City 6 Showdown: St. Joe's Hosts Drexel at the Fieldhouse

City 6 Showdown: St. Joe's Hosts Drexel at the Fieldhouse

There were rumblings prior to the season that the Drexel Dragons and St. Joseph's Hawks would open some eyes this year, with the Dragons even being discussed as a contender for the CAA Title.

At 2-2 and 4-2, respectively, tonight's game is a key early season matchup for both, with the Hawks looking to continue their hot start and the Dragons trying to rise above, rather than fall below, .500.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside the Hagan Arena on the campus of St. Joseph's. Tonight's relevant story lines after the jump...

C.J. Aiken vs. the Drexel Frontcourt
This, honestly, could be the game in a nutshell. St. Joseph's C.J. Aiken is averaging 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game. The really important stat though, in this case, is his 34.5 minutes a night.

Dragon starting center Daryl McCoy is the second tallest player on the team behind only 6-10 sophomore Goran Pantovic. The problem is that neither plays very much, with McCoy registering just over 16.5 per game and Pantovic having only made one appearance this year. The bulk of the minutes underneath have so far been manned by 6-8 sophomore Dartaye Ruffin, who makes up the remaining 23.5 left by McCoy.

Working in the Dragons' favor is that they have a whole lot of height with the smallest guy in their starting five topping off at 6-4; they just don't have that one guy who is, you know, really big. Fortunately for them, Aiken is known more for playing face-up than back-to-basket, and the Dragon's will have to use that their to their advantage on defense.

That said, if C.J. finally decides he's ready to sit down in the post to either a) draw a double and distribute or b) simply to expose a smaller defender, he, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic could make it a long night for Drexel.

Carl Jones vs. the Drexel Backcourt
While size at the perimeter is never a bad thing, it can be hard to stay with smaller guards. In this case the Dragons will be trying to keep up with (perhaps) the quickest guard in the city in Carl Jones.

Despite my adamant protests during his first two seasons that "the kid is too undisciplined to ever turn into anything," Jones is averaging 21.3 points per game and shooting better than 53% from the field. Add in Langston Galloway as a highly-talented perimeter shooter and the Drexel D will need to balance staying in front of Jones with closing out on Galloway.

As such, Drexel should be prepared for a whole lot of drive and kick, be it from Jones or, more likely, fellow guard Chris Wilson.

Can We Get a Little Love for the Dragons?
Big 5, City 6, green jacket, gold jacket who gives a...

Anyway, with Villanova's one foot constantly out the door, isn't it about time we embrace the forgotten school actually inside the city limits? I mean, I know I harp on the whole St. Joe's/Bala Cynwyd thing, but the Main Line? Sheesh.

And as far as the actual basketball goes, Drexel is 5-2 in its last six meetings with a Big 5 opponents. They've bested Penn in each of the last three seasons and have taken two of three from St. Joseph's. Their only defeats over that stretch come in the form of an OT loss to the Hawks on opening night 2009 and a drubbing at the hands of the then-#3 Villanova Wildcats later that season.

Bruiser Flint runs a real program that holds its own when given the opportunity to meet its City 6 rivals. The Big 5 legacy is as special a tradition as you're going to get in the modern athletics—especially in this age of frantic realignment—but there's plenty of room in the conversation for an improving Drexel team with a perpetual chip on its shoulder.

Plus they have this painted on their home floor.

Tip-off is, once again, at 7 p.m. and can be heard on 610 AM. In the meantime, Trent Reznor's cover of the Immigrant Song from the upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack...

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night’s start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds’ win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don’t think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero -- Tommy Joseph -- with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three ground ball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "So if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds’ starter kept the ball down and didn’t allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on ground balls and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies’ aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday’s starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, where he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego — 6.19 — and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games — five losses — and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We're better than this. I know we're better than this. We've just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it's something we've got to do. Today wasn't too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice groundball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It's hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it's all because we're missing good pitches to hit. We're getting pitches to hit and we're not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We're trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it's tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We're just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."