The New York Giants have made a flurry of roster moves during the past week but one of the most notable is moving two players to injured reserve. We all knew that Xavier McKinney and David Mayo were injured, but now that they’re on the IR list, the possible timeline for a recovery is becoming more clear.
Mayo out for a few weeks, McKinney out for longer
Based on the current rules the players are able to come back after three weeks because of being placed on the IR list while also being on the team’s 53 man roster. However, only one player will actually come back during that time span. The Giants seem to be lucky with the injury to David Mayo, because a fast recovery within a few weeks is expected.
McKinney, on the other hand, is worse off. Safety Xavier McKinney was supposed to be an impact player in the secondary. But with a broken bone in his foot, he may miss the entire year. Even if he’s not out the whole time, it will definitely be later in the season before the Giants get him back.
By then, the team may want to keep him on the bench rather than throwing him into the metaphorical fire quickly.
The Giants will miss Mayo for the first couple games of the season most likely, even if he can return from the IR list later. The Giants strangely enough cut Mayo’s top competitor, Ryan Connelly, so it looks like it might just be up to relative unknowns like Devante Downs and T.J. Brunson to man the spot until Mayo is healthy again.
The New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. That means for Islander fans who are between the ages of 1-27, this is the most exciting moment of your lives. It’s by far the best team they’ve put on the ice since the dynasty. Also, this team has the best coach the NHL has seen since the dynasty. I mean, if you match up this year’s team and the dynasty’s team, there’s a lot of parallels. But, the Islanders aren’t playing against the dynasty teams; they’re playing Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an up and down team for sure. Many years with deep runs, early exits after being the best team in the regular season, and one year ended with them just missing out on glory. How well do the Islanders match up with Tampa?
I believe that Tampa is more talented on the forward side of the spectrum. Tampa has forwards like Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Yianni Gourde. This Tampa forward group is insanely gifted and can put up a bunch of points, but are they better together than the Islanders?
Yes, I’m talking about chemistry, something that every team needs to win. The Islanders’ second and fourth lines have the best chemistry I’ve ever seen. Tampa is currently missing their best centerman, Steven Stamkos, but that hasn’t stopped them from gelling as a group. Long time players like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have kept the chemistry in check. I think this could go down the middle, but talent-wise the Lightning are the better forward group.
I don’t care if the other team has Roman Josi, Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, and John Carlson; the Islanders are a better defensive team. Especially when the Islanders defenseman is jumping up, they’re dangerous. On the other hand, the Lightning defenseman jumps up too often. And the Islanders have the speed to make the Lightning pay. If Anthony Beauvillier gets through a defensive pinch, it’s a 90% chance that’s a goal. The Lightning have more known names in their defensive group, but names don’t mean anything in the Playoffs.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, that’s really all there is to it. He’s been one of the best goalies of the 2010s. When he’s on fire, there’s not much you can do. And the Islanders are somehow cycling through goalies, and they’re in the final four. It shows you the power of Barry Trotz.
The New York Mets had their best all-around win of the season as they ride seven strong innings from Jacob deGrom to a 7-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Sunday’s matchup set up as a pitchers duel between deGrom and Aaron Nola, but deGrom showed why he is the best pitcher in the game.
deGrom held the Phillies to one run over seven innings with 12 strikeouts. Out of his 108 pitches, 35 of them were swing and misses. deGrom pitched with two different game plans, using his fastball predominantly in the first three innings then shifting to his slider. The lone Phillies run came on an Andrew Knapp home run in the second inning.
Aaron Nola did not have anywhere near the success he had during his last outing against the Mets. His defense hurt him at times, but he allowed six runs (three earned) in 5.1 innings pitched. Nola surprisingly struck out 10, despite allowing two home runs. He also allowed seven hits to left-handed batters after allowing only six hits to them all season.
The Mets offense showed how potent they could be in their 14 run, 17 hit, 12 extra-base hit, and four home run effort. Seven different Mets recorded hits, and out of those, four of them had multiple-hit games. They scored in six out of eight innings, capping it off with a seven-run eighth inning.
Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto were anchors at the top of the order. They had three hits each, including a home run for Nimmo and two doubles for Conforto. Dominic Smith had four hits, including three doubles and three RBIs. Pete Alonso homered twice for two of his three hits, all of them hit at high velocities.
It was the laugher of a game the Mets have searched for, and their offense also went 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position. After a tough streak of losses, the Mets now have wins in four out of five games and are just three games under the .500 mark.
David Peterson hopes to get the Mets their third win and final win of the series. He faces former Met Zack Wheeler, who is making his first start as a visitor at Citi Field. The first pitch is another 1:10 p.m. start.
The New York Yankees lost their third consecutive game against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon by a score of 5-1. They now dropped to 21-18 and are arguably out of the playoff picture for now.
With starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, the Yankees had a good opportunity to win a game that was essential for their forward momentum. Tanaka lasted 5.1 innings, allowing two and runs and six hits. He posted a solid performance, but once again, the offense simply couldnâ€™t get going.
Unknown starter for the Orioles, Dean Kremer pitched six innings, allowing just one hit and one earned run.
Overall, it was another embarrassing loss for the Yankees, who simply canâ€™t get anything going at the plate.
Good news and bad news for the New York Yankees:
There are only two pieces of good news to extract from the loss on Sunday. The first thing, it is Clint Frazierâ€™s birthday, so he is deserving of a shout out. He earned one hit and one walk, but also struck out twice on the day. The other positive factor, Miguel Andujar, posted three hits over four at-bats. Andujar is coming around and can finally be factored into the lineup more frequently.
Pitching-wise, Tanaka gave up a home run in the first inning to put the Yankees 2-0 behind, but he ultimately pitched quite well, lasting 5.1 innings.
The bad news â€” everything else. The offense tallied another four-hit performance, lowering their confidence and burying them in a pit of despair and tranquility. DJ LeMahieu was unable to record a hit on a day, and the remainder of the lineup, aside from Andujar, was stagnant. The Orioles made fun of the Yankees lowly spirits, recording nine hits and posting five runs on them. I think we can all agree that Tyler Wade is a liability at the plate, and the Yankees sorely miss Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Manager Aaron Boone did state that Judge and Stanton should be available for the postseason season, but the major issue is that the Yankees might not even be in the running at that point. Assuming they would make the playoffs was a reality for most, but at this point, they are nowhere near capable of making a deep run.
As the NASCAR’s postseason gets underway in Darlington on Sunday night, ESM has you covered for the road ahead.
The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs get underway at Darlington Raceway tonight. 16 drivers enter the 10-race gauntlet, with four eliminated after every three races. The proceedings wrap up in Phoenix this November, and drivers can advance to the next leg of the tournament with a win in the preceding circuit.
ESM has you covered with lineup and the road (pun much intended) ahead…
1. Kevin Harvick
Team: No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Crew Chief:Â Rodney Childers 2020 Wins:Â 7 (Darlington 1, Atlanta, Pocono 1, Indianapolis, Michigan 1, Michigan 2, Dover 2) Best Prior Finish:Â 2014 Champion
In this era of lost qualifying and practice, Harvick hasn’t been making a Hall-of-Fame case. As the 2014 Cup Series champion, the man who took over for the late Dale Earnhardt, and his impact on both the Cup and Xfinity levels, Harvick was probably going to Charlotte anyway. But his sheer dominance in going from motorhome to car has been nothing short of extraordinary. Only four races have ended with Harvick outside of the top ten and only a pair of visits to Daytona has stopped him from a streak of 13 consecutive top-five finishes. Through his seven wins (matching seven stages wins as well), Harvick has earned a Cup Series-record 57 playoff points, building himself a solid cushion that could sustain him all the way to Phoenix.
They Said It: “Weâ€™ve been fortunate to have great momentum throughout the year and have been able to capitalize on the weeks when weâ€™ve had great race cars and the weeks that we havenâ€™t weâ€™ve made decent finishes out of what weâ€™ve had…Our theory is not that you change gears and try to do something different, itâ€™s you better be ready and already have been in that mode.â€-Harvick on building momentum for the playoffs
2. Denny Hamlin (-10 points behind)
Team: No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Crew Chief:Â Chris Gabehart 2020 Wins: 6 (Daytona Winter, Darlington 2, Homestead, Pocono 2, Kansas, Dover 1) Best Prior Finish:Â 2nd (2010)
At Harvick’s side every step of the way has been Hamlin. Since entering the Cup Series in 2006, his No. 11 Toyota has accomplished almost everything there is to earn on the premier levels. February saw him win his third Daytona 500 (and second in a row, the first to do that since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95) and he added five more victories, giving him 43 since starting his Cup career. His career began with a third-place standings finish in his rookie year (the first rookie to qualify for what was then the Chase for the Sprint Cup) and he reached the final four last season, nine years after a runner-up finish. All that’s missing is an elusive Cup championship. Like Harvick, Hamlin was able to build a sizable lead over the cutoffs, currently lead the first won by 47 points thanks to his six wins and tying the No. 4 for the most stage wins with seven. Since teaming with new crew chief Gabehart last season, Hamlin has visited victory lane 12 times.
They Said It: “A lot of stuff has changed on and off the race track. I think Iâ€™ve changed a little bit as a driver. Iâ€™ve just adapted quite a bit as well. Itâ€™s tough to say what has automatically just flipped the switch and made the results what theyâ€™ve been over the last two years or less than two years. Certainly, thereâ€™s a process weâ€™ve put in to preparing for each week that is working for us, itâ€™s working for me. Me and Chris have just kind of got a thing going thatâ€™s working for us. I donâ€™t really know what it is, I just know that weâ€™re performing at tracks that havenâ€™t necessarily and statistically been strong suits for us. Each and every week weâ€™re contending for the race win. I donâ€™t know why that is, but itâ€™s just happening.â€-Hamlin on what’s been the difference for him over the last two seasons.
3. Brad Keselowski (-28)
Team: No. 2 Team Penske Ford Crew Chief:Â Jeremy Bullins 2020 Wins: 3 (Charlotte 1, Bristol, New Hampshire) Best Prior Finish:Â 2012 Champion
The epic battle between Harvick and Hamlin has somewhat covered up Keselowski’s strong season. A strong summer propelled him to the third seed on the initial playoff grid, boosted by a streak of eight consecutive finishes no worse than 11th. Keselowski has worked his magic during his first season under Bullins, who came over from teammate Ryan Blaney’s pit stall during a Penske shakeup. He got off to a strong start in last year’s playoff proceedings, with top fives in each of the three first-round races. But a wreck at Talladega (site of five prior wins) put him in a hole and ended his chances at another trophy hoist at Homestead.
They Said It: “I think Iâ€™ve been in this position now seven of the last eight years, in the playoffs, really eight of the last nine years and Iâ€™ve brought it home once, which is great. Iâ€™m super-proud of that. Itâ€™s more than I thought Iâ€™d ever accomplish in my entire life. And so Iâ€™ll always be proud of that, but that doesnâ€™t mean that Iâ€™m wanting to stop there. It doesnâ€™t mean that I want to leave this sport with my one Cup and go home and tell my grandkids about it for the next hopefully 40-50 years, however long Iâ€™ve got to live. Iâ€™d rather tell them about two than one, but the reality is a championship is much bigger than a driver. They put the driverâ€™s name on the trophy, but Iâ€™ve never seen a driver win a championship. Iâ€™ve seen a lot of damn good teams win championships.”-Keselowski on his No. 2 team
4. Joey Logano (-35)
Team: No. 22 Team Penske Ford Crew Chief:Â Paul Wolfe 2020 Wins:Â 2 (Las Vegas, Phoenix) Best Prior Finish:Â 2018 Champion
Logano was the driver to beat prior to the coronavirus-induced pause, winning two of the first four races of the season, including the winter visit to the championship site in Phoenix. He struggled to regain speed once things got rolling again, but heated up as summer rolled on. The No. 22 won each of the first two stages at the regular-season finale at Daytona before a late wreck ended his day. It broke a streak of six consecutive top-ten finishes for the Connecticut native, who is likewise working through a year with a new crew chief in Wolfe. The Cup veteran helped guide Keselowski to his championship in 2012.
They Said It:Â “(The wins) feel like a long time ago…Way too long. Weâ€™re ready to win again, but I do feel like weâ€™re getting close back to that same point as we were. To me, thereâ€™s no doubt when we went back racing we werenâ€™t where we wanted to be. I even said it a few times, almost like a lost puppy not knowing what road to go down to get back to where we need to be, and itâ€™s hard to find that direction without practice. Going to a different racetrack every week itâ€™s hard to grow. It took longer than we wanted it to, longer than we expected it to, but I feel like weâ€™re getting really close back to where we were at the beginning of the year. We can get ourselves in position to win again and I feel like weâ€™re right at it, so I do feel pretty good about where weâ€™re at again.â€-Logano on his 2020 season
5. Chase Elliott (-37)
Team: No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Crew Chief:Â Alan Gustafson 2020 Wins:Â 2 (Charlotte 2, Daytona Road Course) Best Prior Finish:Â 5th (2017)
The early stages of the return to action were defined by bad luck for Elliott, who was denied several further opportunities for bonus points throughout the year. For example, contact from behind from Kyle Busch denied him a win at an earlier Darlington event this season and an ill-advised move to pit prior to overtime cost him an illustrious Coca-Cola 600 trophy. Elliott was able to get back to victory lane at Daytona, winning the first Cup Series event on the track’s road course his third straight at such a track. It was part of a streak where Elliott finished no worse than ninth in six of the final seven regular-season races. Elliott will be starting on the pole for Sunday’s opener at Darlington
They Said It: “You canâ€™t win the championship without making that final four; and thatâ€™s been that point of the Playoffs that we havenâ€™t been able to bust through yet. So, I feel like weâ€™ve been really close at times, to doing it. I think weâ€™re very capable of making the final four. So, at the end of the day, if me being confident and knowing that we can do it, and my team knowing that (too), is the case and it is, then I think thatâ€™s really all that matters to me. But itâ€™s certainly the goal. Certainly, if you want to win a championship, you donâ€™t have an option. Youâ€™ve got to make it. We know that and look forward to the challenge.â€-Elliott on the weight of missing the final four thus far.
6. Martin Truex Jr. (-43)
Team: No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Crew Chief:Â James Small 2020 Wins:Â 1 (Martinsville) Best Prior Finish:Â 2017 Champion
Truex has been hotter than a summer down the Shore in his native Mayetta Township, NJ. Daytona’s regular season finale saw him end a streak of seven consecutive finishes in the top three…and that was only because he finished fourth. Wins have proved elusive, but Truex has proven time and time again to possess the championship pedigree. He has appeared in the final four in each of the past three seasons and four of the past five. That includes his 2017 title, won in the No. 78 Toyota with the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing.
They Said It:Â â€œYouâ€™ve got to be resilient. Thereâ€™s going to be times in the Playoffs when your back is against the wall or you need to make something happen. Thatâ€™s been the case for us throughout the years. Whether itâ€™s been a season where a lot of things have gone right or a season where things have gone wrong. At the end the day, itâ€™s 10 races to get in and you have to be resilient. You are going to face challenges along the way.â€-Truex on the most necessary trait to possess to reach the final four
7. Alex Bowman (-48)
Team: No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Crew Chief:Â Greg Ives 2020 Wins:Â 1 (Fontana) Best Prior Finish:Â 12th (2019)
Bowman seemed like the driver to beat in the early stages of 2020. He dominated the third race of the season at Fontana, leading 110 of 200 laps en route to victory. When the series returned to action after the pause, Bowman sat in second place in the standings after a runner-up finish at Darlington. But summer has been anything but hot for the No. 88 squad. Since that second-place posting in Myrtle Beach, Bowman has earned only six top-ten finishes. Contending for a championship would mean an extra something for Bowman, a Tuscon native who earned a surprising sixth-place finish at Phoenix when filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the 2016 season.
They Said It:“The summer was pretty rough on us. We started the season really strong. Coming back from the COVID-19 (break), we were still really strong and it fell off really hard for the summer. Trying to identify why that happened, what we did wrong and getting better over the last couple of weeks, especially. So, I think weâ€™re in a good place going into the Playoffs.â€ â€œDarlington, for us, we were really fast there the first two races this year. The first race we finished second. The second race we had a way better race car. I started racing my competitors instead of the race track and hit the fence, so thatâ€™s on me to not do this time. But I think we can be really strong and have a really good day. I think each and every week during the Playoffs weâ€™re going to be really good, but Darlington is one that we had circled that we can be really strong at, for sure.â€-Bowman on recovering from a tough summer
8. William Byron (-50)
Team: No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Crew Chief:Â Chad Knaus 2020 Wins:Â 1 (Daytona Summer) Best Prior Finish:Â 11th (2019)
Byron’s first career win couldn’t have come at a better time. With a playoff farewell from teammate Jimmie Johnson breathing down his neck for a playoff spot, Byron took home a victory at Daytona’s finale, taking the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet to victory lane for the first time since Jeff Gordon punched his final four ticket at Martinsville during his farewell tour in 2015. Byron’s playoff tour will be overseen by crew chief Knaus, who partook in each of Johnson’s record-tying seven championships.
They Said It:“I think that now having that first win of the season and first win for me and this team, I feel like weâ€™re more focused on just executing the details of each race. Obviously, our goal going into this year was to make it further than we did last year in the playoffs, which was the Round of 12 last year. So, if we can make it to the Round of 8 this year, it would be a success, for sure. We just have to take it one race at a time. A lot of these tracks are good for us. I think the first round is probably the weakest of the tracks for us, so we just have to try to focus on that.”-Byron on how the weight of his first win is removed
9. Austin Dillon (-52)
Team: No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Crew Chief:Â Justin Alexander 2020 Wins:Â 1 (Texas) Best Prior Finish:Â 12th (2017)
Dillon worked his way into the playoffs with a hard-fought win in Fort Worth. His timing, perhaps, couldn’t have been better. Dillon was forced to turn over the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet to Kaz Grala at the Dayton road course after a self-reported positive test for COVID-19. While Dillon has ways to go in living up to the reputation the No. 3 car carries with it, he has been relatively consistent in 2020. The win at Texas gives him a small cushion to at least make it to the round of 12.
They Said It:Â â€œI love being dismissed. I think itâ€™s a great. Itâ€™s all Iâ€™ve just kind of always been that way. I feel like maybe not that way in the trucks are Xfinity at the end of those runs, but in the Cup series, itâ€™s been a little bit of that. So and I feel like thatâ€™s what kind of propels us, and then we sneak up on people. I was very close to making it to the third round a couple years back in the playoffs and missed it by one point to Denny Hamlin not want to transfer this on and we missed at Talladega by one so I know from that experience at every Point matters, and we just need to go out there and do our job these first three races is good good races for us, but the stage is the way they play out. You got to get points. So weâ€™re going to be very aggressive in getting those points and hopefully messed up a lot of brackets.”-Dillon on being an underdog headed into the playoffs
10. Cole Custer (-52)
Team: No. 41 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford Crew Chief:Â Mike Shiplett 2020 Wins:Â 1 (Kentucky) Best Prior Finish:Â N/A (rookie)
Custer is the first rookie to partake in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason since Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher fought their way in during the 2016 season. While the back-to-back runner-up in the Xfinity Series struggled in his first year at the wheel of the No. 41, Custer punched his ticket to the playoffs at Kentucky and kept the momentum going with three top-ten finishes over the past nine races. His opportunity to advance could come at Darlington, where he won last season’s Xfinity event (albeit via disqualification of race-winner Denny Hamlin). By qualifying for the playoffs, Custer has already earned the Cup Series’ Rookie of the Year title, topping a talented class that also featured Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell.
They Said It:Â “I think we can go in there and prove some people wrong is the biggest thing, but at the end of the day itâ€™s about being consistent and itâ€™s about being competitive. I think weâ€™ve had a lot of peaks and valleys at times this year, but at the same time we just need to try and level it out more going into these playoffs. If we can be consistent and we can put it all together and put all the pieces together for these last 10 races, I think weâ€™ve shown that we can compete with anybody itâ€™s just trying to put those pieces together every single race.â€-Custer on his playoff approach
11. Aric Almirola (-52)
Team: No. 10 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford Crew Chief:Â Mike Bugarewicz 2020 Wins: 0 Best Prior Finish:Â 5th (2018)
Though wins have proved elusive (his last coming in Talladega’s event in the fall of 2018), Almirola was one of the most accomplished drivers of the summer. building a streak of nine consecutive top-ten finishes. He has reached the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Tony Stewart’s No. 10, though advancement through the playoff rounds have has proved difficult. He made it to the penultimate segment in 2018, but a string of finishes outside the top-ten eliminated him in the first round last year.
They Said It:Â “It makes no difference to me what anybody else thinks and thatâ€™s an attitude that Iâ€™ve had for a long time. Iâ€™m the type of guy that just really puts my head down and goes to work with my race team, and thatâ€™s all I really care about is working with Bugarewicz and the guys on my team. What anybody else thinks I really donâ€™t care because only I and my race team really know what weâ€™re capable of and areas where we need to improve and areas where we feel like weâ€™re doing a good job. I am excited about the playoffs. I do feel like we have a lot of potential. Weâ€™ve run really well. Weâ€™ve made some mistakes along the way that we certainly have to clean up going into the playoffs to be a contender, but I do feel like our speed and the way that weâ€™ve been running, the capability is certainly there.â€-Almirola on being a playoff sleeper
12. Clint Bowyer (-53)
Team: No. 14 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford Crew Chief:Â Mike Bugarewicz 2020 Wins: 0 Best Prior Finish:Â 2nd (2012)
The fan-favorite Bowyer has remained generally consistent in the No. 14 Ford that won the Cup Series title with Tony Stewart behind the wheel in 2011. Bowyer, who has doubled as a commentator for Fox Sports, will be seeking his first win since June 2018. His best finish came at the playoff track of Bristol, where he came home in the runner-up spot behind Keselowski.
They Said It:Â â€œGas mask. Same precautions you have. I mean, itâ€™s the same thing . Itâ€™s COVID. I mean, it (stinks). Itâ€™s pretty crazy to me that weâ€™re this far along and we still really donâ€™t know a whole lot more than where weâ€™re at. I mean, itâ€™s crazy times, but, nonetheless, youâ€™ve got to take care of yourself. Iâ€™m probably not gonna go to college and hit up a keg stand. Iâ€™m probably not going to do that. I would say that would be a good opportunity to find yourself pointless.â€-Bowyer on precautions he’ll be taking to avoid COVID-19 during the playoffs.
13. Ryan Blaney (-54)
Team: No. 12 Team Penske Ford Crew Chief:Â Todd Gordon 2020 Wins:Â 1 (Talladega) Best Prior Finish:Â 7th (2019)
Apologies for pointing out a theme, but it’s possible that the 2020 playoffs could well become “Penske material”. No one on the circuit perhaps knows more about bad luck than Blaney. Only four drivers on the circuit led more laps than Blaney (586), several accidents beyond his control denied him victories at several tracks this season. He has likewise been impacted by the Penske shuffle, with Todd Gordon taking over his pit stall. Gordon was on hand to guide fellow Penske Ford driver Logano to his title in 2018. Blaney heard some bad news prior to Sunday’s opener at Darlington, as Gordon was suspended and he was docked 10 points for an improperly mounted ballast.
They Said It:Â “Itâ€™s just been so limited with no practice. You can talk so much throughout the week on the phone and things like that, but itâ€™s just different than being able to go through a couple practices and the whole weekend with them and talking to them. But I think weâ€™ve gotten the best that we can. Todd and I get along really well. Heâ€™s an amazing crew chief and a championship crew chief and has won a ton of races, so I think itâ€™s been going well. Itâ€™s a shame, but everyone is in the same boat.”-Blaney on working with new crew chief Gordon
14. Kyle Busch (-54)
Team: No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Crew Chief:Â Adam Stevens 2020 Wins: 0 Best Prior Finish:Â 2015, 2019 Champion
Perhaps no other driver on the circuit has better personified 2020 from the average race fan’s point of view. Everything that can go wrong for the two-time Cup Series champion has indeed come to pass, whether it’s been getting caught up in wrecks, having tire or car issues, or simply being on the wrong pit strategy. It has put the defending champion in an awkward spot as the postseason begins: winless, no playoff points to fall back on, and in danger of elimination in the first round. Admittedly, most drivers would LOVE to struggle the way Busch has. But it’s clearly below the expectations the No. 18 and its driver have set for themselves.
They Said It: â€œThis year has definitely been one of the biggest tests I feel like Iâ€™ve been through. 2015, I was injured and I was on the sideline and I wasnâ€™t sure if I was ever going to come back and I was able to come back and then struggled for five weeks just getting a footing and then finally being able to win again at Sonoma. Right there just lit a fire under us and that was all it took for the rest of the year to be a championship contender and a guy to go out there to compete with his team and be the best of all of them. This year, itâ€™s been nothing but something else thatâ€™s in the back of your mind like, whatâ€™s going to happen next and whatâ€™s the next thing thatâ€™s going to test your patience. Just seems like we canâ€™t shake this monkey off our back. Wherever he is, whatever he looks like, somebody tell me and weâ€™re going to go for a few roll-arounds here and get him off my back in order go out here and have a solid, successful, productive final 10 weeks.â€-Busch on how 2020 has tested him
15. Kurt Busch (-56)
Team: No. 1 Chip Gannasi Racing Chevrolet Crew Chief:Â Matt McCall 2020 Wins: 0 Best Prior Finish:Â 2004 Champion
Kyle’s older brother and fellow champion (the first under a NASCAR playoff system) failed to get a win, and it’ll come back to haunt him in the playoff standings. But strong consistency led to another playoff berth and allowed him to hover in the top ten of the standings all season. He beat out Kyle for a win at Kentucky last season, but an opening crash in the playoff debut at his home track of Las Vegas ended his chances of moving on. Busch is one of two playoff drivers to have run without a playoff system, the other being Harvick.
They Said It: â€œWhat I think itâ€™s done is it gave it a strong comparison to other sports. Thereâ€™s that Playoff atmosphere. Thereâ€™s that championship race, where four guys are eligible to win the championship and itâ€™s an even playing ground. When it was a long marathon process of going through all 36 races, that was a different sequence. That was maybe not as intense when it got down to the final rounds. And so, with these 10 weeks, the Playoff atmosphere is there, and it relates well to other sports. And thatâ€™s where it draws in more fans that might not have been NASCAR fans before.â€-Busch on how the playoffs have changed NASCAR
16. Matt DiBenedetto (-57)
Team: No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Crew Chief:Â Greg Erwin 2020 Wins: 0 Best Prior Finish:Â 22nd (2019)
DiBenedetto has built a strong following after earning his way to a decent ride in the long-running No. 21 car. He began his Cup career in low-budget vehicles and fought his way into the playoffs through general 2020 consistency (which includes a runner-up finish at Las Vegas). Some late struggles put him in a tough situation at Daytona, put he held off Johnson to clinch an elusive spot.
They Said It:Â “I would say that this week has been a release. It was so stressful and kept getting more stressful leading up to Daytona and the points closed in and we lost the gap that we had and all that. I would call this week exciting and we got to celebrate with some friends out on the lake Sunday and have a good time but come Monday it was time to shift focus and we still have a lot of racing left and a lot to accomplish. It was a relief and exciting moving forward now instead of stressful. Exciting knowing that we have an opportunity to really put a good end to our season and cap it off and have a lot more success. I am pretty pumped up about that and I am appreciative to be doing it for the Wood Brothers.â€-DiBenedetto on making the playoffs for the first time as a veteran driver
(All times ET)
Cook Out Southern 500
Where:Â Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina When:Â September 6 Watch:Â 6 p.m., NBCSN Winner from 2019:Â Erik Jones
“The Track Too Tough to Tame” hosts its annual Labor Day Weekend event and its first playoff race since 2004. In recent time, the race has become well-known for featuring throwback paint schemes, a tradition that will continue this year.
Federated Auto Parts 400
Where:Â Richmond Raceway, Richmond, Virginia When:Â September 12 Watch: 7:30 p.m., NBCSN Winner from 2019:Â Martin Truex Jr.
Richmond’s short track hosted the final regular season race from 2004 through 2018. It is now the second race of the round of 16. Keep an eye on Joe Gibbs’ Toyotas, who have won four of the last five September races.
Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Where:Â Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee When:Â September 19 Watch: 7:30 p.m., NBCSN Winner from 2019:Â Denny Hamlin
For the first time, the famous cramped short-track settings of BMS will host a playoff race. The night race has been particularly intriguing, known for its flaring of tempers and propensity for wrecks.
South Point 400
Where:Â Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada When:Â September 27 Watch: 7 p.m., NBCSN Winner from 2019:Â Martin Truex Jr.
The Round of 12 gets underway in Sin City, where Logano punched his ticket to the playoffs in the second race of the season back in February.
Where:Â Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama When:Â October 4 Watch: 2 p.m., NBC Winner from 2019:Â Ryan Blaney
If you thought the superspeedway proceedings that closed out the regular season at Daytona were exciting, just wait until you see what the playoffs themselves have in store at Talladega, home of multi-car pile-up commonly referred to as “The Big One”.
Bank of America ROVAL 400
Where:Â Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, Concord, North Carolina When:Â October 11 Watch: 2:30 p.m., NBC Winner from 2019:Â Chase Elliott
Since being introduced to the playoff in 2018, the “roval”, a half-oval, half-road course at the hub of NASCAR, has created all kinds of postseason chaos. This will be the first time it ends the second round of the playoffs, previously seen at the end of the round of 16.
Hollywood Casino 400
Where:Â Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kansas When:Â October 18 Watch: 2:30 p.m., NBC Winner from 2019:Â Denny Hamlin
The Round of 8 gets underway in Kanas, where Denny Hamlin has won each of the last two visits, including a weeknight race earlier this summer.
AAA Texas 500
Where:Â Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas When:Â October 25 Watch: 3:30Â p.m., NBC Winner from 2019:Â Kevin Harvick
Texas produced a surprise winner earlier this summer, with Dillon using strategy his favor to take hom a long-awaited victory. Harvick has won each of the last three visits in the fall.
Where:Â Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Virginia When:Â November 1 Watch: 2 p.m., NBC Winner from 2019:Â Martin Truex Jr.
A battle on a short track will determine the final spots for the season finale in Arizona. Thus, racing will be tight and tempers will more than likely flare.
NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Where:Â Phoenix Raceway, Avondale, Arizona When:Â November 8 Watch: 3 p.m., NBC Winner from 2019:Â Denny Hamlin
After nearly two decades in Miami, the NASCAR season finale proceedings will move to Phoenix. Hamlin, one of the favorites, is the defending victor, but fellow front-runner Kevin Harvick has won four times.
Today was the waiver-wire day in the NFL. The Giants claimed three players off of the waiver wire and had one player (Connelly) of their own claimed. The Giants needed to make some cuts to their roster to make room for today’s claims, and they chose to sacrifice Corey Coleman.
Corey Coleman looked primed to man the Giants’ fourth wide receiver position this season. He had been impressive all throughout training camp after fighting back to full health from a torn ACL that he suffered last year. This roster move comes as a huge surprise to most Giants fans, but there could be more to the story than what meets the eye.
What Are The Giants’ Plans At WR4?
Corey Coleman was set to be the Giants’ WR4 in 2020. But the team waived him today, raising the question as to who might man that position now. The Giants now have the following wide receivers on their roster: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, CJ Board, and Damion Ratley.
Damion Ratley is one of the players the Giants claimed on the waiver wire today. He could potentially fill Coleman’s role as a vertical threat. CJ Board is another player that was impressive in training camp this summer. He earned himself a spot on the final roster.
The Giants have another four wide receivers on their practice squad, too. Training camp standouts Alex Bachman and Austin Mack were both signed to the team’s practice squad, along with Derrick Dillon and Johnny Holton.
There is a chance that Corey Coleman’s time in New York is not over yet. Yes, he was cut from the roster today, but he could actually be re-signed by the end of the day. As reporter Art Stapleton pointed out on Twitter, Corey Coleman is not subject to the waiver wire, since he is a veteran. This means that, after 4 p.m. today, Coleman is free to sign with whichever team he pleases, including the Giants.
The New York Giants have two players to place on injured reserve today: Xavier McKinney and David Mayo. Placing these two players on IR would free up two more roster spots, one of which could potentially be used to re-sign Corey Coleman. This is a hypothetical, though, as it is very possible that Coleman’s time in East Rutherford is finished.
Although the 2020 season hasn’t exactly gone to plan for the New York Yankees, there has been a few bright spots. One of those few bright spots has been Masahiro Tanaka, arguably the most consistent pitcher in the Yankee rotation.
He pitched five scoreless innings against the Braves on August 26th, and followed that with just two runs over six innings against the Rays. With the Yankees continuing to slide, they went to him for the series finale against the Orioles on Sunday.
Tanaka pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs off six hits. He struck out five and allowed just one walk. It was also Tanaka’s longest outing of the season in terms of pitches. He threw 95 pitches, just the second time he’s thrown over 75 pitches this season.
This is exactly the year that Tanaka needed. His contract expires at the conclusion of the season, and it’s likely that he’ll be looking for a nice extension. He could be competing with James Paxton for a contract, and with Paxton on the IL, it appears as if Tanaka is currently winning.
Having a few bright spots in a disappointing season is always encouraging. The Yankees $324 million ace Gerrit Cole hasn’t yet lived up to the huge expectations set for him in pinstripes. Although he pitched six one-run innings last time out, he gave up a combined nine earned runs in the two starts prior. He’s 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA.
If the Yankees want to win their division, they need to turn things around fast. They’re on the postseason bubble, and if they continue to falter then they may miss out on October altogether.
The New York Giants cut their roster from 80 to 53-men on Saturday afternoon, with the biggest surprise cut being linebacker Ryan Connelly. After having a successful start the 2019 season, Connelly went down with a torn ACL against the Washington Football team, which forced him out for the remainder of the campaign. Connelly represented a high upside player that could have influenced the 2020 season, especially with the lack of depth at the position for the Giants.
Ultimately, they elected to cut him and give the roster spot to a younger option. The Giants kept all four linebackers drafted this year on the roster. Nonetheless, the hopes were that Connelly would land on the practice squad, but was claimed by the Minnesota Vikings via the waiver wire on Sunday afternoon.
While some believed the Giants would take a flyer on wide receiver Hakeem Butler or cornerback Sidney Jones, they elected to go with smaller names that could fill simple roles. Keep in mind, the Giants have to make room for the three players they claimed off waiver on Sunday, so we can estimate Xavier Mckinney and David Mayo will be hitting injured reserve to open up two. One more player will have to be cut from the active roster.
Hereâ€™s a list of players who the New York Giants signed or placed on the practice squad:
S: Adrian Colbert
Colbert started five games and played in six with the Miami Dolphins last year, so his connection with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham makes sense. He tallied 22 combined tackles, two passes defended and held opposing pass catchers to a 33.3% completion rate against. While he did have a problematic 18.5% missed tackle rate, he has plenty of upside to unlock. He can also play on special teams, playing in 36% of defensive snaps back in 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers.
WR: Damion Ratley
Damion Ratley, who is a 6-foot-2 and 200-pound wide receiver out of Texas A&M, spent two years with the Cleveland Browns. At 25 years old, heâ€™s looking to increase his role with a new team, hopefully being the Giants. He logged 200 yards and one touchdown last year on a 50% catch rate. I think he is more of a special teams option, playing in 18% of special team snaps last year with the Browns. It is possible he competes with wide receiver Johnny Holton, who was added to the practice squad for a potential gunner role.
OL: Jackson Barton
Jackson Barton, who is formally out of Utah, was drafted in the seventh round last year by the Indianapolis Colts. There is some potential there at 6-foot-7 and 302 pounds as a big body at the line of scrimmage. Heâ€™s 25 years old and has decent physical attributes, which the Giants can activate with new offensive line coach Marc Colombo.
“He’s tough and has adequate strength to battle for position as a run blocker, but NFL opponents are sure to take advantage of his lack of leverage and his issues against inside moves and rush counters,” Zierlein notes of the 6-foot-7, 310-pound Barton. Helping matters none, the Utah product’s combine was a less-than-sparkly one, with Barton posting a composite SPARQ score landing him in just the 31st percentile of NFL offensive linemen.
As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each New York Jets position group within the organization and grade each group. Todayâ€™s group is one of the most encouraging groups on the roster. That is the tight end room. From a highly anticipated bounce back tight end to a standout veteran, to a potential diamond in the rough, this group is one of the best on the roster. So letâ€™s get into it.
TE 1: Chris Herndon
Without a doubt, the most anticipated return on this roster is Chris Herndon. Last season, Herndon entered the year with very high hopes. After a suspension and an upper buddy injury, Herndonâ€™s sophomore season was a bust. Now, heâ€™s back, and heâ€™s been a star of camp. Reporters have been consistent across the board in their lauding of how he will be the critical piece to Sam Darnoldâ€™s success. With the lack of receiver depth, Herndon will be counted on to play a significant role. As I previously wrote, Herndon will either be the X-Factor of the offense and the key reason Darnold takes the next step or the reason Darnold has nobody to turn to when the play breaks down.
TE 2: Ryan Griffin
Last season, without Herndon, many analysts wondered whoâ€™d step up at tight end. Those questions were quickly dispelled with the impressive play of Griffin. With 34 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns, Griffin proved to be a huge red zone threat. If Herndon can be the dynamic threat over the top and outside (when need be), then Griffin will be able to play a huge role in red zone success. As long as both guys can stay healthy when the Jets put out two tight end sets, they could be a force to be reckoned with. Griffin does tend to struggle with consistency, though, so as long as he doesnâ€™t become a non-factor, heâ€™ll be a great piece of the offense.
TE 3: Trevon Wesco
The West Virginia product was a curious selection by the former front office regime when he was picked in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Wesco wouldnâ€™t have been a controversial pick if he was known as a dynamic threat in the red zone or over the middle like the two other tight ends in the room, but he was traditionally known as a blocking tight end. Then, this offseason, he became a much more well-rounded athlete as Adam Gase has stated, and heâ€™s found a real rhythm in camp reportedly. If Wesco can show in-game that he can be a weapon, that would only make the offense all the better.
This group is FAR from a proven group. With that said, the way Douglas and Gase have built this group, they have potential to complement each other very nicely. Not only that but with the lack of depth at receiver, these guys will be counted on to step up. I truly believe this group has potential to shock some people this year and mask some of the Jets offensive inadequacies.Â
The New York Yankees need to find a way to start winning games after an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday. With the final score being 6-1, the Yankees lost their second game straight in Baltimore and will face off on Sunday with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound. However, they desperately need one of those sluggers to start picking up his bat, and his name is Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez has been dismal at best all season at the plate, hitting a putrid .130 with seven homers and 15 RBIs this season. His home run totals always manage to overshadow his awful contact rate and ability to get on base.
On Saturday, Sanchez struck out all four times as a designated hitter, and manager Aaron Boone stated they simply need more from him.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to find a way with Gary at this point,â€™â€™ Boone said after Saturdayâ€™s loss. â€œHeâ€™s just too talented to have some of these at-bats that are happening. Whether itâ€™s subtle mechanical adjustments, weâ€™ve got to do some things to help him get going because heâ€™s too important to our offense.â€
â€œA night like tonight, we had some lefties out there,â€ Boone said. â€œWe need him to be a little bit better.â€
Thereâ€™s no question that Sanchez has the tools and talents to be a phenomenal player in the MLB, and he shows it periodically with spurts of greatness. His issue is consistency and confidence, failing to produce solid performances day-in and day-out on a regular basis. He did earn an All-Star appearance in 2019 for his first-half performance but finished hitting .232.
Again, his home run totals hit every other deficiency, as he launched 34 balls into the stands. Over 100 at-bats this year, he has an embarrassing .237 OBP and .350 slugging percentage. His on-base+slugging percentage is the lowest itâ€™s been in his entire career at .587.
Defensively, he has a .996 fielding percentage with four passed balls. Heâ€™s actually playing a bit better than 2019 behind the plate, and Gerrit Cole seems to like him.
The New York Yankees know he has the talent, but where is it?
â€œHe has all the equipment to turn it around,â€™â€™ Boone said. â€œI do believe he understands that. Youâ€™ve got to find some subtle ways to find a way right now. [Whether] itâ€™s subtle adjustments with approach, timing and getting started, these things have to start happening.â€
With an abbreviated regular season condensed into 65 days and 60 games, Sanchez hasnâ€™t been given much time to rest. His body is the major issue, with wear and tear playing a major part in his degradation. The Giants have been trying to get Kyle Higashioka and Erik Kratz reps to rest Sanchez, but it has been difficult with such a condensed schedule.
â€œHeâ€™s had some days off here and there,â€™â€™ Boone said. â€œI know heâ€™s working very hard behind the scenes. Weâ€™ll talk and weâ€™ll consider everything because we need to all be part of the solution here, working alongside and helping him find what we know is in there.â€
Hopefully, the Yankees can bring the best out of Sanchez in the coming days, as they desperately need his offense to boost a lagging team. They are currently 21-18 on the year and quickly falling out of the playoff picture.