New York Mets: Porcello, Lugo Shut Down the Nationals in 3-1 Victory

New York Mets, Rick Porcello

The first two starts of Rick Porcello‘s New York Mets career could only be summed up by one word: atrocious. Porcello rebounded in his third start and pitched like the 2016 Cy Young winner he once was. He only needed 81 pitches to get through seven innings, holding the Washington Nationals to one run.

He kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, working in. Porcello also pitched inside more than he did in his first two starts combined. After allowing two hits and a run in the first inning, he only allowed three hits in the following six innings.

Porcello left the game prematurely with 81 pitches, but Seth Lugo picked up where he left off. Lugo shut the door, striking out two batters and retiring all six he faced to record the two-inning save. Porcello and Lugo combined to retire the last 16 Nats to finish the game.

Defense All-Around

The biggest play of the game came in the fourth inning, where Michael Conforto threw out Juan Soto at third base. Soto tried to test the arm on an Asdrubal Cabrera single, and it was the last scoring chance the Nats had as Porcello cruised from there.

J.D. Davis received his first start at third base since June 16, 2019. He showed no rust, making plenty of great defensive plays and showing why he originally was a third baseman. Luis Guillorme and Andres Gimenez also stabilized the defense up the middle. With the success of a defensive driven lineup tonight, it will be interesting to see if Luis Rojas opts for more defensive centric lineups.

The major story for the Nationals was Max Scherzer‘s exit after one inning due to a hamstring injury. It was clear his velocity dipped, but it was also noticeable that his arm was trailing behind him. Scherzer usually has a rapid arm motion, but it was slow from the start.

Erick Fedde warmed up with Scherzer before the game then replaced him in the second. Scherzer calls the injury “minor,” but any injury to him is a significant concern with Stephen Strasburg already injured.

Yoenis Who?

Dominic Smith showed why he deserves to be the everyday designated hitter. Smith drove in two of the three runs on the night. His sac fly opened up the scoring in the first and then provided an insurance run with his RBI double in the seventh. Guillorme’s RBI single was sandwiched between Smith’s RBI hits.

Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto also set the table at the top of the order once again. Despite only hitting .227, Nimmo’s three walks moved his on-base percentage to .424. Conforto record a single which continued his on-base streak and kept his average above .300.

The Mets receive a day off on Thursday before playing 17 straight games without a day off, starting on Friday with the Miami Marlins.

 

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news after high-scoring loss to Phillies in first game of double-header

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees entered the first game of the doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday afternoon with elevated confidence and momentum. After defeating Philadelphia in the first game of a four-game series, the Yankees deployed starting pitcher J.A. Happ to take on their opponent.

Happ, who was thrashed and his first outing against the Orioles on July 30, giving up four earned runs over four innings, had an even worse performance against the Philadelphia Phillies. In just three innings pitched, he allowed three hits, four earned runs and walked six batters.

The Yankees took an early 3-0 lead and looked the part of their seven-game winning streak. However, poor defense and pitching put them in a deep hole before they could claw their way out. Giving up four runs in the third inning and six runs in the sixth inning, the Yankees simply gave up and decided to bury their troubles before the second game of the doubleheader.

FINAL SCORE: 11-7

Here’s your New York Yankees good and bad news from the blowout loss to the Phillies:

GOOD NEWS:

There was very little good news to extract from the Yankees’ blowout loss to the Phillies: the one positive, DJ LeMahieu. Over three at-bats, LeMahieu has three hits bringing his batting average to .459 and slugging percentage to .649. He has been stellar this season, similar to his performance in 2019.

Aside from LeMahieu’s day, Brett Gardner hit his third homer of the season. He only has four hits on the year, and three of them are long balls. He is finally getting back into offensive shape, which was needed considering the position battle the Yankees have instituted in left field.

Aaron Judge also had his turn at the plate, launching a three-run homer in the 7th inning down 11-4 to bring the Yankees within four.

Judge’s 2020 stats, so far:

7 HR | 17 RBI | .308 AVG | .372 OBP | .897 SLG | .521 wOBA |249 wRC+

BAD NEWS:

The bad news was everything else. From defense, pitching, to a majority of the hitters, the Yankees struggled in every facet of the game. Happ only lasted three innings, allowing four runs, and Nick Nelson, who pitched just 1.2 innings, allowed seven hits and six earned runs. One noticeable deficiency was Happ’s awful number of walks. He allowed six batters to get on base through walks.

Back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka also had a tough outing behind the plate. An error on a force out at home plate allowed the Phillies to score two additional runs. The Yankees will look to bounce back in the second game of the doubleheader.

Shoutout to Angel Hernandez for calling a terrible strike on Mike Ford for the second out in the seventh inning.

New York Yankees: JA Happ struggles in game one of doubleheader versus Phillies

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

After a subpar four inning outing to start the season, Yankees starter JA Happ was looking to bounce-back on Tuesday versus the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, the 37-year-old was worse, lasting just three innings and struggling to find the strike zone.

Happ walked six batters in his three innings, recording just one strikeout.

After managing to pitch the first two innings scoreless, things quickly went downhill in the third inning. Andrew McCutchen drew a leadoff walk, then Bryce Harper hit a two-run bomb after a Rhys Hoskins fly-out.

Three of the next four batters walked, driving in a run and then another run was driven in by a fielders choice.

Like last year, Happ is still dealing with reduced velocity. In 2018 and earlier, Happ’s fastball would consistently be in the mid-90s. The past two seasons has seen Happ only touch 92 or an occasional 93 mph. Although he struggled last time out against the Orioles, Wednesday is his first loss of the season.

Happ’s contract expires at the end of 2020, but has a vesting option for 2021. By the way the past few seasons have gone, it’s hard to see how the Yankees pick him up for one more year. They will have a healthy Luis Severino and a reinstated Domingo German in 2021, plus Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton if the latter two are resigned.

JA Happ is really starting to show his age, and now a days, hitting a 91 mph fastball is a piece of cake for a big-leaguer. He needs to turn things around soon if he wants to stick around in New York for another year.

New York Giants: Nick Gates To Receiver “Fair Shot” At Center and Right Tackle, Says Judge

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants signed offensive lineman Nick Gates to a contract extension this past weekend. Gates and the Giants agreed to terms on a two-year extension worth up to $10.325 million. The Giants have essentially locked down Nick Gates at roughly $5 million per year for the next two years.

Nick Gate is now making starter-level money after some impressive performances in 2019. Gates started in three games last season and played 290 snaps. Across those 290 snaps, Gates earned a 77.0 overall grade, and only 1 sack allowed according to Pro Football Focus. PFF also states that Gates allowed just 9 pressures in 191 pass-blocking snaps last season.

After impressing in limited playing time last year, Gates earned that contract extension and is now being paid like a starter. But does he have a starting position on this offensive line? According to head coach Joe Judge, Gates is going to have to compete, but he has a “fair shot” at two starting positions.

Joe Judge on Nick Gates

Joe Judge spoke with the media today, discussing training camp and coinciding topics. The first question that Joe Judge was asked was in regards to Nick Gates and his new contract. Here is what Judge had to say about the Giants’ plan with Nick Gates:

“One of the strengths of Nick has been his flexibility. He’s a guy that can factor into any of the five positions on the offensive line. The priority now is to give him a chance to compete for a starting position at any one of those five spots. As coaches, we have to do a good job of mapping out how we are going to allocate his snaps and his reps on the field between primarily center and tackle and give him a fair shot at both. We are going to work him day by day based on the priority for him. It will start shaking out once the pads come on.” – Joe Judge on Nick Gates via Giants.com Press Conference (8/5/2020)

Nick Gates has never played the center position before. But center is arguably the weakest position on the Giants’ roster, so Nick Gates will battle for that position. Joe Judge discussed Gates’s potential at center today, acknowledging the young lineman’s inexperience at the position. Judge explained that offensive line coach Marc Colombo has been dedicating “a little bit of extra time” to train both Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux for the center position.

Joe Judge praised Nick Gates, referring to him as a “guy that has good athletic ability” and “a smart player.” The Giants’ head coach seems confident in Nick Gates to make the switch over to center and he confirmed that he has seen Gates practice his snaps. Over the course of training camp, Nick Gates will continue to practice and try out for both the center and right tackle positions. If he can play the way he did last season, Nick Gates should find himself in a starting position come September.

New York Giants lose CB Sam Beal for 2020 season

New York Giants, Sam Beal

The New York Giants had a third player opt-out of the 2020 season on Wednesday afternoon. Cornerback Sam Beal elected to sit, despite having an opportunity to lock down the number two corner spot with DeAndre Baker on the commissioner’s exempt list. Beal has struggled to earn starting reps due to injuries the last two seasons after being a supplemental draft pick back in 2018.

After the Giants released Janoris Jenkins in 2019, Beal enjoyed six games and three starts. He tallied 26 combined tackles, one tackle for a loss, one past defended and allowed a 76.2% completion rate and one touchdown.

With Beal opting out, the Giants will have to rely on Corey Ballentine and Darnay Holmes to compete. This is a big blow for a secondary that was already thin, to begin with. The Giants can now look to utilize the cap space saved from Nate Solder to sign a free agent cornerback. Veteran Logan Ryan remains on the market and is becoming more attractive now the players are opting out before the Thursday deadline.

However, Beal still has two seasons left on his contract, so it will be pushed one extra year. That means he will be with the Giants until 2022.

New York Islanders: Mat Barzal needs to Wake Up

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ center, Mat Barzal has been playing terrible hockey against the Florida Panthers. It seems like every time Barzal gets the puck, he either turns it over or takes eight laps around the offensive zone and turns it over. A hockey team’s first line cannot be the worst line, especially a playoff hockey team. Mat Barzal needs to wake up right now, or the Islanders will not make a deep run for the cup.

What Barzal needs to Improve on

Mat Barzal leads the NHL in giveaways, and that is never a good thing. Barzal also never shoots the puck, can’t score if you don’t shoot. Barzal must learn from fellow youngster Anthony Beauvillier about shooting more often. Beauvillier has looked unstoppable during the playoffs, and he creates a bunch of chances for himself and others. Barzal must learn that if you get the puck on the net, a teammate will get a rebound and score. Anders Lee is paid $7 million dollars for tap ins, and Barzal never even sets him up for one. Barzal must also stop blindly passing behind himself. He always does that, and it leads to 3v2 opportunities.

How to Wake Him Up

Head Coach Barry Trotz needs to take Barzal off the first line for the next couple of games. Barzal needs to earn his ice time back, he cannot just be gifted with it. Jean-Gabriel Pageau should take over as the first-line center. Barzal should either man the second line or the third line. The same thing goes for captain Anders Lee, but that’s a different story. Trotz wants his best players to get the most time, not the players with the biggest name.

Conclusion

Mat Barzal must wake up right now if the Islanders want to make a deep run. Trotz knows what he has to do, and he will do as such. Hopefully, Barzal turns it around.

UFC: Dana White says that Abu Dhabi will be the new fight capital; will return in Sept. or Oct.

UFC, Dana White

When UFC President Dana White started talking about Fight Island earlier this year, the fans imaginations ran wild. There were mockups of fights on the beach and fighters making the walk in the sand.

When the UFC announced Fight Island, it was incredible to see what they had put in place. The protocols and the infrastructure was just incredible. Not to mention, the fights were pretty good which kicked off with UFC 251.

White appeared on TMZ today and discussed when the promotion would be making their return to Abu Dhai.

UFC’s New Fight Capital

“Everyone wants to go there. We’re working on fights right now for the next run. Obviously the big international stars will fight over there. This next trip over there, I’ll probably be there for five weeks,” White told TMZ.

It is unclear when the UFC will be returning, but it will probably hinge on the travel status for some of the international fighters. We know for sure that the UFC is planning on UFC 254 being on Fight Island which is headlined by the Khabib – Gaethje title fight.

Again, depending on travel, the first event that could be back on Fight Island is UFC 253. That card is headlined by the Paulo Costa – Israel Adesanya title fight. That fight is tentatively booked for the APEX, but I could see that one switching venues.

White is expecting Abu Dhabi to remain a staple for big fights in the future. “Abu Dhabi is going to be the fight capital of the world. The infrastructure that’s already built and the stuff were talking about, this is going to become a destination if you’re a fight fan.”

No question that the UFC is planning on continuing their partnership with Abu Dhabi for a long time. The pandemic has increased their partnership and I believe we are going to see Abu Dhabi be a main location for big fights for a very long time.

 

 

New York Yankees: Cole and Boone praise Sanchez, who is in the middle of a terrible slump

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees are off to a blistering start to the abbreviated 2020 season. They have the best record in the league ahead of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies, and several stars are streaking at the plate, especially Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela.

Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ starting catcher, is streaking, but in a negative way. He has only two hits in the season as a whole, and he has only two hits and one walk in 27 plate appearances. That adds up to a putrid .080/.148/.120 line and a negative wRC+ of -22.

Pitch recognition and a lack of contact are severe issues with the New York Yankees’ franchise catcher right now. He is currently running a 51.9 K% and 3.7 BB%, which is terrible. He’s looking especially vulnerable to low and away breaking stuff, more than ever before.

Will the Yankees enjoy vintage Sanchez this year?

But Sanchez is a career .243/.325/.511 line with a 120 wRC+. He’ll get back on track eventually. For now, he’s trying to find his timing at the plate and continues to improve behind the plate, at least according to Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole.

“I think it’s going great,” Cole said to MLB.com about his relationship with Sanchez. “He’s always finding me in between the innings, communicating about what pitches he liked. He picked up on a couple tips in the batter’s box [on Monday], which I thought was really helpful. He’s been on his game behind the dish, especially pitch-calling and picking up some tips here and there.”

The past couple of games suggest that Sanchez may be improving a little bit at the plate, a thesis supported by manager Aaron Boone.

“He had a couple of the games in the Boston series where I thought he was better,” Boone said. “He’s kind of chasing that hit a little bit. He’s just got to continue to trust that he can control the zone and really stay in his legs. When he does, that will take off.”

“It’s not easy to not take the offense out on the field,” Cole said. “As players, we all kind of understand that. It’s easy to rally around a guy that is really taking pride in his defense, even though he may be a little bit frustrated with how it’s going in the batter’s box.”

Five New York Giants that can break into the Top 100 players for 2021

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley

With the latest release of the NFL Top 100 players for 2020 list, the players voted on the best of the best names in the sport. New York sports did not exactly shine, with Saquon Barkley being the only New York football player to be deemed worthy by his peers to make the list at all, ranking him at 31.

The Giants and Jets both had top 10 draft positions back in April’s draft, which both teams used to bolster the offense and defense with young talent. With the future of football in 2020 being questionable at this particular moment in time, we can only look forward to the future. Here are five players that have the potential to break into the Top 100 list for 2021:

QB Daniel Jones

Throughout the twilight of Eli Manning’s career, the selection of a franchise quarterback became inevitable. Drafted at sixth overall in 2019, Daniel Jones has given hope and optimism to the team and its fanbase. Jones silenced all of the naysayers that called him overdrafted, not a franchise quarterback or not an “elite prospect” in 2019. If you need more confirmation that Jones has the potential to be a star in the NFL, just go back to his debut week three against the Buccaneers. Bucs up 28-10 at halftime, Jones finishes the game with 336 yards going 23-36 including four total TD’s including the go-ahead rushing score on fourth and goal with 1:16 remaining in the game.

The former Duke QB is a mobile, gunslinging signal caller who absolutely has top 100 potential. With the selection of Georgia OT Andrew Thomas fourth overall in the 2020 Draft, Jones will see extra protection, allowing him two produce more efficiently. If Jones can manage to clean up the fumbling issue, we should see him take a huge step forward in 2020.

WR Darius Slayton

Slayton was looking like the steal of the draft, at least offensively. A fifth round pick, Slayton and Jones developed a connection that looks like the beginning a very mutually beneficial relationship. In 14 games he racked up 48 receptions for 740 yards including eight touchdowns. He averaged 8.8 yards per target and a 57.1% catch rate.

Competing with a new offensive scheme, coordinator and head coach, the Giants are poised for a major shift on offense. Jason Garrett at OC opens up a whole new field of opportunities for the offense. With a full year behind him and Jones going into year two, keep an eye out for Slayton when could sneak into the Top 100 in his sophomore campaign.

S Xavier McKinney

The first rookie on this list, the Giants managed to snag the Alabama ball hawk safety in the second round. Draft Analyst Charlie Casserly praised the safety in a tweet in May: “Xavier McKinney DS @Giants 2nd rd pick. A complete Safety. Can play FS, SS & LB on 3rd down. Good instincts. Plays the run and can cover m/m. I had him rated in the 1st rd.” 

The emergence of elite safety talent in this league has become widespread. The latest deal for Jamal Adams could have very well reset the market for the position. Many analysts likened McKinney’s potential to that of fellow Crimson Tide safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has established himself as a top five player at the position. McKinney and Jabrill Peppers creates one of the most potentially dynamic safety duos in the league. McKinney is poised to be the new leader of that defense in an offensively loaded division.

TE Evan Engram

It seems like every year Engram is poised to have his “breakout year.” A career so far that has been plagued by injuries, Engram’s progress has been hindered by his struggles to stay on the field. A waning Eli Manning and a putrid offensive line as well as subpar coaching, Engram has been through more than what most players endure in his three year tenure with the Giants.

Nevertheless, a healthy Evan Engram is one of the most electrifying and athletic tight ends in the league. Quick speed and elite hands make Engram an absolute force in the receiving game. In just 34 games, he’s racked up 153 receptions, 1,766 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he manages to stay healthy and remain on the field, Engram is a huge piece of the offense, and someone who can explode at a moments notice.

RB Saquon Barkley (Will move up on the list)

Making the list at 31 this year, there is zero chance he will fall out of the top 100 for 2021, barring injury (knock on wood). Barkley’s success depends on factors similar to Daniel Jones. A revamped offensive line, new offensive scheme and completely new coaching staff are all things that are going to make or break the success of the team.

We can go on and on listing the reasons why Barkley will move up on the list and cement himself as the best running back in football. Andrew Thomas will open up holes and clear lanes for Barkley, as well as give Jones more time to throw him the ball, as we all know his effectiveness as a pass catcher. A full 16 game season for Saquon will easily open up the opportunity for a 2,000+ scrimmage yards season.

Saying it right now: Saquon Barkley will crack the top 15 players list for 2021. You heard it here first. Hopefully some of his teammates will join him on the list as well.

Check out fellow ESM writer Geoff Magliocchetti’s article on Jets who can crack the Top 100 for 2021!: https://empiresportsmedia.com/new-york-giants/five-new-york-jets-who-could-make-the-leap-into-the-top-100-players-of-2021/

 

 

New York Giants: One Joe Judge quote that really stands out from the rest

New York Giants, Joe Judge

When the New York Giants hired former New England Patriots special-teams coordinator Joe Judge, it didn’t take much convincing. The moment Judge stepped into the room as a head coaching candidate, owner John Mara was sold. He stated after the hiring that Judge was the most impressive candidate he has ever interviewed.

His attention to detail and harping on fundamentals is exactly what you want in a head coach in the NFL. I would be remiss not to mention his excellent track record when it comes to culture and spending time on successful teams. Aside from New England, he also learned from Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Judge has been tested early and often in his first season with the Giants, precisely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual interaction between players, legal issues, a lack of a preseason, virtual NFL draft, the list goes on, and on of challenges Judge has had a face head-on. Aside from the legal issues by DeAndre Baker in Aldrick Rosas, the Giants have navigated this strange off-season quite well.

However, the Giants need to take significant steps forward in their progression and development. General manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to lay the foundation of youth players on the roster.

With youth comes inexperience. That is where Judge made a great statement that the Giants need to live up to.

New York Giants’ head coach Joe Judge had one important quote:

“You don’t sign older players to coach the younger players. OK? I’ve got four kids, I’m not letting the 14-year-old raise the 6-year-old. It’s not happening.”

The Giants have relied far too much on their veteran players in recent years. Expecting them to help coach the younger players is blasphemous. Of course, having older leaders in the locker room is useful, and experience is a benefit.

However, players like Antoine Bethea were helping rookies develop and learn the secondary in the NFL last season. That should be solely the coach’s job. Judge made it apparent that the coaching staff will be up to the task and proactive with their jobs.

Considering the Giants hired a bevy of former head coached, I believe this year’s staff is much more capable of handling a rebuild. Judge clearly commands respect from coaches around the league, given the quality he has managed to secure in his quest to turn the Giants’ franchise around.