Programming Note: Drexel takes on ODU at 2 p.m.; Their Tourney Hopes Hang in the Balance

Programming Note: Drexel takes on ODU at 2 p.m.; Their Tourney Hopes Hang in the Balance

If you've thus far missed the Drexel bandwagon, today is a really good day to hop on.
The Drexel Dragons will meet the Old Dominion Monarchs in the semifinal round of the CAA Tournament at 2 p.m. Both old and new Dragons fans will be able to watch the game on the Comcast Network (or, for your online viewing pleasure, ESPN3).
We'll break it down a little more after the jump, but (in a nutshell) today is a very important day for Bruiser Flint and his team.
A victory over ODU Sunday will put the Dragons within just win of guaranteeing themselves their first NCAA tournament berth since 1996. It would be their first postseason appearance of any kind since a 2007 trip to the NIT.
At now 26-5, one would think that record should be good enough for an at-large bid to the field of 68 regardless of how the CAA tourney unfolds. 
But maybe it isn't.

We knew the Dragons' NCAA hopes relied on a solid performance in the CAA tournament -- namely, winning it -- but we didn't know just how bad things were until Dave Jones published this piece on CSNPhilly.com yesterday. Despite the cults of personality that surround certain prognosticators, bracketology is not an exact science; that said, Jones labeling Drexel with a 10 percent chance at an at-large bid should they fail to win the CAA title was a pretty clear message that things are far from set for the Dragons.
So why is a team 26-win team who won its regular season conference title, 24 of its last 25 games and 18 in a row barely on the bubble?
Two acronyms: RPI and SOS. These are abbreviations you can choose to love or hate, but, either way, have to know.
The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is a combination of a team's winning percentage, their opponents' winning percentage and their opponents' opponents' winning percentage. Strength of Schedule is roughly a calculation of your opponents' overall winning percentage. These two factors are why the Dragons are in so much trouble.
While Drexel is 74th in the RPI standings, they are also the owners of the 264th-best strength of schedule in the nation, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
For the full read of just how poor the Dragons' overall resume really is (RPI, SOS, Wins against Top 100 opponents, Losses to >100 opponents, out-of-conference wins, in-conference SOS), we encourage you to check out Jones' full write-up, which also includes his thoughts on the tourney hopes of the Saint Joseph's Hawks (we'll give you a hint, SJU has a slightly better resume than Drexel, but one that's still pretty weak).
To put things quickly in perspective, we offer this quote from Jones' piece from CBS college basketball guru Jerry Palm:

“They (Drexel) just have too many bad losses to overcome when they don't have a win over anyone who's a sure thing to make the bracket.

“I honestly think VCU is a better at-large candidate than Drexel, despite Drexel winning the league. VCU beat South Florida which is probably making the field. They won at Akron (71). They beat Northern Iowa (62). Those are all better out-of-conference wins than anything Drexel has.”

No surprise, VCU will more than likely be standing in Drexel's way in the CAA final. We should also mention that the tournament is played in VCU's backyard of Richmond, VA.
But before Drexel can worry about VCU, they will have to contend with ODU. The Dragons bested the Monarchs by just a single point, 73-72, on the final day of the regular season (Feb. 25). With an 18-game win streak on the line, every game is a potential letdown.
20 in a row will guarantee the Dragons a place in the NCAA tournament. But just 18 or even 19 could leave them out of the selection committee's final bracket.
So, yeah, today is a good day to start watching.

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 to the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three groundball 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 groundballs 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, when 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."