New York Mets: Matz Struggles, Kendrick Dominates in 5-3 Loss

The first two starts for New York Mets starter Steven Matz had promise that he could step up as their two starter. His third start of the season disrupted the momentum he was building. The Washington Nationals took advantage of Matz’s inability to pitch inside and knocked him out of the game after three innings to win 5-3.

Matz struggled to control his four-seam fastball throughout the start. Despite throwing 78 pitches in only three innings, he did not walk anyone. The Nationals worked him into deep counts and continued to put the ball in play against Matz. He allowed seven hits, five runs, and two home runs.

Solo home runs from Howie Kendrick in the first inning, and Josh Harrison in the second got the Nationals out to an early 2-0 lead. The Nats tacked on three more runs in the third, and it was all they needed on the night. Kendrick led the way with four hits, which brought his average to an even .300 on the short season.

Despite Matz’s struggles, the Mets bullpen hurled six shutout innings to keep the Mets in the game. The combination of Paul Sewald, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, and Edwin Diaz only allowed three hits. It was most encouraging to receive good outings from Betances and Diaz, who the Mets need to pitch well if they want any chance to turn around their season.

Conforto Stays Hot

The Mets needed offensive production from their outfield as three-quarters of their starting infield is dealing with injuries. Robinson Cano landed on the 10-day IL, while Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario are day-to-day. Michael Conforto came into the matchup with Nationals starter, Patrick Corbin, with ten hits, including four home runs. His two-run home run was their only base hit on the night and opened up their scoring.

Pete Alonso struck out twice on the night, but his RBI single provided the third Mets run. He still is in the midst of a season wide slump, but at least recording one hit and a walk is a step in the right direction. Moving Alonso down in the order would strengthen the Mets offense until he starts to return to his 2019 form.

Andres Gimenez was the only Mets to record multiple hits on the night. He replaced the injured Rosario at shortstop and made a couple of solid defensive plays as well. The play of Gimenez has quickly moved him from the 30th man on the roster to a player they cannot afford to send back to their training site.

The Mets continued their lousy baseball in the eighth when Brian Dozier was thrown out as second base while the Mets had the tying run at the plate. Dozier attempted to advance when a ball trickled away from Yan Gomes, and after being called safe, the replay review overturned the call.

The Mets also left ten runners on base, despite recording ten hits on the night. Their lack of ability to record any hit other than a single is halting their offense.

This sums up the Mets’ horrible start to the season as another veteran makes an unexcused mistake. Mickey Callaway may longer be the manager, but his presence remains with how this year’s team plays.

On Wednesday, Rick Porcello tries to get the Mets a split of the two-game series. He has his work cut out for him as he faces Nationals ace, Max Scherzer. The first pitch is at an unusual 6:05 p.m. ET from Nationals Park.

Improved Effort Not Enough as the New York Rangers are Eliminated from the Playoffs

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

The New York Rangers knew they needed to start their game better if they were going to stay alive in the playoffs. Although their effort was much better, the Blueshirts fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 and were eliminated from the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

New York has been slow to start in both games in Toronto, producing only seven shots on goal in the first period of Game 2 (and seven shots in the final period).

Head coach David Quinn knew that his team had to step up their effort. “You’ve got to outskate people. You’ve got to outhit them,” Quinn said. “We’re not doing those things enough.”

That effort showed when the Rangers were the first score as Chris Kreider put a shot past James Reimer with just twelve seconds gone in the second period, which also was the fastest goal from the start of any playoff period in franchise history.

However, that was the only goal the Rangers would get as Carolina scored the next four goals. Sebastian Aho scored twice in the third period while James Reimer was strong in net to help the Hurricanes to the victory. Warren Foegele scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period for the Hurricanes and Teuvo Teravainen also scored for Carolina.

Igor Shesterkin made his first playoff start and finished with 27 saves in his postseason debut after being unavailable in the series’ first two games.

A dejected Mika Zibanejad said after the game that “We didn’t really play as a five-man unit out there and ultimately they deserved to win the series.”

Kreider took responsibility for a lot of the teams issues. In the post-game media availability, he said that “We thought the playoffs were bloodsport, running around out there and hitting instead of playing the puck possession style that we play, and a big part of that is on me.”

With the loss, the Blueshirts are the first team eliminated from the NHL’s expanded playoff rounds but are also in the running to claim the No. 1 overall draft pick in Monday’s second draft lottery. One of the eight eliminated playoff teams will claim the chance to select Quebec junior Alexis Lafreniere, who is the projected top pick.

 

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Yesterday’s Win

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers yesterday with a score of 4-2 and take a 2-0 lead in the best of 5 series. This is a monumental win for the Islanders teams are 55-1 when leading 2-0 in a best of 5 series. Three key players helped the Islanders put extreme pressure on the Panthers.

Jordan Eberle

If you score two goals in one game, there’s a 95% chance you’re a top 3 star in the game. Jordan Eberle, who was invisible in game 1, showed up in the ladder half of game 2. Eberle’s first goal was an absolute beauty. First, he waited on his forehand and moved the defenseman. This move also moved Sergei Bobvrosky right out of his net, and Eberle being the goal scorer he is, rips it short side to put the Isles up 3-2. Eberle’s second goal was nothing special, just in the right place at the right time. The Islanders need playoff Eberle to shine if they want to make a deep run.

Ryan Pulock

Ryan Pulock possesses the hardest slapshot in the NHL. Let me reiterate, Ryan Pulock possesses the hardest slapshot in the NHL. I’ve seen Pulock injury goalies after he shoots from 50 feet away. Pulock has a powerful slapshot, but he doesn’t have the accuracy to score often. Despite this, Islanders fans beg Pulock to take the slapshot on the powerplay. This time, Pulock listened to the fans, and the shot went five-hole. Other than the goal, Pulock played solid defense the entire game. Never giving up position, and always filling his lanes.

The 4th Line

Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin make up the best 4th line in the league. This line never tries to get too fancy. They chip and chase, hit whenever they can, and keep a good forecheck/neutral zone presence. When the 4th line is playing well, the Islanders normally win. The Islanders have a way of making a two-goal lead seem like a seven-goal lead, and it starts with this line. Amazing forechecking all game, and Matty Martin scored today as well.

Honorable Mention

Tom Kuhnhackl played another great game today. Amazing forechecking, good defensive presence, hard checking, and great awareness. He even had the pass of the game, through the legs into a Matty Martin goal.

Conclusion

The Islanders play game three tomorrow at noon. This could either be the sweep the fans are clamoring for, or, the first win for the Panthers. Head coach Barry Trotz will give his players two options. You can either end the series now or let the Panthers climb back into it.

UFC BREAKING: Zabit Magomedsharipov – Yair Rodriguez off due to an ankle injury

Yair Rodriguez

One of the more anticipated UFC featherweight contests of 2020 will not happen. Dana White confirmed this evening that Yair Rodriguez (13-2) has injured his ankle and will not headline the August 29th fight night against Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1).

What does the UFC do?

The UFC has tried to make this fight multiple times over the last couple of years. Injuries have continued to get in the way of this fight being a reality.

Zabit and Rodriguez are two of the brighter stars in the UFC‘s lower weight classes. The fight between the two of them was likely to determine who would face Alexander Volkanovksi next for the featherweight title.

As ESPN’s Ariel Helwani suggested, Calvin Kattar has offered to step in to face Zabit in the main event of the August 29th card. Kattar and Zabit do have history.

The two men just fought and headlined a fight night back in November. Zabit won the three round main event, but Kattar was really coming on strong at the end. Many believe that Kattar could have won if it had been a traditional five round main event.

Kattar would make sense from a rankings perspective, but there’s no word on if Zabit would want to fight Kattar back-to-back. There are a couple of additional options for Zabit at 145 pounds.

Other Options

The UFC has been trying to book Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega for some time now. White has said that the UFC is close to booking that fight. However, maybe the promotion looks to see if one of them would be interested in stepping in to face Zabit.

Another outside the box option could be giving Max Holloway a call to see if he’d take the fight. The former champion could really establish that he should get another shot at Volkanovski if he can beat Zabit.

White said the Rodriguez has a high ankle sprain and a fracture. It’s unlikely, but if he recovers quickly, the UFC could shift gears to move up a main event and move back the Zabit – Rodriguez fight. Many options are on the table and we should expect the UFC to move quickly on this one.

 

New York Giants: Could Evan Engram Total 1,000 Yards In Jason Garrett’s Offense?

New York Giants, Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants made a splash hiring on their coaching staff this offseason, hiring former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator. Garrett spent ten years as the head coach of the Cowboys. The Cowboys had a top offense in the league nearly every season with Jason Garrett running the show.

One of the key components to Jason Garrett’s offense is the emphasis on the tight end position. Garrett was fortunate enough to have Jason Witten as his tight end in Dallas for all those years and the two collaborated on some of the best seasons by a tight end in NFL history. In 2012, Jason Witten received a career-high 147 targets in Garrett’s offense. 2012 was the last season that Garrett called plays for Dallas.

Calling plays for the Giants in 2020, could Jason Garrett feature Evan Engram in such a prominent role?

Jason Garrett and The Tight End Position

Witten, as the long-time tight end of the Cowboys, received 80 or more targets every year he played under Garrett, including multiple 120+ target seasons.

Between the ages of 25 and 31, Jason Witten was targeted in the Cowboys offense an average of 127 times a year–and that was despite their having a legitimate No. 1 receiver and a top rushing attack. – Gene Clemons of Giants County

Jason Witten had four 1,000 yard seasons in his career with the Cowboys. In each of those seasons, he received a total of targets greater than 120. Evan Engram will inevitably see his role expand with Garrett in town, and could see over 120 targets. But is he ready for an expanded role?

Brooklyn Nets: Evaluating this Team through 3 games

Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn Nets

The date is March 10th, 2020. Spencer Dinwiddie hits the go-ahead jumper against the Lakers to put the Nets up 2. Anthony Davis misses a wide-open three to win the game, and the Brooklyn Nets hold on to upset the Lakers 104-102, which ends up being their last game together before the season is suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Nets were playing their best basketball of the season at that point under interim coach Jacque Vaughn.

Let’s fast forward a few months (with no basketball) to present day. The Brooklyn Nets have now played three games since the NBA season resumed and are a shell of what the team looked like in March, due to a large portion of the roster either choosing to opt-out or being forced to opt-out due to health/injury reasons. The team still has Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Chris Chiozza, Garrett Temple, and Joe Harris,  players who have all been essential pieces for Brooklyn all year. New faces, including Lance Thomas, Justin Anderson, Tyler Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Donta Hall, have been thrust into the rotation as they work on developing chemistry and finding their role on this team.

Let’s break down the Nets performances game by game, starting with their first match-up with Orlando.

Orlando: 128  vs. Brooklyn: 118 – Full box score

Remember how Nets fans were excited to play this Orlando Magic team twice in the bubble? Well, it turns out that excitement was extremely misguided because the Magic destroyed the Nets in every aspect of this basketball game. This was a rough game for the two leaders on this team, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen. LeVert finished with 17 off of 7-17 from the field and 0-4 from three but, most importantly, was a -26 while on the floor. Jarrett Allen scored 14 points and grabbed 5 boards. The Nets started the game off well, scoring 39 in the first quarter and grabbing a 3 point lead, but fell apart in the 2nd and the 3rd quarter, being outscored by Orlando by 32 points. 

The only bright spot for the Nets was Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who got out of the #NETSTwitter doghouse after his awful play in the scrimmages. TLC finished with 24 points off 8-12 from the field and 5-8 from three. It was great to see TLC get in a rhythm and get some shots to fall. Outside of LeVert/Allen playing poorly, Chris Chiozza (2 points on 1-6) and Garrett Temple (3 points on 1-5) were extremely underwhelming in this game. The Nets, as a team, failed to stop Orlando on the break and had no answer for Evan Fournier (24 points), Nikola Vucevic (22 points), Johnathon Issac (16 points), and Aaron Gordon (10 points & 11 rebounds).

Brooklyn: 118 vs. Washington: 110 – Full Box Score

Things went much differently for Brooklyn in Game #2. While they were unable to stop Thomas Bryant of the Wizards the entire game, who went for 30 points and 13 rebounds, everyone on the floor played significantly better for Brooklyn and were able to win a close contest in the 4th, outscoring the Wizards 35 to 25 in the final quarter.

Caris LeVert (34 points), Joe Harris (27 points & 6 made threes), and Jarrett Allen (22 points & 15 rebounds) rebounded well from their subpar performances in the Orlando game, and all played up to their potential. Chris Chiozza finally decided to show up, dropping 14 points and dishing out 6 dimes off the bench. No other player was in double figures for Brooklyn, but they were able to pull out a much-needed win against Washington, who might win the title for “worst team left in the NBA restart.”

Brooklyn: 119 vs. Milwaukee: 116 – Full Box Score

Even though the Brooklyn Nets won a much-needed contest against the Wizards, many doubted their chances against Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon. Jacque Vaughn even decided this game would be a great time to rest his most important three starters; Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris. The spread was as high as -18 before the game began. But never forget that old adage, that’s why you play the game.

The Nets stunned Giannis and the Bucks in the first half, hitting 14 shots from three-point land, a season-high for Brooklyn. TLC finished the game with 26 points on 8-12 from the field and 5-7 from the three-point line. Garrett Temple chipped in with 19 points and had his best game of the season as well.

The Nets led the Bucks 73 – 65 after the 1st half, and that was a half in which Giannis and Middleton each played a significant amount of minutes. Those two players were on the bench for the remainder of the game after halftime, a strategy most would assume was the Bucks plan prior to tip-off. While the Bucks clawed their way back into the game by outscoring the Nets in the final two quarters, Brooklyn was able to show toughness and resolve we hadn’t seen from them since March in the final few minutes of the game. Whether it was a clutch TLC three or a gritty Tyler Johnson rebound and put back, the Nets made all the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win the game.

Some other guys who gave the Nets great minutes: Donta Hall, who only scored 4 points and grabbed 9 boards, had an epic dust-up with Giannis after the two were wrestling for a rebound and Giannis ended up on the ground. Hall also had a highlight-reel block on Sterling Brown later in the game as well. Justin Anderson gave the Nets 11 off the bench, hitting 3 three-pointers in the process. Chiozza had a nice 10 point 10 assist game and has proven to be an excellent decision-maker in these last few games.

The Bad News: Jamal Crawford made his highly anticipated Nets debut, only to leave the game after a few minutes with some type of hamstring injury. His return to the court this season is now questionable.

Biggest Takeaway from first 3 Games & What’s Next?

Three games in, if anything about this team, it’s that they are extremely tough, and it will take a lot to break this team’s will. Many fans assumed the team would try and tank after their embarrassing loss to Orlando. The Nets followed that game up with two close wire to wire wins against Washington and Milwaukee. In that Milwaukee game, 8 of the 11 active players on the roster were G-League players at some point this season. The Nets will not shoot this well from three every game, and TLC/Garrett Temple most likely will not combine for 45 points on a nightly basis, but you have to like what you’re seeing from this Nets team through three games. Jacque Vaughn has done an outstanding coaching job with the Net’s gameplan these last two games, especially for Milwaukee, in which the team primarily ran a 2-3 zone on defense, and really seems to be coming into his own as Head Coach of this team.

Next Up: The Brooklyn Nets will go for their 3rd straight win when they face the Boston Celtics on Wednesday (8/5/20) night at 9:00 pm EST.

Check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!

 

Fireside Giants Ep 34: Training camp updates, schedule, player opt-outs, Xavier McKinney, pass-rush, more!

New York Giants, Fireside Giants

Episode 30 for a Fireside Giants dives into training camp updates and analyzing a few different factors that will impact the 2020 season. The New York Giants have already experienced two players opting out in Nate Solder and Da’Mari Scott, but will there be more? Alex and Anthony dive into the latest news; what this week’s press conference schedule looks like, what we should expect from Xavier McKinney, and much more!

iTUNES LINK HERE

SPOTIFY LINK HERE

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the Leonard Williams news, as he showed up to training camp with an injured hamstring. We take a look at what that means for the fan base and how that has proved animosity between people with different perspectives. We also take a look at his contract and what his value to the team really is.

Don’t miss out on the latest episode of Fireside Giants and all the great info that we have to offer. With media access and insider connections, we are looking to provide an even better quality show in 2020.

Three New York Mets infielders got injured on Monday, but they are day-to-day

The New York Mets finally stopped a five-game losing streak on Monday night and beat the Atlanta Braves 7-2 behind six solid innings from their ace, Jacob deGrom. The fact that the Mets offense managed to cross the plate seven times in a deGrom start alone needs to be celebrated at this point.

However, the victory was a costly one from an injury standpoint. Before the game, third baseman Jeff McNeil was scratched because of back tightness he reported after batting practice. The issue doesn’t sound like it would require a multi-game absence, though.

After driving in three runs on a couple of hits, starting second baseman Robinson Cano left the game with left groin tightness. He was injured while trying to score from second base on a grounder, and it is yet another lower-body injury for the veteran infielder, as he had several of them last season and spent a large portion of the offseason strengthening the zone. He is considered day to day.

Mets’ infield depth could be tested in the short-term

Before Cano had to exit the game, shortstop Amed Rosario did it with left quad tightness after he grounded a ball to third base and moved slowly out of the batter’s box. The situation may look worrisome at first sight, but it appears that all three injuries are minor and all players involved should be back in the diamond soon.

According to what the New York Mets’ manager Luis Rojas told MLB.com, the weather in Atlanta may have played a role in the events, with humidity spiking over 80 percent last night and facilitating dehydration.

“It’s our fourth game here in Atlanta, [and it was] coming after that game [Sunday] where it was really hot,” Rojas said. “It’s unfortunate it happened to three guys today.”

The Mets are going to need the three men back as soon as possible, as they are currently in fourth place in the National League East division with a 4-7 record. They will face the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.

New York Yankees: Luis Cessa is impressed with Clint Frazier, saying he looks “stronger” and “ready”

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

Clint Frazier, despite being demoted to the New York Yankees‘ alternate training site a few days ago, has handled the decision with aplomb and maturity. According to his own teammates, he has been working diligently to return to the active roster when his moment comes, and he has looked very good at the plate.

As Randy Miller of NJ.com writes, Frazier has even impressed Yankees coaches with his attitude during spring training and summer camp.

Fellow New York Yankees’ rehabber Luis Cessa said that nothing has changed on that front. Frazier remains focused and looks ready to contrinbute consistently at the major league level.

Frazier started off the year with the Yankees, but he was demoted when the team found itself in need of fresh arms to the pitching staff.

The Yankees reliever faced Frazier and said he deserves a shot

Cessa faced Frazier in three recent outings at the Yankees’ alternate training site and was impressed with what he saw.

“He looks good,” Cessa said of the talented Frazier, who has had quite a few controversies in his Yankees’ tenure since coming in the Andrew Miller trade. “He looks stronger. He looks ready.”

The red-headed outfielder has 16 homers and 56 RBI in 393 career at-bats. While he has struggled defensively, he has loads of promise with the stick. He just needs playing time.

In the Yankees’ big league team, Frazier is blocked by at least five players: Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner, plus reserves Mike Tauchman and Miguel Andujar. But he showed during the exhibition games (both in the spring and in the summer) that he is ready to be challenged consistently at the majors, having hit .321 with two homers, four RBI, eight walks and a .459 on-base percentage during 14 games.

“Everybody is waiting for the opportunity to come back and I think Clint looks good,” Cessa said.

UFC: Per Dana White, Jon Jones isn’t being stripped of his title anytime soon

UFC, Jon Jones

One of the biggest stars in the UFC has been very vocal about his thoughts on fighter pay since the promotion kicked things off back in May.

The light heavyweight champion and current pound-for-pound number one fighter, Jon Jones, has been in a public spat with the promotion. Jones has said that he would sit out as long as it took to get paid what he wants.

With that line of thinking, many have wondered if this would prompt the UFC to strip Jon Jones of his title. However, Dana White said in an interview with Barstool that the promotion is not planning on that.

“The last time he said ‘I’m not fighting,’ he’s not fighting, so we’re feeling this thing out. When it’s time for him to fight, we’ll see,” White told Barstool. When asked about stripping him, White replied, “Not as of yet, no.”

The UFC & Jones current position

It is a very delicate situation between Jones and the UFC. Jones was very active staring in December of 2019. After all of the suspensions and issues, Jones fought and won four times over the course of 14 months.

After Francis Ngannou knocked out Jairzinho Rozenstruik in 20 seconds at UFC 249, Jones and Ngannou started angling for a fight. Generalities were spoken in terms of financial figures, and the UFC had no interest in bumping Jones’ pay.

White came out and said that Jones was requesting Deontay Wilder money to fight Ngannou. This is a claim that Jones quickly refuted.

All of this drama between Jones and White came back in late May/early June. Since then, it’s been very quiet on this front. White did say he believes that they will resolve the issue.

The UFC has been cranking out cards, and I believe that they have the rest of the year figured out. The rest of 2020 may not included Jones or Conor McGregor. White guaranteed McGregor wouldn’t fight and it doesn’t appear as if Jones will fight either.

Time will tell what’s going to happen in this situation. I still believe that they will get this resolved in the end. Not sure if Jones will return to the light heavyweight division or if he’ll move up, but rest assured, Jon Jones will fight again in the UFC someday.