Sixers Vanquish Nets in First Ever Visit to Barclays, Move to 4-1 on Pre-Season

Sixers Vanquish Nets in First Ever Visit to Barclays, Move to 4-1 on Pre-Season

Well, that was fun. The Sixers won their third straight pre-season game
tonight against the Nets in Brooklyn, again without Andrew Bynum and
tonight without Evan Turner either, moving to 4-1 on the pre-season,
with two more games against the Celtics and Knicks early next week.
Seven players scored for the Liberty Ballers, with Thaddeus Young
leading the way with 24, in a game that the Nets made close late, but
which the Sixers led for the great majority and which they put away with
a couple big shots in the final minutes.

Though Thad was the
leading scorer, pouring in his 24 on 11/15 shooting (many on
second-chance opportunities, and holy hell did the Nets let up a lot of
those), the team MVP tonight was almost certainly Jrue Holiday, who
finished with just 11 points but handed out 12 assists, ten of which
came in an impressive first half. The Damaja was getting into the lane
with impunity and doing an impressive job of finding his shooters, also
locating Thad for a couple easy buckets underneath. He came up a bit
cold late, but played like a real team leader tonight, which he'll have
to early in the season especially if Bynum ends up missing a stretch of
games.

And anyway, coming up big late is what we have Nick Young
for. Swaggy P was a total non-entity for the game's first three
quarters, but hit two huge jumpers in the fourth quarter, the second a
contested, late-shot-clock step-back three (the Nick Young specialty,
natch) that iced the game for the Sixers. Just having watched Young as a
Sixer for a couple games, I was still more confident in his
super-low-percentage shot going in than I have been with just about any
other Sixer hoisting in a late-game situation over the past five years.
It's gonna be an interesting season in Philly for young Nicholas.

There
were plenty other solid performers for the Sixers tonight—Spencer Hawes
and Lavoy Allen combined for 23 and 13 on over 50% shooting from the
pivot, Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright each hit a couple threes and
grabbed a combined 17 rebounds, and Malik Wayns was again strong off the
bench, scrapping his way to ten points. The sudden depth on this team
is pretty interesting—it won't help them win that much in the playoffs,
but for the Sixers to come into Barclays minus two starters and steal a
game from a Nets team hungry to give their new fanbase a win...even in
the pre-season, that's pretty impressive.

Oh yeah, speaking of
the Nets and Barclays, you might want to hear a little bit about what
the arena is like. Of course, it being an NBA arena, the possibilities
for true personality are traditionally limited, but it's a very nice
building, modern-looking without coming off as ostentatious, and with a
floor that's absolutely gorgeous under the lights. The Brooklynness
comes through in the choice of concessions—a who's who of
foodie-approved Brooklyn vendors, from Calexico to Fatty 'Cue—and the
music, a Jiggaman-curated soundtrack that obviously emphasizes the
borough's hip-hop roots and will probably extend Maino's cultural
relevancy for decades longer than he would have otherwise been granted.
The corporate sponsorship is thick as advertised—the guy next to me in
press row pointed out that even the actual hoop stanchions still had
three different business logos on it—but otherwise, it's definitely one
of the more personable NBA arenas.

Perhaps most importantly, the
building has been totally scrubbed of anything relating to or
reminiscent of New Jersey. The look is different, the PA guy is
different, a whole lot of the team is different (WHAT'S UP REGGIE???)
and even the jerseys that hang in the rafters are almost entirely from
the Nets' ABA days in New York. The only holdover from the days in
Newark that I could spot was the continued deployment of this weird
truncated mashup between "Rappers' Delight" and "The Breaks" that still
makes absolutely no sense to me. It's Year Zero for the Nets franchise
in Brooklyn, and that's probably for the best.

For the record,
though, I'm not all that sold on this Nets team. Their interior defense,
exposed tonight by the undersized likes of Lavoy Allen and Thad Young,
is gonna be a huge issue for them moving forward, and though Joe Johnson
had a big third quarter for the team tonight, I just don't see him as
the kind of difference maker many seem to be projecting him as,
considering he's the only big addition to a team that's finished far out
of the playoffs in the two years that Avery Johnson has been head
coach. I could very easily see them finishing fourth in the Atlantic
Division and just barely sliding to a seventh or eighth seed in the
playoffs. We'll see.

Meanwhile, fun probably isn't good enough
for the Sixers this year—they've been "fun" for a while, it's time to
get good—but it's not a bad baseline to have as a team, and from early
returns, it does appear that now matter how good the Sixers end up being
in '12-'13, they should be a damn enjoyable team to watch. Once we
(hopefully) get Bynum into the fold we'll see what the team's potential
for greatness truly is, but in the meantime, they should be competitive
even without him, and always entertaining regardless.

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).

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

ATLANTA — Nearly four months late, Aaron Altherr is finally getting his shot to show the Phillies he deserves to be part of their future outfield plans.

Altherr, 25, was activated from the disabled list before Thursday night’s game against the Braves and was in the lineup, batting fifth (see story). Altherr will see a lot of playing time over the final two-plus months of the season. He’s essentially auditioning.

“We want to see him play as much as possible,” manager Pete Mackanin said before the game. “So if he stays healthy, I’m going to keep running him out there. That’s what this year is all about. We’re finding out about the guys that are here. He is a potentially important part so we want to see what he does. I’m anxious to see what he does.”

Altherr, a ninth-round draft pick in 2009, played in 39 games for the Phillies last season. He hit just .241, but 20 of his 33 hits were for extra bases and he had a .827 OPS. He was slated to be the team’s everyday rightfielder before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery early in spring training.

Altherr is healthy now and eager for his chance.

“I’m good to go mentally and physically,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’m definitely excited to be back up.”

Altherr took Peter Bourjos' spot on the roster. Bourjos was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder two days after running into the outfield wall in Miami.

With Mackanin committed to giving Altherr playing time, it will be interesting to see how the skipper divides up playing time with the remaining outfielders, especially when Bourjos recovers. Bourjos was a trade candidate before his injury. He could still be moved in a waiver deal once he’s healthy in August. Tyler Goeddel, Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes also play corner outfield spots and much heralded prospect Nick Williams is expected to be here at some point (see Future Phillies Report).

Asche is walking a tightrope. He entered Thursday night’s game mired in a 4-for-51 skid and Mackanin seems to be losing patience.

“As I said earlier in the season, this is a very big year for Cody to prove that he can be part of the future and he needs to step it up,” Mackanin said.