Drexel Will Wait; Penn, La Salle, Joe's and 'Nova Will All Press on

Drexel Will Wait; Penn, La Salle, Joe's and 'Nova Will All Press on

Back iron.
Drexel's Frantz Massenat dribbled once, took a step right, fired and...back iron.
Rather than capping off a 16-point comeback to force the game to overtime, the freshman's three-point attempt went a fraction too far. With their 59-56 win, Virginia Commonwealth clinched an auto-bid back to the NCAA tournament, where just once year ago they shocked the nation (and Dick Vitale) by reaching the Final Four.

[Your City Six Champ Week primer, featuring Tuesday Night Previews,
A-10 and Big East brackets and one very special Ivy League showdown
after the jump...]

Back to the Dragons, they'll be sitting on their hands -- when not practicing, of course -- waiting for Selection Sunday to see if 27 wins and top 30 mentions in both major polls will be good enough. Unlike like the Jones' piece we linked to over the weekend, we're now throwing you over to Roob Frank for why the Dragons deserve an at-large selection.
But Drexel or no Drexel, Championship Week does roll on. So before you kick it on over to Roob, we present to you the four City Six teams in action tonight and break down the roads they'll need to travel (sometimes literally) to make it to the Field of 68.
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Richmond vs. La Salle (Gola Arena) -- 7 p.m. / 990 AMThe first round of the A-10 tournament is held on the individual campus sites. As such, the La Salle Explorers will play host to the defending champion Richmond Spiders this evening.
We've mapped the A-10 bracket above, but we'll walk you through it down here as well. The Explorers are on the non-Temple-St. Joseph's side of the bracket, meaning they wouldn't see either Big 5 rival until next Sunday, if at all. Instead, a win tonight would put La Salle in line for a quarterfinal round matchup with the second-seeded St. Louis Billikens on Friday at Boardwalk Hall.
But before they can pack up to head down the Expressway, they'll need to plug the holes in their rapidly sinking ship to pull out one last win at the Gola. The Explorers have played less than .500 basketball over the last month and decided to tank when teams need to peak. We still believe they can do damage in postseason tournaments like the NIT, CIT or certainly the CBI, but they need another win or two to regain some of their early season confidence before they receive their eventual invites.
As for tonight, perimeter shooting will be even more important than usual for La Salle, as they have literally no way to matchup with Richmond power forward Derrick Williams. This matchup has upset written all over it if Williams does to La Salle what he did to Temple and Saint Joseph's earlier this season.
We'll be in-house for this one and are looking forward to it. Follow along @cnmenta for in-game updates.
Charlotte vs. Saint Joseph's (Hagan Arena) -- 7 p.m. / Atlantic10.com / 1210 AMWethinks the Hawks might be just a little upset with the (13-16, 5-11) 49ers. Far more than the Richmond game, it was SJU's loss to Charlotte at the Hagan Arena that shot their tournament resume mostly to hell.
With the Hawks having to get to at least the championship game (and, really, they probably have to win it) to get back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2008, their first step in the process will be to get revenge on Charlotte tonight.
We've got the Hawks going over big here, so, looking forward, you can expect to see them tipping off at 2:30 p.m. on Friday against the St. Bonaventure Andrew Nicholson's who needed double-overtime to just barely sneak past the Hawks in Olean, NY last week.
From there, we could see the completion of a best-of-three series between the Hawks and the Temple Owls on Saturday (assuming both teams take care of business beforehand).
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Penn at Princeton (Jadwin Gym) -- 7:30 p.m. / ESPN3.com / 88.5 WXPN FMWhile we're taking in the Explorers and the Spiders, we'll be keeping a close eye on this one, as well. This game gets the official T7L stamp of approval for "Game of the Night."
First, some background. The Penn Quakers have been chasing the Crimson of Harvard for weeks. Last Friday night, their path to the Ivy League Title (and the league's subsequent auto-bid to the NCAAs) seemed simple enough: win three games in four days, and the worst they could do would be to face Harvard in a one-game playoff.
The Quakers are now one win away from doing just that. After defeating Brown and Yale on back-to-back nights over the weekend, Jerome Allen, Zack Rosen and Co. will travel briefly over 676 before booking it up I-95 to Princeton, NJ to take on the Tigers.
With a win, the Quakers will guarantee themselves a one-game playoff with the Crimson at a neutral location later this week. The winner of that game will move on the NCAA tournament. It would be a rubber match, as the two teams have already split games 1-1 this season.
A loss, on the other hand, would see Zack Rosen's collegiate eligibility expire without a single trip to the tourney. If you've been watching Penn, you'll already know he isn't going to let that happen without one hell of an entertaining fight.
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Villanova vs. Rutgers (Madison Square Garden) -- 9 p.m. / ESPNU / 950 AMBleh. That sums up the Wildcats season for everyone except Maalik Wayns.
And just as it was Wayns who almost single-handedly defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats over the weekend (though we saw you getting your game on Mouph), it will need to be Wayns again if Villanova has any hopes of staying in NYC for more than just one night.
Tonight, they take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who they did defeat last Thursday night to snap a four-game losing streak. If they can do it again, they'll meet USF tomorrow. Should they somehow sneak past the Bulls, who are strongly in-line for an at-large, they'll have the pleasure of meeting Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
Will a win over Rutgers and a solid showing against USF be good enough for a CBI? That's really all the Wildcats have to play for right now, other than pride.
*
And there you have it. We'll be back tomorrow with the winners and losers to set up the Atlantic 10 tournament, what's (potentially) left of the Big East for Nova and whether or not Penn will have its one last chance at Harvard.
As for tonight, what about you? Where will you be? What will you be watching?
Which of these team's do you see making a run? Which do you see in the NCAAs? The NIT? The CBI?

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

BOX SCORE

For a moment Sunday afternoon, Citizens Bank Park sprung to life as the Phillies strung together five hits in a four-run second inning.

But four home runs off starter Zach Eflin sent the Phillies to another defeat and Eflin to Lehigh Valley.

Eflin was optioned to Triple A following the Phillies' 8-4 loss to the Reds, in which he allowed seven runs on nine hits in just five innings of work (see Instant Replay)

"His first two-three outings were really good," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was keeping the ball down, but his last three, including today, he's elevating his sinker and once you elevate that sinker, it doesn't have the effect that you'd like to have."

The Phillies have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games and handed the Reds their first series win at CBP since August 2006.  

Eflin got off to a rocky start Sunday with three first-inning singles, allowing one run. He escaped further damage but then proceeded to give up a home run in each of his final four innings. The final home run — Adam Duvall's second on the day — came on an 0-2 pitch and extended Cincinnati's lead to 7-4. All of the Reds' hits off Eflin came on fastballs as their potent lineup feasted on his pitches high in the zone.

Two weeks ago, Eflin's ERA stood at 2.87 as he kept opponents in the ballpark with his hard sinker. However, starting with a May 17 outing in Texas, Eflin has allowed 22 runs in his last 15 innings. He's given up seven homers in his last two starts and at least nine hits in five consecutive outings as his ERA ballooned to 6.13. With Sunday's results, the Phillies were left little choice but to option the 23-year-old righty while he deals with a rough patch.

"There are some things I need to work on," Eflin said. "I need to do a better job of pitching backward, especially in fastball counts. There's a lot of things I need to work on, but at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go down there, work on everything I need to work on and get back as soon as possible."

The Phillies will reinstate Howie Kendrick (oblique) off the 10-day disabled list Monday, Mackanin said, in a corresponding move after the veteran IF/OF completed a four-game rehab stint (see story)

Kendrick could help boost an offense that is scuffling. After a four-run second inning highlighted by Andrew Knapp's 434-foot three-run home run, the Phillies' bats fell silent. They strung together five more hits. However, three double plays and a few untimely strikeouts killed any further rallies.

The Phillies left a potential run stranded on third base in the fifth inning as Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr struck out against starter Scott Feldman, who waded into and out of trouble in five innings of work. Herrera went 0 for 4 with that strikeout, continuing to slump. His average has fallen to .217.

With Kendrick returning, Mackanin indicated he would give Herrera some days off soon to help him relax amid mounting pressure to hit.

"He's scuffling. A couple guys scuffling," Mackanin said. "I'll probably move him down in the lineup. I can't keep him in the two-hole. But he has to fight his way out. 

"We'll see when Kendrick gets here. We're going to have another outfielder. I'm going to mix and match and try to get everybody in there. Kendrick, I'm going to bring along slowly because I want to make sure he's healthy.

"In other words, I don't have a set outfield. I'm going to mix those guys up."

On the infield, Maikel Franco continued his slide Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a double play. The slugger is hitting .213 this month, just as he did in April, but his power is down with just two home runs. Kendrick, who only played left field in April, played third base while at Triple A, so he could potentially spell Franco as well.

"He hit a ball hard today but he's not giving us consistent at-bats," Mackanin said. "He's searching both physically and mentally. It's not easy for him. I can tell he's down on himself. He's not happy about what's going on."

The Phillies came into this week struggling and were unable to rebound against the Rockies and Reds, losing five of seven. They averaged just 2.42 runs during the homestand.

However, the bigger problem comes in the rotation. The team gave up 5.71 runs per game in their last seven despite a 23 2/3 inning scoreless streak from the bullpen. The rotation's struggles continue to plague the team as they carry the worst record in baseball into Miami for a three-game set starting Monday.

"I certainly expected more out of our starters," Mackanin said. "We've had some issues with [Aaron] Nola's arm and Clay Buchholz going down. Although [Jerad] Eickhoff is going to end up having a good year in my opinion. He's been a little bit hot and cold.

"And Eflin, I counted on him to have a big year this year. I think if he gets himself straightened out down in Triple A, I think he's going to come back strong. But certainly, I can't sit here and say I'm happy with [his performance]."

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

Zach Eflin allowed a career-high four home runs and the Phillies were outslugged by the Cincinnati Reds in an 8-4 defeat Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games. The Reds, who took two of three, picked up their first series win at CBP since August 2006.

Eflin was roughed up for the third consecutive start. The Reds tagged him for seven runs in just five innings. After three hits led to a run in the first inning, he gave up home runs in each of his last four frames. Following the game, Eflin was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Jeanmar Gomez allowed a solo home run in relief. 

Andrew Knapp gave the Phillies an early lead with a three-run homer during a four-run second inning. However, three double plays stifled the Phillies' offense, which was held scoreless after the second inning. 

Scott Feldman improved to 4-4 with the win for the Reds. The Phils dropped to 17-31 while the Reds improved to 24-25. 

Starting pitching report
Eflin stumbled through five innings, allowing nine hits. He had held opponents to just four homers in first six starts but has now has let up seven in his last two appearances. Over his past three starts, Eflin's been tagged for 22 runs in 15 innings. He's given up at least nine hits in all five May starts. 

A poor sign for Eflin: Only two of his outs came on the ground. The Reds were all over his fastball and scored in each of his five innings. His ERA has gone from 2.81 to 6.13 since May 17.

Feldman labored through a 32-pitch second inning in which he gave up four runs. He settled down afterward with a pair of double plays to get through five innings. The veteran righty struck out the last two batters he faced with a man on third and one out.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia threw two shutout innings, striking out one. Jeanmar Gomez gave up rookie Patrick Kivlehan's second home run of the day in the ninth inning, snapping the Phillies' bullpen's scoreless streak at 23 2/3 innings. Gomez allowed three hits and the one run in two innings.

Blake Wood, Wandy Peralta, Drew Storen and Raisel Iglesias each threw shutout innings in relief of Feldman.

At the plate
Manager Pete Mackanin wanted the Phillies to string together 4-5 hits and they did so in the second inning. Tommy Joseph and Michael Saunders led off with back-to-back singles before Knapp drove them in with his 434-foot blast. Knapp laid off two high fastballs after falling behind 0-2 and drilled a curveball into the Phillies' bullpen.

Freddy Galvis followed with a double. Even Eflin aided the cause with his first career RBI on a run-scoring single. 

The top two in the order — Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera — went 0 for 8. Everyone else in the lineup had at least one hit. Saunders and Aaron Altherr each had two hits while Ty Kelly had a pinch-hit double.

Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Kivlehan combined for five home runs with Duvall and Kivlehan notching multi-hit games. Jose Peraza and Zack Cozart extended their hitting streaks to 13 and 11 games, respectively, in the first inning.

Up next
The Phillies head on the road and begin a three-game set with the Miami Marlins, whom they beat twice in April at Citizens Bank Park.

Monday, 7:10 p.m. — Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 4.28) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-7, 4.82)

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.— Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55) vs. Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40)

Wednesday, 1:10 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-2, 4.34) vs. Dan Straily (3.83)