Man Alive, There Are Men Alive Out There! Kendrick and Phils Light Up Bucs

Man Alive, There Are Men Alive Out There! Kendrick and Phils Light Up Bucs

The Phillies narrowly avoided losing their third straight of a four-game set out in Pittsburgh, edging out the Buccos by a 12-4 count. 

Boats lined up outside to see the holiday weekend's fireworks with the gorgeous PNC Park and the Roberto Clemente Bridge as their backdrop, but the blasts went off a bit early tonight. The Phils' bats were alive from the start in this one, notching runs in the first (2), third (5), fourth (1), fifth (2), sixth (1), and seventh (1). Phils fans who made the trip out for the weekend finally got to see something worth the drive, after watching the visitors net a whopping two runs in the first two games of the series. 

Kyle Kendrick led the ice-cream-man capped Phils in the field on Saturday night, working fairly efficiently while allowing just three earned runs over a complete game—his first in 67 career starts.The newly called up Cody Ransom dropped a routine fly by Delmon Young in the eighth, allowing Young to advance to second on the play; Young would score on a two-out double, but Kendrick otherwise emerged unscathed. In the ninth, Kendrick allowed a few hits for a game total of 10, gave up another run, but then retired the next batter to close out with no help from the 'pen. 

Would have taken a hell of an inning by the Pirates to wage a comeback, but KK's work late in this one was a win within the win. 

At the plate, J-Roll and Victorino each had three hits, with Rollins leading off the game with a single and later adding a homer, a double, and a walk before calling it a night. Ryan Howard singled twice to add three RBI to his season total (58) and bring his average up to .296. Every Phillies starter, including Kendrick, grabbed a hit tonight. Wa-hoo!

An odd moment ended that eighth frame, with Kendrick giving up a long fly to left-center, which Shane Victorino successfully hauled in at the wall just in front of the Phillies bullpen. After snaring the ball, Vic appeared a little unhappy with Jose Contreras. Who knows what Big Truck did to deserve the yapping he got. Wheels speculated it was the lack of a warning that he was near the fence. I think he was yelling "DON'T DROP IT. NUNAN!"

Sure the Pirates suck and all, but we'll take any win we can get with the MASH unit lineup the Phils are fielding due to so many regulars being on the DL. Minus their regular 2, 3, and 6 hitters, plus their top two catchers, the Phils and their fifth starter smoked the Bucs in front of a packed house (everyone not wearing red was there to see the post-game fireworks). 

The series wraps Sunday with a 1:35 start. 

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

The Sixers are clicking just in time to face their toughest competition in over a month. The Raptors (28-13) come to Philadelphia as the Sixers have won six of their last eight games by holding one another accountable and taking each outing step-by-step.

“You feel like the group is coming together,” Brett Brown said. “You feel like all the work that we have put in is starting to pay dividends in relation to a solid foundation.”

The Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one and a half games behind the Cavaliers. The last time they met, the Raptors beat the Sixers 123-114 on Dec. 14 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A lot has changed since then, especially the rotations. Brown started Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together against the Raptors, an experiment that waned out after six games. The Sixers have found a formula to winning with an established starting lineup and a consistent second unit, with the added experience of Gerald Henderson and Nerlens Noel. They will be tested Wednesday as both Joel Embiid (illness) and T.J. McConnell (wrist) are questionable.

“When you look at this team, it’s a lot of talent but we didn’t play as a team,” Ilyasova said of the start of the season. “Now we come together. I think it’s all about the chemistry, we trust each other.”

The Sixers are looking to carry over the momentum of a 113-104 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. They got a test of All-Star caliber talent against Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they held to two points in the second half. The Sixers will have their hands full with the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (22.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists).

One key to countering talent like that placing an importance on accountability. The players are not letting each other off the hook for mistakes on the court, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I could see it over the past couple weeks, guys coming out here and being more vocal on both ends of the court,” Noel said. “If one guy messes up, you’ve got to let him know so it won’t be a recurring thing. With that, guys are taking steps in the right direction, both leadership roles because everybody on this team can be a leader in their own way.”

The Raptors come in on a four-game winning streak.