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.
 
Franco took over at third for Blanco, who is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season. Blanco hit a solo home run with two outs in the first inning off rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon to open the scoring.
 
The Phillies lack a true backup infielder beyond Blanco, which makes Taylor Featherstom the most logical candidate to be called up from Lehigh Valley as he is already on the 40-man roster.
 
Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for cash considerations just before the start of spring training, the 26-year-old has spent the entire season in the International League and is hitting .264 with 12 home runs in 87 games.
 
The Phillies did get some good injury news as Franco showed no ill effects from his wrist injury and went 1 for 2.
 
Also, catcher Cameron Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol for a second straight day after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate as Mackanin wanted to give Rupp an extra day off.
 
"If you get hit in the head, you probably want to take a little bit more precaution than if it was another part of your body,” Rupp said.
 
The Phillies were not happy that Glasnow hit Rupp and starting pitcher Aaron Nola in Saturday’s game, especially after Franco got drilled the day before. However, Rupp said he did not think the 23-year-old was headhunting.
 
“I don't believe the kid did it on purpose,” Rupp said. “It happens. Balls get away from people.”
 
Outfielder Aaron Altherr is also expected to make his season debut Wednesday with the Phillies at Miami. He has been on the disabled list all season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left wrist, an injury he suffered during spring training.
 
Altherr hit .241 with five home runs in 39 late-season games last year after making his major league debut in 2014 and going 0 for 5. He figures to be an offensive upgrade over left fielder Cody Asche and right fielder Peter Bourjos.
 
“Altherr got a taste of it here last year and did very well,” Mackanin said. “He can catch the ball, too, which is important to me. I’m looking forward to having him and seeing if he can build off last season. The lack of production from the corner outfielders has been a bane of ours all season and we could use some help.”

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

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PITTSBURGH --- Pinch hitter Adam Frazier’s first career home run, a leadoff shot in the seventh inning off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos, lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

It was also the first home run allowed by Ramos (1-1) in 14 career relief appearances.

The Pirates tied it at 4-4 an inning earlier when Matt Joyce hit a two-run home run off starter Vince Velasquez.

The Phillies wound up losing two of three in the series after rookie right-hander Zach Eflin pitched a three-hit shutout on Friday night. They are 3-7 since the All-Star break to fall 10 games under .500 at 45-55.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits for the Phillies while Andres Blanco and Odubel Herrera hit solo home runs off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon.

Pirates left fielder Starling Marte also had three hits. Neftali Feliz (4-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win and Mark Melancon worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 30th save.

Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning when the veteran utility infielder was spiked on the hand by Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco in a play at third base. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday (see story).

Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday and will likely play Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Marlins at Miami.

The game was delayed for one hour and 32 minutes in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, though he did not factor in the decision. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings while walking four and striking out five.

Velasquez 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.

At the plate
Hernandez was moved to the leadoff spot of the batting order to replace slumping right fielder Peter Bourjos and responded by going 3 for 5 with a triple.

Herrera’s home run led off the sixth and was his 11th of the season, giving the Phillies a short-lived 4-2 lead. Herrera went 7 for 13 in the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games.

First baseman Ryan Howard went 2 for 3, lifting his batting average to .166, before being pinch hit for in the eighth inning.

Left fielder Cody Asche was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, the last coming to end the eighth inning with two runners on base and the Phillies trailing by a run.

Up next
The Phillies open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 7.98)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)