New York Yankees: Is Brett Gardner being phased out of left field?

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

There is no room for cold streaks during a 60-game campaign, and the New York Yankees understand that concept. They’ve been rotating players in and out of the lineup to see who clicks fast and can contribute offensively. The Yankees nearly lost a game against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday evening. Slugger Aaron Judge came to the rescue and hit a three-run home run to take the lead in the top of the ninth inning.

The other big storyline on the night was Gleyber Torres’ elbow injury. He was plunked on the right inside elbow and subsequently left the game a few innings later. Luckily, x-rays returned negative, and he should be prepared to play on Friday or Saturday, given how intense the contusion is.

However, the Yankees made another change in left field, taking usual starter Brett Gardner out of the lineup. Prior to Thursday’s game, Gardner has started four games, earning 12 plate appearances and just one walk to show for his attempts. Brett has struck out in seven of his 11 at-bats and currently hosts a .000 batting average.

Will the New York Yankees begin to phase out Gardiner in left field?

As we have seen the past few weeks, the Yankees are determined to develop Miguel Andujar into a starting outfielder. So far in left, he has played two games, looking a bit uncomfortable at times. Fortunately, he held down the spot and did his job well. Over five at-bats, he has one hit and just one strikeout. The sample size is extremely small, but at least he has a hit to show for himself. Mike Tauchman, the alternative left fielder available, has three strikeouts on five at-bats and zero hits.

Tauchman is probably the best defensive outfielder aside from the starters, which gives the Yankees a solid depth piece to utilize if need be. Against the Orioles on Thursday, both Andujar and Tauchman split reps in left field. They both enjoyed two at-bats, with Andujar recording the only hit between the two.

“We really loved what we saw from him in left field,” Boone said of Miguel Andujar. “He seemed to kind of take to it right away. I feel like he’s absolutely returned physically to the player we saw in his rookie year. To his credit, he has worked really hard defensively, not only at third, but in the outfield to try and create more opportunities for him.”

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Clint Frazier. The speedy bat has been sitting at the alternative training site, while the Yankees continue forward through the season. Frazier showed an incredible burst of maturity and looked the part of a starter during summer camp.

Manager Aaron Boone had to make a difficult decision and sit him despite the positives he put forth:

“Clint’s ready to be an impact player in this league. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Boone said. “Unfortunately for him, he’s blocked right now with a lot of good outfielders. … It’s hard when you’re sending down a big league player that you know is ready to produce, but it’s kind of the situation we’re in right now.”

“I’m really proud of who he is right now and where he’s at,” Boone said. “It doesn’t make it any less difficult in every facet, because you’re sending down a player that you know is ready to be an impact player in the big leagues. That’s a hard thing to do. I feel like the work he’s put in and the strides he’s made in every aspect of his game are real.”

While I believe Frazier will earn his opportunity sooner rather than later, he will just have to wait until the timing is right. Boone mentioned that the situational aspect of their schedule promoted the usage of Tauchman and Andujar more-so than Frazier.

Giving him some consistent at some consistent at-bats might change the narrative in left field.

New York Giants: ESPN predicts Julian Love to be breakout player for Big Blue

New York Giants, Julian Love

The New York Giants are doing interesting things with Julian Love in the secondary. Similar to baseball, having a utility player allows teams to supplement positions that I’ve been hit by injury or inadequate play. The same is happening with Love, as he is being groomed to play strong safety, free safety, and cornerback.

Having the ability to play three positions in the NFL makes him extremely valuable, and while I don’t think he will be acting as an every play starter, his impact can be significant.

The New York Giants watched a player blossom:

In 2019, Love earned his first opportunities when starting strong safety Jabrill peppers went down in week 12. After hurting his hip on a punt return, Peppers was forced to miss the rest of the season, allowing Love to showcase his skills. In his first game against the Chicago Bears, Julian earned his first career interception.

According to Giants.com, love played in at least 97% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in the final five games of the 2019 season. He looked comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage against the run and dropping back into coverage.

The former Notre Dame product entered the NFL as a cornerback forward player, but he has adapted quickly to the different positions in the secondary. He finished his rookie season with 35 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, one interception, three passes defended, and one forced fumble. PFF ranked love as the number 13 defensive back on its top 50 NFL rookie rankings list. He was the ninth-best safety in the box post-Peppers and only allowed 18 yards in coverage.

ESPN was another outlet that named love as a potential breakout player in 2020.

As ESPN’s Rivers McCown writes, “One of the youngest players on the list, Love was an easy middle-of-the-field pick for the Giants in the middle rounds of the draft, and one of the few players who showed Dave Gettleman recognizes that the passing game exists. Love essentially didn’t break the lineup until Week 12 but played almost all the Giants snaps from Week 13 to the end of the season. Over that span, we have Love credited with 21 targets into his coverage, of which he allowed just 72 yards and one touchdown. He moved from cornerback to strong safety to replace the injured Jabrill Peppers.

Overall, the Giants secure a steal in Love as a fourth-round pick in 2019. He has a crucial role to play on the Giants, and with injuries such a big part of the game, he will be there to supplement any losses. He is an excellent player, and we are just starting to see the type of potential he holds moving forward.

New York Yankees Previews: It’s Opening Night at Yankee Stadium vs. the Red Sox

Tonight will be a historic night for the New York Yankees.  It’s Opening Day 2020 at Yankee Stadium.  Historic in many ways. The first time Opening Day has been on July 31, the first time in a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and add to that, it is an Opening Day against the traditional rivals Boston Red Sox with no fans in the stands.

With the pandemic, many team teams have infected players and some with general outbreaks.  So far, both the Red Sox and the New York Yankees have remained relatively untouched by the virus. Many Yankee fans thought this day would never come.  But here it is, and Yankee fans will relish in the Opening Day ceremonies that will start at 6 pm on the YES Network.

The Yankees are coming off of a series win with the World Champion Washington Nationals and a series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. It will be a perfect night for baseball at the Stadium. It will be in the seventies with mostly clear skies and relatively low humidity—just a perfect night for baseball in the Bronx.

The New York Yankees will start Jordan Montgomery in its first home game of the season tonight.  Montgomery will be this season’s fifth starter in the pitching rotation that will see no Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery) and no Domingo German due to serving the remainder of his suspension.

Montgomery pitched very well in spring training and the delayed summer camp at Yankee Stadium. “Monty” pitched in only two games last year coming back from Tommy John surgery.  The offseason and delayed start of this season has allowed him to regain full strength and be near the top of his game.  Tonight will be his 2020 major league debut as he will look for his first win of the season.

The New York Yankees will face the Red Sox’s Ryan Weber in the game.  This will be Weber’s second start of the season.  He posted a 14.73 ERA in his loss of a game against the Baltimore Orioles last week.  This will be Weber’s first start against the Yankees; he has made three appearances in relief against the Yankees with an ERA of 2.83 in six innings of work.

Last year in his first year with the Red Sox, he went 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA in eighteen games, three of them starts. This year in his only start, he lasted 3.2 innings giving up six earned runs.  The 29-year-old Weber is a native of St. Petersburg, Florida.  In his career, he has been with the Phillies, Braves, Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays before declaring free agency and signing with the Red Sox.

Red Sox pitching is in sad shape this year after losing David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Eduardo Rodriguez to the coronavirus.  The only holdover in the rotation from their winning 2018 season is Nathan Eovaldi. Two of the 2018 stars, Chris Sale to surgery and Rick Porcello has gone to the New York Mets.

After tonight the Yankees will face the Red Sox in games on Saturday and Sunday.  On Saturday, Masahiro Tanaka coming back from being hit in the head by a comebacker from Giancarlo Staton in summer camp. He will face Red Sox righty Zack Godley. On Sunday, James Paxton will get the ball against a pitcher yet to be determined.

Prediction: Yankees 6 Red Sox 3.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.  Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

UFC Vegas 5 Preview: Can Derek Brunson stop the Edmen Shahbazyan hype train?

The UFC returns to it’s home base tomorrow night. The promotion is back at the APEX with a solid card that is headlined by middleweights Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0) and Derek Brunson (20-7). Let’s take a look at the main card for UFC Vegas 5.

Can Brunson stop the UFC’s Golden Boy Shahbazyan?

The main event of the evening is a three round middleweight contest featuring Shahbazyan and Brunson. The fight is three rounds due to the fight originally being planned as the co-main event.

Shahbazyan comes into this fight with a ton of hype. Many people believe than he’s the next big thing in the UFC‘s middleweight division.

The promotion has been bringing him along slowly and the 22-year old phenom has answered the call every time. He took on Brad Tavares in his last fight and put on a clinic.

Shahbazyan has very crisp striking. He throws clean straight shots and possesses dynamite in his hands and legs. In addition to that, he’s got really good grappling. He’s truly a well-rounded guy.

Despite hating the name, Derek Brunson is the gatekeeper of the UFC‘s middleweight division. He doesn’t lose to guys in the lower half of the top 15, but he always loses against top five talent.

Brunson is coming into this fight coming off of back-to-back wins. In his last fight, Brunson was dropped in seconds against Ian Heinisch but bounced back to grab a decision victory.

Brunson has a wrestling background that he mainly uses for defensive purposes. He boasts an incredible 100% takedown defense. Brunson also has really good power and he’s used that in his knockout wins over Lyoto Machida and Uriah Hall.

While Brunson is a very solid fighter all around, he’s very hittable and I think he’s very chinny. To me, this fight reminds me a lot of the Israel Adesanya fight with Brunson.

Brunson was there to take on the guy everyone viewed as the next big thing. In that fight, Brunson got lit up like a Christmas tree and stopped in the first round. Brunson has been stopped in the first round four times in his career.

While I’m not saying Shahbazyan is Style Bender, I think the fight is going to go the same way. I think the accuracy and the speed of Shahbazyan’s shots will just be too much. I don’t believe Brunson has the chin to make it out of the first round. In my opinion, Shahbazyan will prove he’s the real deal tomorrow night.

Prediction: Edmen Shahbazyan by KO – Round 1

Joanne Calderwood vs Jennifer Maia

The co-main event of the evening features a likely title eliminator match in the UFC women’s flyweight division as Joanne Calderwood (14-4) takes on Jennifer Maia (17-6-1).

Taking this fight was an interesting choice for Calderwood. She is stepping up on short notice, but she was next in line to face UFC flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. That fight had been booked but cancelled due to the champ’s injury.

Now, Calderwood is taking on a dangerous contender in Maia and putting her title shot on the line in this one.

Calderwood comes into this contest 3-1 in her last four fights with the lone loss coming against Katlyn Chookagian. Calderwood is one of the more entertaining fighters in the division.

When she’s striking, she throws with decent volume and has a wide range of striking techniques. You will likely see her throw some spinning techniques. In addition to that, she’s very good in the clinch. She does a fantastic job of landing good shots from that position.

Maia is the former Invicta flyweight champion and she’s coming into this contest 2-2 in her four UFC fights. Her two wins coming against Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi.

Maia is the type of fighter who’s not elite anywhere, but she’s very good everywhere. She’s got decent striking, she’s got decent submissions, and she’s got good offensive grappling.

For Maia to win this fight, she really has to push the pace and land with volume. I’m not sure either of these ladies will be getting a finish, so the highest output might take this one.

While it’s extremely dangerous to risk her title shot, I like JoJo Calderwood to come through tomorrow night. I just think she’s going to use her range well and I think she’ll be able to control the grappling positions. Expect some cage work tomorrow night.

Prediction: JoJo Calderwood by Unanimous Decision

Vicente Luque vs Randy Brown

The third fight of the evening is a popular fight of the night pick as UFC welterweights Vicente Luque (18-7-1) and Randy Brown (12-3) go to war.

Luque ranks just outside the top ten in the welterweight division. He’s 11-2 in his last 13 fights with his only losses being to Stephen Thompson and Leon Edwards.

Luque has one of the better killer instincts in the UFC‘s welterweight division. When he hits people, they go down. He’s also got very good submission skills which could come into play in this fight. Luque is coming off of a doctor stoppage TKO victory over Niko Price back in May.

Randy Brown came to fame as one of the first guys to appear on Dana White’s Looking for a Fight. Since joining the UFC Brown is 6-3 with wins over Mickey Gall and Bryan Barberena.

Brown is coming off of a win over Warley Alves by triangle choke last November. Despite his wrestling background, Brown is the type of fighter who loves to strike. He’s got good length and pretty decent stand up.

In this fight, it would be wise for Brown to try to use some of his grappling to neutralize Luque’s power. At least give Luque multiple attacks to think about.

When thinking about this fight, I definitely believe that Randy Brown can win with his skillset. However, I don’t think he will. I believe he will have some success, but Luque will catch him before the fight is over.

Prediction: Vicente Luque by TKO – Round 3

Lando Vannata vs Bobby Green

The second fight of the main card is a rematch between lightweights Bobby Green (25-10-1) and Lando Vannata (11-4-2). Both men fought to a draw back at UFC 216.

Back in 2014, Bobby Green was emerging as a top contender in the lightweight division. He was coming off back-to-back wins over top guys like Josh Thomson and Pat Healy. Then, his career took a sharp downturn.

Since the Thomson win, Green is just 2-5-1 in his last eight fights. Green had retired after the Trinaldo loss last year, but he returned back in June to face Clay Guida. Green picked up a decision win in that fight.

Bobby Green has pretty good stand up and he’s got very good defensive grappling skills. He’s got pretty good speed as well in his striking.

Lando Vannata came into the UFC at 8-0. He became a replacement to take on the lightweight divisions boogieman in Tony Ferguson in his debut. Vannata almost finished Ferguson in that fight which shocked everyone.

Many people believed that Vannata would become one of the top contenders at lightweight after that fight. However, it hasn’t gone that way. Vannata is 3-3-2 in his last eight fights. He is also coming into this fight like Green coming off a decision win.

Vannata has good pop in his shots and throws a very diverse striking attack at his opponents. That could be a key in a fight against a guy like Green who mainly uses his boxing. In their first fight, Vannata was able to hurt Green bad on the feet.

This is a fight that I keep going back and forth on. I’m not entirely sure which Bobby Green is going to show up on fight night. If this was prime Green, I’d lean that way. However, I think Vannata is going to be able to get it done.

In the end, I think the diverse striking attack and higher output numbers from Vannata will help him. This is truly a fight that I think will be razor close. Don’t be shocked to see the judges split here.

Prediction: Lando Vanatta by Split Decision

Trevin Giles vs Kevin Holland

The opening fight of the UFC Vegas 5 main card is a middleweight contest between two prospects in Trevin Giles (12-2) and Kevin Holland (17-5).

Giles came into the UFC with a lot of hype behind him. He got some pretty good wins over guys like Brendan Allen and Ryan Spann on the regional scene before he made the UFC jump.

After debuting with back-to-back knockout victories, Giles is just 1-2 in his last three fights. Many people (including myself) thought he lost the split decision to James Krause which is his only win.

Giles is pretty good everywhere offensively. He’s got good grappling offense and he’s got good power with solid striking. Giles does fade in the later rounds so it’ll be very important for him to get off to a good start.

Much like Giles, Kevin Holland had a good amount of hype behind him when he started with the promotion. He got a nightmare of a first draw in Thiago Santos which he lost by unanimous decision.

Since that loss, Holland is 4-1 and he just fought back in May stopping Anthony Hernandez in under 40 seconds.

Holland is extremely long holding an 81 inch reach. He’s extremely well rounded and has pretty good cardio. In addition to those qualities, Holland has a very good chin which he showed off in that Santos fight.

When thinking about this fight, I struggle to see a path to victory for Giles outside of a knockout. When you go down the list, Holland beats him in most categories.

I think Holland will use his reach well in this fight, and I think he will do solid in the grappling exchanges. I’m going with a decision, but Holland could get a third round finish in this one.

Prediction: Kevin Holland by Unanimous Decision

UFC Vegas 5 Outlook

This card is so entertaining from top to bottom. There are a ton of intriguing matchups, but all eyes are going to be on Edmen Shahbazyan. Can he break through and become the next big UFC superstar? That is a question that will be answered tomorrow night.

New York Mets Series Preview: Atlanta Braves (7/31-8/3)

New York Mets, David Peterson

The New York Mets head down south to begin a four-game series with their division rival Atlanta Braves. They fell to 3-4 on the season after dropping two straight tough games against the Boston Red Sox. The Braves opened up the season by taking two out of three from the Mets to start the season.

Probable Pitching Matchups:

Friday (7/31) @ 7:10 p.m. ET: Rick Porcello (0-1, 27.00 ERA) vs. Sean Newcomb (0-0, 2.70 ERA)

Saturday (8/1) @ 7:10 p.m. ET: Michael Wacha (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. TBD

Sunday (8/2) @ 1:10 p.m. ET: David Peterson (1-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. Kyle Wright (0-1, 16.88 ERA)

Monday (8/3) @ 7:10 p.m. ET: Jacob deGrom (0-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. Mike Soroka (0-0, 1.59 ERA)

The first series between the two teams started terrific for the Mets but concluded in misery as Edwin Diaz, and Rick Porcello headlined their pitching struggles. The Braves pitching kept the Mets bats in check, holding them to only five runs in the entire series.

Fool Me Once Shame on You, Fool Me Twice Shame on Me

Rick Porcello had a very poor Mets debut, allowing seven runs in two innings in a 14-1 loss on national tv. The first game of the series is a rematch of the pitching matchup from the blowout loss, and Porcello hopes to show the Mets he is reliable as their third starter.

David Peterson also gets an opportunity to pitch against a better offense, which is built on power. They are third in home runs but lead the entire major leagues in strikeouts. The swing and miss rate is why deGrom and Matz thrived in their starts.

Mets Problems

The Mets’ biggest issue through the first week of the season is their inability to plate runners in scoring position. They lead the league in strikeouts w/RISP but are one-hit behind the Dodgers the NL hits lead. While their average is not much better than the Mets, they have only struck out eight times in these situations. Emphasis on putting the ball in play will scratch out an extra 1-2 runs per game.

Manager Luis Rojas said Edwin Diaz is “no longer the closer” in every way possible without using those words. Diaz struggled mightily in his outing against the Red Sox. The Mets have plenty of options in the bullpen, and Seth Lugo has to be at the top of the list to close games. In situations where Rojas does not want to bring Lugo in on back-to-backs, Jeurys Familia or Dellin Betances will slide into the role. Diaz will not pitch in the first game of the series, but it will be interesting to see the next situation he pitches in.

Matchups to Lookout For:

Rick Porcello vs. Freddie Freeman: 5-for-11 (.455), RBI, 3 Walks, Strikeout

Sean Newcomb vs. Amed Rosario: 5-for-12 (.412), 2 Doubles, RBI, 3 Strikeouts

Jacob deGrom vs. Freddie Freeman: 15-for-55 (.273), 2 Doubles, 3 Home Runs, 6 RBI, 8 Walks, 15 Strikeouts

Jacob deGrom vs. Ozzie Albies: 5-for-34 (.147), Double, RBI, Walk, 7 Strikeouts

Mike Soroka vs. Michael Conforto: 3-for-15 (.200), Walk, Strikeout

UFC: Jessica Eye welcomes Jessica Andrade to the flyweight division on Oct. 17

The former UFC strawweight champion has decided to move up in weight. Jessica Andrade (20-8) is moving up to flyweight and taking on former title challenger Jessica Eye (15-8, 1 NC) on October 17th per ESPN.

As Okamoto’s tweet says, Andrade will be competing in her third weight class in the UFC. After starting her career at 135 pounds, she dropped to 115 when that weight class started. Now, it’s on to flyweight.

Eye welcomes another to the UFC flyweight division

For the second consecutive fight, Jessica Eye is going to welcome a former strawweight contender to the flyweight division. She took on Cynthia Calvillo back in June.

In that fight, Eye was not able to get past the wrestling of Calvillo. It was just Eye’s second loss since she had moved to flyweight back in 2018. The other of course being the knockout loss to current UFC flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko.

For Andrade, she’s jumping right into the deep end of the UFC‘s flyweight division taking on the fifth ranked contender. We last saw Andrade compete at UFC 251 on Fight Island.

Andrade took a tough loss against former champion, Rose Namajunas. Despite being outclassed early on, Andrade came on strong and really put on a clinic late. However, it was a little too late.

Many people believe that 125 pounds is the ideal weight class for Andrade. She carries a lot of muscle from her days of competing at 135 pounds. Now, she won’t have to worry about cutting the 10 extra pounds.

Andrade might become the best version of herself in the UFC‘s flyweight division. A win for either her or Eye has a big impact on the flyweight division. While I don’t think the winner will be next in line, I think the winner will get a title eliminator in their next outing.

 

New York Yankees: 1 winner and 1 big loser in crazy victory over the O’s

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees took on the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night in the final game of the two-game series. Coming off a great offensive performance in their previous game against the Orioles, the Yankees continued to rake and won the game with some 9th inning magic by a score of 8-6.

The Yankees scored five runs in the first inning as Giancarlo Stanton drove in a run with a single to left and Luke Voit smashed his first career grand slam. New York didn’t lose a step from their previous game on offense. However, JA Happ didn’t look his greatest. 

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the Yankees’ five-inning win over the Orioles:

LOSER: LHP J.A. Happ

J.A. Happ got his first start in 2020 last night and already started looking more and more like his 2019 self. In 2019, he had the second-highest HR/9 in the MLB and didn’t seem to improve that stat at all. In the first, he gave up a 2-run shot to Hanser Alberto and shortened New York’s lead to only three. Then in the second, he gave up another 2-run shot. This one by Rio Ruiz. Now, you could blame his performance on the fact that he hasn’t had enough time to prepare. He looked tired right after giving up the first home run to Alberto and got lucky on a couple of missed pitches. Not the greatest start to the season for the 37-year old veteran. 

New York Giants: Arguments for an against signing Jadeveon Clowney

New York Jets, Jadeveon Clowney

The New York Giants learned that offensive lineman Nate Solder would pause his NFL career for one season on Wednesday morning. Solder cited his family issues and the battle with cancer his son has gone through the past few years as a primary factor. With his justifiable decision and putting his family first, the Giants will move forward with the talent they already have on the roster.

Drafting both Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart should provide them with enough tackle depth for 2020.

However, Solder opting out of his contract opens up $19.5 million in cap space. The Giants could elect to spend it or hypothetically roll it over to the 2021 season. One player that has been connected to New York for quite some time is Jadeveon Clowney, formally of the Seattle Seahawks.

Should the New York Giants sign Jadeveon Clowney on a one-year deal?

Argument for:

Signing Clowney would be expensive for the Giants, as he will command at least $14 million per season. The expectation is he wants to join a contending team on a long-term deal, but in the NFL, nothing is guaranteed. He could cash in for one season, and gain exponential reps, utilizing them to catapult him forward. When free agency originally started, he was asking for money in the $20-22 million range, but he has since tempered his expectations.

He would fit perfectly in the Giants’ 3-4 base game. With Patrick Graham taking over, gaining a premium level pass rusher would only help his transition to the Giants. Scheming a pass rush is the most probable course of action, without proven commodities at the outside linebacker position.

The issue with Clowney is that he’s never reached double-digit sacks in his career. He puts consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and locks down running backs on his edge, but simply just doesn’t tally up the numbers in the sack category. When you compare that to a player like Markus Golden, who expected to sign a more lucrative deal after posting 10.0 sacks in 2019, we can come to the conclusion that it is an overrated start to a degree.

Over his past four seasons, he has earned at least 13 quarterback hits, with a high of 21. His low of 13 came in 2019 when he played in just 13 games over 57% of defensive stats. That is 300 less than he experienced in Houston in 2018. He was also playing defensive end compared to outside linebacker.

Ultimately, Clowney has the ability to shut down an entire side of the defensive line, and he would only benefit the Giants’ defense.

New York Yankees Recap: Judge wins it for the Yankees in the ninth

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

In the New York Yankees game last night with the Baltimore Orioles, all the predictors were way off.  It was a night filled with ups and downs and a ninety-four-minute rain delay as it poured at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

Those who predict game scores thought that they might be right on when the Yankees took a huge lead in the first inning.  Those predictions ranged from 6-1 to 9-2.  The final score was the Yankees 8 and the Baltimore Orioles 6.

At the top of the 1st inning with a man on base, Oriole pitcher John Means hit Gleyber Torres in the elbow, causing Torres to crouch to the ground in pain. Medical staff checked him out, and he remained in the game until the fourth innings when he was taken for x-rays that turned out negative.  It seemed last night that the Yankees were wearing targets as Gary Sanchez was hit, and Aaron Judge was hit twice, none resulting in serious injury.

Playing out the top of the first Means walked Aaron Judge, then Torres was hit and given first base. Giancarlo Stanton came to the plate and served up a long line drive to left scoring Judge from second base.  Aaron Hicks got on loading the bases for Luke Voit, who hit his first Grand Slam of his career and just like that, it was Yankees 5, Orioles nothing with a half-inning of baseball in the books.

The bottom of the first is where things turned south for the New York Yankees.  Starter J.A. Happ just didn’t have it.  He allowed two runs in the bottom of the frame, and another two runs in the bottom of the second before manager Aaron Boone took him out of the game and replaced him with Adam Ottavino to start the fifth inning.  Ottavino pitched a scoreless inning, but the Orioles had already reduced the Yankee lead to just one run. Yankees 5, Orioles 4.  Then came the long rain delay.

Boone put Jonathan Loaisiga out there at the bottom of the sixth for long relief.  Loaisiga walked the first two batters he saw but got out of the inning without giving up a run. He pitched a scoreless seventh but gave up the lead with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. With a man on, Pedro Severino blasted a homer to left, and the Yankees lost the lead with only a half-inning left to play.  Orioles 6, Yankees 5.

In the top of the ninth inning with two on slugger Aaron Judge came to the plate hit a monster three-run home run well into the stands, again given the Yankees the lead.  Zack Britton came out to close the game for the New York Yankees, doing his job, he earned his second save of this short season.  Final Score Yankees 8 and the Orioles 6 as the Yankees swept the series.

Except for Stanton driving in Judge, all the runs scored were via the Yankee home run.  Although the Yankees won this one, they also suffered a significant loss.  The Yankees needed J.A. Happ to go out there and do his job, he didn’t, giving up four runs in four innings.  Without the services of Luis Severino (Tommy John) and Domingo German (suspension), they really need a good year from Happ, who is holding down the fourth spot in the rotation.

Looking on the bright side, the Yankees are now 4-1 on the season.  The big bats have shown that they are alive. But they need Gary Sanchez, who is 0-15 to start performing.  Giancarlo Stanton so far is the star of the season. He has eight hits in sixteen at-bats for a .500 batting average and an unbelievable 1.600 OPS. This is what Stanton can do for the Yankees if he remains healthy.

Today the New York Yankees will celebrate their Opening Day at Yankee Stadium with a weekend series against their traditional rival Boston Red Sox. The game tomorrow night after the festivities will start at 7:05 pm with Jordan Montgomery on the mound for the Yankees and Ryan Weber for the Red Sox.

 

Alexander Volkov – Walt Harris booked for UFC 254

Alexander Volkov, UFC

UFC 254 has added a big time heavyweight clash featuring two guys in the top ten as Alexander Volkov (31-8) will be taking on Walt Harris (13-8).

Both Volkov and Harris fought in the first two months that the UFC was back in production. Both men lost their first fights of 2020. Harris and Volkov will be looking to use this contest as a bounce back to head towards to top five.

Big UFC heavyweight implications

The heavyweight division in the UFC is in an interesting state at the moment. Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic will conclude their trilogy for the heavyweight title in a couple of weeks at UFC 252.

Both men could walk away from the sport after UFC 252. Right behind them the division has a clear number one contender in Francis Ngannou. Ngannou has won four consecutive fights by first round knockout.

After Ngannou, there’s a wide open field of contenders. Two of those contenders are Harris and Volkov.

Walt Harris had one of the most difficult years anyone could go through over the last twelve months. He made his emotional return to the octagon back in May against Alistair Overeem.

Harris looked like he was going to close the show in the first, but a game Overeem survived. Harris began to tire and Overeem was able to get the finish in the second round. This fight is a big chance for Harris to right the ship.

Back in 2018, Volkov was perhaps a victory away from a UFC title shot. Actually, he was about 11 seconds away from a potential title shot. That’s when Derrick Lewis landed a massive bomb which knocked Volkov out after Volkov dominated the fight.

Volkov bounced back in 2019 with a win over Greg Hardy, but then fall short against Curtis Blaydes back in June. The Russian had some bright spots in the fight, but a steady wrestling onslaught was his downfall.

This fight is so much fun and it’s so interesting. Harris is a very fast starter who looks to finish the fight early while Volkov likes to use his shots to fatigue his opponents. I think a finish is likely in this fight. If it’s early, I expect Harris to win. Later rounds, I’m going with Volkov. It’s a fun one in the heavyweight division.