Phillies Back on Top, Back on Top in June

Phillies Back on Top, Back on Top in June

Another series with the Nationals ends in a sweep... The Phillies are headed to the west coast to begin a tough road trip that includes three nights in San Diego, four in LA, and then they head back east for three at New Shea, finally heading home to face the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles.

The key to starting this month on the right note is to take the momentum of being in first place and ending the homestand with sweep, but not any of the overconfidence that could come with it. The Phillies' record is heavily padded by an abundance of games against the worst team in baseball. Subtracting those, the Phils are sitting at .500 right now. We should still take each win as a positive though, because good teams are supposed to beat shitty ones. However, that's the last we'll see of the Nats until September, so the comp is about to get a lot more legit. 

The Padres are a team that to me makes no sense so far this year. I have no idea whether or not they are "legit," but I'm leaning toward a big No. In 2008, they were little more than a quad-A team, yet they came out of the gate on fire in '09, going 9-4 and besting the Mets and Phillies (before having the latter four-game series shortened by a rained out finale on April 20). Right about then, the bottom fell out, and the Pads looked more like what you might expect. By May 14, they were 13-22. Then they won 10 in a row, evening back up at .500, where they still sit after trading a few Ws for Ls with the Diamondbacks and Rockies. 
The pitching matchups for this series are fairly interesting, and for now, the Phillies side of the equation remains an unknown quantity. 
Joe Blanton is coming off his best start of the season, in which he tossed seven shutout innings and 11 Ks. He'll get Kevin Correia. Then, in game 2, we'll see Jake Peavy—the guy just about every Delaware Valley fan wants to have in a Phillies uniform, and he'll face the guy he would likely replace if the Phillies were to trade for him, Antonio Bastardo. This will be Bastardo's first big league start, and he'll be fortunate to have it in the cavernous park that Peavy prefers to call home. JA Happ will close out the series, facing Chris Young. You wanna know about the Petco factor for a starting pitcher? Check out Young's home and road splits. The good news is, we'll have a veteran who can give up the long ball and two greenhorns going this week, so that park should play to the Phillies' favor in this scenario as well. 
We'll have more on the pitching matchups, the beast that is Adrian Gonzalez, and the uh... other Padres each day of the series. All games start at 10:05, so get the coffee ready.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.