Phillies Kick Off First Ever Series at Natitude Park

Phillies Kick Off First Ever Series at Natitude Park

Who'dathunk just a couple of years ago that an early-May series between the Phillies and Nationals would create this much buzz.

The Nationals did a fine job playing just awful enough baseball over the past few seasons to secure their team the ability to draft two extremely promising young studs in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Washington is unarguably a team turning things around and heading in a positive direction. They've even opened up their wallets to sign high-priced free agents like Jayson Werth (I don't think that will work out as well long-term as the two aforementioned draft picks). But they're trying, and they're currently atop the NL East after a month of play.

So this weekend should be a fun first step into what could become an exciting new rivalry. The whole Natitude thing, led by the "Take Back the Park" initiative, is quite corny, but it's basically just a franchise's marketing side of things trying to stand up for themselves and show they have a backbone. It's what they should do. And let's be honest, which of your favorite sports teams has never done something corny? That said, renaming your ballpark "Natitude Park" for the weekend is pretty laughable. That's a move a team with zero tradition makes. Oh.

check out the sign atop the scoreboard

Adam Kilgore

Nats going all in with the Natitude Park idea.

4 May 12

All of that said, since I won't be in DC this weekend to cheer on the Phillies and enjoy a Half Smoke -- Sixers! -- my only real interest is in who wins the series and how the Phillies handle their business. A weekend win by the Nats over the reigning champion would open some eyes.

The Nationals have a favorable pitching matchup tonight with the phenom on the hill against Kyle Kendrick. But that may not be as incredibly advantageous as you think. Here's an interesting read on the Strasburg-Kendrick duel. Basically, the Natitudinal triangle offense is still pretty damn bad.

The Phillies have awoken themselves a bit out of the doldrums of April. A series win in Atlanta followed by a series win in DC would make for a happy Phillies nation.

7:05 first pitch from Natitude Park. Nat Nat Nat Nat. Go Team.

Todd Zolecki

Two things so far at Nationals Park: They've renamed it "Natitude Park" for the weekend. Halladay is back and throwing a bullpen session.

4 May 12

Zoo With Roy

FYI tickets as low as $7 for Sunday Night national ESPN game @ Natitude Field at Derp Park

4 May 12

Draymond Green says Kevin Hart's trash talking gave Warriors 'a little added motivation'

Draymond Green says Kevin Hart's trash talking gave Warriors 'a little added motivation'

The Sixers faithful came out to South Philadelphia in droves on Monday night to watch the class of the NBA come through town. The star power of the Warriors certainly attracted some celebrities to the front row of the Wells Fargo Center last night as comedian Kevin Hart was seen chatting it up with the enemy for most of the contest.

Hart actually rang the ceremonial bell before the game got started and has been seen at a couple of Sixers games this season. This was the first one in which he was talking smack to Warriors' big man Draymond Green, however.

Draymond took notice and talked about the atmosphere after the game.

"It's definitely a great energy in this building," Green said. "It's usually like that every time we come here but then you throw Kevin [Hart] in there talking [smack] the whole game, it definitely makes it fun. It's one of those games where it gives you a little added motivation when you've got a guy sitting there talking. I think it's fun for us, it's fun for them, it's good to see them drawing crowds like that after the few years they've had, putting this franchise back together. It's amazing to see."

While the Wells Fargo Center certainly threw Steph Curry off from deep, the lack of rim protection from the Sixers pretty much allowed the Warriors to cruise out of Philly with a win.

USA Today Sports photo

You can watch Draymond speaking about the atmosphere in the above video or Kevin Hart ringing the bell below:


Remember when the Sixers had rim protection?

Remember when the Sixers had rim protection?

In a lot of ways, it was a commendable effort from the 76ers last night against the Golden State Warriors. Despite being undermanned and badly outclassed, the Sixers fought hard against the teams' talent gap and managed to keep it... well, maybe not close exactly, but respectable at the very least, with the Dubs never able to achieve total escape velocity. They ultimately won 119-108, but it was the kind of game that makes you think yeah, but when reinforcements return, we're really gonna be humming. Then, of course, you look at the Sixers bench and go "...oh." 

A week after Nerlens Noel was traded for an expired Applebee's gift card and Ben Simmons was strapped to a pair of mattresses and sent to his room for the season's remainder, the 76ers announced that Joel Embiid was "out indefinitely" with further knee swelling, a message interpreted by most Sixers smarties as JoJo likely being out for the year. As with Simmons, it's better to know now and make peace with it than have to deal with the news being newly frustrating with each period of further two-to-four-game absences. And as with Simbo, it's really just kinda... c'mon, man, is this EVER gonna end?

Last night was a good demonstration of why when you have two rim-protecting centers on your roster and one of them is always hurt, you probably hold onto the second one as long as you can. The Warriors somehow only shot 6-29 from three at the WFC -- including 0-11 from bombing GOAT Stephen Curry -- but they paraded to the basket, with virtually no resistance from the Sixers' bigs. (Richaun Holmes did have three blocks, which made him something like 3-19 at the defensive rim in this one.) 

Of course, trade defenders would argue that that's sort of the point for this season, that we want to lose games like this and continue ascending the lottery hierarchy, as this is a lost season anyway at this point. Fair enough, but the Sixers still have seasons to play after this one, and how confident are you in Joel Embiid playing 50 games a year anytime soon? This is one of the biggest reasons why the "you don't pay a backup center 15-20 million a year" case was so fallacious -- we weren't paying for an emergency understudy, we were paying for someone who was probably going to end up starring a whole lot. And now we don't have either, and that's not great.

At least we still have Dario, who continues to impress more with every outing: a 21-7-7 in this one, even with his jumper looking like someone constantly trying to remind himself how exactly shooting works. (He's down to 31% from deep now, which will eventually be a problem, but given how his shooting improved every year overseas, you have to hope he'll eventually be able to do the same in the States.) And kudos once more to defensive monster Robert Covington, whose four steals in this one now give him seven games with at least three swipes, tied with Rajon Rondo for the longest streak of the last three seasons. Those two dudes alone make the team worth watching, even when Jahlil Okafor has nearly as many combined fouls and turnovers (12) as he does minutes played (17). 

The Sixers' 29th game of the season against the Miami Heat comes up on Wednesday, so expect Hassan Whiteside to put up a 40-30 and get to sit most of the fourth quarter. It might not officially be time yet to call it a season and see if it's not too late to get excited about NCAA conference tournament play, but it's getting there.