Fantastic Outings from Hamels and Madson With Just a Sprinkle of Offense

Fantastic Outings from Hamels and Madson With Just a Sprinkle of Offense

Prior to the game, Phillies fans hoped that a little home cooking could be just what the Fightins needed to snap their season-long four-game losing streak. While the Phils didn't find the local ingredients to solve their offensive woes, they did put together all of the pieces necessary to win a 2-1 baseball game over the Colorado Rockies.

Cole Hamels, perhaps a little amped out of the gate, started out just okay, but really turned things on in the later stretches, at one point retiring 14-straight batters.

"I don't try to go out and do more. I just try to go out and win games, no matter if we won 10 in a row or lost 4 in a row," Hamels said after his fifth victory of the season.

"I'm just glad that we were able to play baseball," Cole added. "The eighth inning, we got the hit, bunt, sac, that's us playing baseball. It was good to see us do that. We got the win. Madson came in and shut the door again. He's been on top of it and that just shows where he's at. He's definitely done really well in this role. He's going after 'em."

In addition to executing nicely on offense in the eighth, the Phillies flashed some sound defense that certainly contributed to the victory. John Mayberry Jr. threw Alfredo Amezaga out when attempting to go first-to-third on a liner to right. Big John showed off his hose by hitting Polanco with a perfect ball on a rope -- a trait Ben Francsico has certainly not shown thus far as an everyday right fielder.

Mayberry may just keep playing himself into the starting lineup each night.

Mad Dog On Fire

Hamels eight great innings of one run ball set to the table for Ryan Madson to shut the door on Colorado's meat of the order in the ninth. Mad Dog was pumped, and for good reason. His fastball-changeup combo is making opposing teams look silly as of late.

Charlie Manuel says Madson is pitching as well as he ever has.

"His changeup is absolutely the best I've ever seen it," Manuel said after the game. "He's consistent with it now. He can throw it for strikes down or he can bounce it whenever he wants to. Of course Chooch is good at blocking it. His stuff is absolutely as good as I've ever seen it."

With Madson pitching so damn well late in games, the next question is whether Charlie will go back to Jose Conteras (who had a rough go of it in less than an inning of work down in Clearwater on Wednesday night) when he comes off the DL in the coming weeks?

"It'll be a tough decision, but I think that it will work itself out," Manuel said. "When [Madson]'s pitching like that, I think he makes it kind of tough right now to move him. What would be the point?"

Lack Of Offense

So while Manuel has plenty of confidence in his pen closing tight games out, is he worried about the sputtering offense after they only put 2 runs?

"'Worried?' 'Concerned' is a better word," Manuel said following the Phillies 5-hit performance, the latest in a string of low production outings. "I'm concerned about it, but at the same time, with the pitching we have, we keep working and chipping away, we'll improve our offense. We're gonna have to, that's how I look at it."

"It's a long season. You grind it out. We're gonna get better. We're gonna get it done. That's how I look at it."

It's a lot easier to look at when you put the notch in the win column at the end of the night.

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free. While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

On the surface, the Nerlens Noel trade doesn't look good.

The Sixers on Thursday traded the third-year big man to the Dallas Mavericks for forward Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick. That first-rounder turns into two second-round picks if it doesn't convey in 2017. Yuck. And double yuck.

The only hope in this trade comes in Anderson. The former first-round pick has the look of a prototypical NBA wing. At 6-foot-6 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, he has the frame to disrupt passing lanes and the bulk at 228 pounds to muscle up stronger swingmen.

At Virginia, Anderson was a key cog for a team that was ranked as high as No. 2 and earned a 2-seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. After that season, Anderson opted to forego his senior year and enter the NBA draft. He was selected 21st overall by the Mavericks in 2015.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett preaches defense and Anderson was one of his finest disciples in that regard. Offensive limitations and being a part of a balanced attack with the Cavaliers caused Anderson's stock to drop. Despite shooting 45 percent from three in his final season, Anderson was considered a streaky shooter and, frankly, that's remained the NBA.

His rookie season was one to forget. The Mavericks were competitive in the Western Conference, finishing as the 6-seed and losing to the Thunder in the first round. Anderson couldn't find his way into Rick Carlisle's rotation. Dallas' never-ending supply of point guards coupled with the sharpshooting duo of Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons relegated Anderson to just 11.8 minutes a game his rookie season. In his limited time, he shot 41 percent from the field and 27 percent from three.

Unfortunately, it's been a similar story this season, but with some glimmers of hope. Anderson is still losing minutes to Matthews and also big free-agent acquisition Harrison Barnes, who's having a strong first season with the Mavs. But over a three-game stretch in late January, Anderson averaged 15.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. He also shot 6 of 16 (38 percent) from three during that span.

“I don’t want to sell myself short,” Anderson said to the Star-Telegram during that run. “I still think that I can be a really great player in this league, but I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

“I think [the early-season struggles] may be the best thing that’s happened to me in my career. All we can do is wait and just keep working hard, push through it and hopefully one day it’ll all pay off."

The most promising numbers in Anderson's young career are that he's averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes as a pro. At the very least, Anderson should develop into a solid defensive wing. If he develops offensively, who knows?

Per ESPN's Kevin Pelton, "Noel and Anderson (who just sneaks over the bar) are both among the 21 players in the league who have averaged 2.0 steals per 100 team plays and blocked 2.0 percent of opponent 2-point attempts or better in at least 500 minutes."

It's tough to argue that this trade was a good one for Bryan Colangelo. With that said, Anderson could still turn out to be a decent NBA player. He needs minutes and patience, two things the Sixers can offer in spades.