New York Giants: Sterling Shepard will return to college number this season

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

Going into the 2021 season, the top receiver of the New York Giants from last year will have a different look. It’s not any equipment change, but instead a new number that Shepard will wear for the NFL for the first time after playing with it in college.

That means if you want to get an accurate Shepard jersey for this season, it will have the number 3 on it instead of 87. To make the number change possible, the league rules mandated that Shepard buy out the existing stock of the 87 jerseys – but with his large contract, that didn’t seem to be a problem. And, according to Art Stapleton, the buyout wasn’t as expensive as expected.

Both the team and Shepard have confirmed the jersey change at this point. Once again, he’ll take the field in the same number that he and his father wore while they were Oklahoma Sooners.

Shepard, of course, played all four years at Oklahoma before finishing with over 3,000 receiving yards as well as 26 touchdowns. He was then drafted in the second round by the Giants, but has overperformed based on his draft position and locked up a four year contract in 2019.

Injury problems in the last two seasons ensured that Shepard only played in 10 and 12 games respectively, so this upcoming season will be a big one for the receiver. It’s his chance to prove that he can last a whole year again, like he did in his rookie season and in 2018.

We’ve seen quite a lot of Shepard in 87, but maybe, moving back to number 3 will give enough good luck to put together a better season.

Mazeika Magic Continues As Mets Win 3-2 For Sixth Straight Victory

New York Yankees, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets may not be at their best yet this season, but six straight wins say otherwise as they took another W by a score of 3-2 over the Baltimore Orioles. Patrick Mazeika continues to be an unlikely hero for the Mets as his fielder’s choice once again leads to a walk-off victory. Mazeika still does not have a big-league hit yet but has two walk-off wins to his name.

The Mets almost tied it up in the ninth of Orioles’ closer Cesar Valdez, but Kevin Pillar missed the foul by a couple of feet. He combined singles with Jonathan Villar to set the table for a Dominic Smith pinch-hit single to tie the game and allowed Mazeika’s grounder to seal the win.

The walk-off win overshadows the Mets and Orioles pitchers duel on par with the classic Tom Seaver vs. Mike Cuellar duels from the 1969 World Series. John Means made his first start after his no-hitter and was as good as advertised. Means pitched six shutout innings, working around six hits, striking out three, and needing just 74 pitches. Marcus Stroman was once again dominant, holding the Orioles to one run on 6.1 and recording a typical 11 ground outs.

Stroman’s Intensity

Before the ninth, a key moment of the game came in the top of the seventh inning when the Orioles had the bases loaded and one out. Means’ spot in the order was up, and Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde sent up D.J. Stewart to pinch-hit. Mets manager Luis Rojas countered by pulling Stroman and bringing in Aaron Loup for the lefty on lefty matchup. Hyde once again countered with righty, Pat Valaika, and it was checkmate for the Mets. Valaika attacked the first pitch for a sacrifice fly to break the scoreless tie.

When Rojas met Stroman on the mound, both had a lengthy conversation before exiting. It likely had to do with Stroman’s disappointment of leaving a matchup he felt he could have won. Stewart was a slow runner, nursing a hamstring injury, and Stroman’s sinker could have induced the much needed double play.

Injury Concerns

Post-game concerns shift to Jeff McNeil and Albert Almora Jr., who left with injuries. McNeil had a leg cramp but could be available for Wednesday’s game. On the other hand, Almora left the game after crashing into the fence while attempting an incredible catch. He has shoulder pain, and his x-rays came back negative. Almora let fans know he was okay while walking off the field but should be out of commission for a few days.

When teams go on winning streaks of five or more, it takes some tough wins and clutch moments to get it there. They had their tough wins over the weekend with the help of their bullpen, and now they have their clutch win. They will aim for lucky number seven against a familiar face as Matt Harvey makes his first start at Citi Field since leaving the Mets in 2017. Taijuan Walker will start for the Mets at an early 12:10 p.m. ET first pitch.

New York Yankees Recap: Mongomery brilliant in Yankees win over the Rays

The New York Yankees met up with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight under the veil of finding out their third base coach, Phil Nevin, had tested positive for Covid 19 and four other coaches being suspect and quarantined. The game featured the Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery against the Ray’s Luis Patino. The Yankees before this outing were 1 in 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

DJ LeMahieu led off against Patino by grounding out. Giancarlo Stanton flew out to the roof of Tropicana Field. Aaron Judge then hit a home run to center field. Gio Urshela just off the day-to-day singled to the middle. Luke Voit off of the IL and in his first bat of the season struck out swinging, but the Yankees scored first with the lazer off center by Aaron Judge. At the bottom, Randy Arozarena led off for the Rays against Montgomery, and he flew out to left. Manuel Margot lined out to short. Auston Meadows went down swinging for a 1-2-3 inning for Montgomery. New York Yankees 1 Rays 0.

The top of the second saw Gleyber Torres fly out to center field. Gary Sanchez struck out swinging. Clint Frazier flew out to the left-field foul territory. At the bottom of the inning, Yandy Diaz was at the plate, and he flew out to the infield. Mike Brosseau went down swinging. Padlo also went down swinging for the second inning in a row that Montgomery has put down all three Rays.1-0 Yankees.

Brett Gardner started the top of the third by chopping to second. LeMahieu got a one-out single to the middle. Stanton walked. The Yankee’s runners moved up on a passed ball. Another passed ball scored LeMahieu. Judge lined out. Gio Urshela lined out to second.  Yankees 2 Rays 0. At the bottom of the third, Mike Zunino hit a home run (471′), drawing the Rays closer to the Yankees. Willie Adames struck out swinging. Brett Phillips went down on strikes. Arozarena struck out for his sixth strikeout of the game. Yankees 2 the Rays 1.

Luke Voit started the fourth he was hit by a pitch and advanced to first base. Gleyber Torres went down on strikes. Sanchez hit into a double play to end the half. At the bottom, Manuel Magot led off by doubling to left field. Meadows struck out for Monty’s seventh in the game. Diaz walked. Brosseau struck out for strikeout number eight for Montgomery. Padlo lined out to Urshela to end the inning. New York Yankees 2 Rays 1.

Clint Frazier started the fifth by chopping out to third. Brett Gardner ground out to short. Lemahieu flew out to right field. Mike Zunino led off the bottom by flying out to Brett Gardner in left field. Adames struck out for Montgomery’s ninth and career-high strikeout. Phillips ground out for another 1-2-3 inning for Montgomery. Yankees 2 Rays 1.

The sixth inning started with Giancarlo Stanton lined out to third. Aaron Judge ground out to the middle. Urshela ground out to the pitcher Fleming to end the half. At the bottom, it was the top of the lineup for the Rays. Arozarena flew out to Frazier in left. Margot lined out to Gardner in center. Meadows flew out to left. Montgomery put down the last eight Rays in a row. Yankees 2 Rays 1.

The top of the seventh saw Luke Voit fly out to the right-field wall. Torres struck out looking. Gary Sanchez hit his fourth home run of the year to right-center. Clint Frazier walked. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch for the second Yankees to be hit by a pitch. Gardner advance to first moving up Frazier. LeMahieu ground out to third, but the Yankees gain another run. At the bottom, Diaz led off against Jonathan Loaisiga and ground out to first. Joey Wendle for Brosseau ground out to Urshela at third. Brendon Lowe for Padlo walked. Lowe advanced on a passed ball by Sanchez. Zunino struck out to end the inning. Yankees 3 Rays 0.

Giancarlo Stanton led off the eighth inning by doubling down the left-field line. Aaron Judge hit a single up the middle moving Stanton to third. Urshela, with men on the corners, singled, but Stanton was called out at the plate. With men on first and second, Luke Voit hit into the double play to end the half. At the bottom, with Loaisiga still on the mound, Adames flew out to Judge in right field. Phillips hit a single to left. Arozarena hit into the force for the second out. Margot ground out to third for two shutout innings for Loaisiga. New York Yankees 3 Rays 1.

At the top of the ninth facing Hunter Strickland, Torres stuck out. Gary Sanchez went down on strikes for the second out. Clint Frazier got himself a two-out double to the centerfield wall. Brett Gardner ground out to second to end the half. Out to close the game for the Yankees was Aroldis Chapman; he faced Austin Meadows for the last licks on the line for the Rays in the bottom of the ninth. Meadows reached on a Torres boot of the ball for an E6. Diaz got a passed ball, but Sanchez refiled it to second gunning down Meadows on a call that was upheld on the review. Diaz walked. Kevin Smith hit to shortstop Torres for the second out. Brendon Lowe, with two outs, struck out for Chapman’s eight out of eight saves.

The final score was the New York Yankees 3 and the Tampa Bay Rays 1. The winning pitcher was Jordan Mongomery, and the loser was Luis Patino, with Aroldis Chapman getting the save.

There’s a “pretty good” chance that MetLife Stadium is fully open in 2021

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was optimistic about capacity crowds returning to MetLife Stadium for New York Jets and Giants games.

New Jersey’s woebegone NFL squads have made some improvements this offseason and spectators may be able to witness the transformation in person.

In video provided by NJ.com, Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday that the “prospects are pretty good” when it comes to fans filling MetLife Stadium for the 2021 NFL season. The East Rutherford home of the New York Giants and Jets was one of 11 NFL stadiums that did not admit fans at any point last season.

“I’d say the prospects are pretty good,” Murphy said about the possibility in a briefing in Trenton, declaring that filling all 82,500 seats will be dependent on the promising declining numbers in regards to the ongoing health crisis. COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey are at their lowest point since October. Social distancing at such games would by recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.

MetLife Stadium has not hosted a sporting event with fans since February 2020, when just over 12,000 attendees watched the XFL tilt between the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats. Its next scheduled event is a Guns N’ Roses concert on August 5. New Jersey’s outdoor venues can open to 50 percent capacity on Friday.

“If we blow through our objectives, there’s a lot higher likelihood the Jets and Giants can sell more tickets,” Murphy said.

The 2021 NFL schedule will be released on Wednesday night, with the season expected to begin on Thursday, September 9 with a game presumably hosted by the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tom Brady and Bucs will make a stop at MetLife to play the Jets later this season, as will the Jacksonville Jaguars, the latter game presumably setting up a matchup between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the first players chosen in the 2021 NFL Draft. Among the Giants’ most anticipated home matchups is their yearly divisional tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit MetLife Stadium twice this year (taking on the Jets as part of the NFL’s addition of a new game to the schedule).

As vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, fans are returning to outdoor venues in larger numbers. MLB’s Atlanta Braves opened to full capacity on May 7 in Georgia, while NASCAR events at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, and Kansas Speedway will likewise be run in front of full crowds.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Will Hernandez played hurt in 2020, in line for improved 2021 season

New York Giants, Will Hernandez

The New York Giants‘ offensive line struggled tremendously in 2020. The Giants’ pass-block win rate in 2020, according to ESPN, ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win-rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. So while the Giants did upgrade Daniel Jones’s weapons in free agency, fans feel like they still desperately need to fix the offensive line in front of him.

But there is reason to believe that the Giants’ offensive line will improve in 2021 despite any new acquisitions. In particular, Will Hernandez should enjoy a solid bounce-back season. The Giants’ 2018 second-round pick struggled immensely in 2020 but is in line for an improved 2021 season.

Why Will Hernandez will bounce back in 2021

Will Hernandez was solid as a rookie in 2018. Giants fans felt like Hernandez was their long-term starter after he flashed a lot of potential as a rookie. But after a slight regression in year two, then a further regression in year three, Giants fans are now low on Hernandez and do not feel confident in him as their starting offensive guard.

Hernandez was benched in 2020 for rookie Shane Lemieux. Big Will started the first seven games of the season before contracting the COVID-19 virus. After spending two weeks on the COVID/reserve list, Hernandez returned to the team, but not to the starting lineup. As it turns out, there was more to the story that the Giants kept under wraps.

Will Hernandez played the 2020 season hurt according to Duke Manyweather, one of the top offensive line developers in the country who has worked with Hernandez. Will was dealt a really bad hand in 2020, dealing with COVID complications, a shortened offseason with a new offensive coordinator, a firing midseason change at offensive line coach, and an injury on top of all of that.

Somewhere in Will Hernandez is a good football player. We have not seen that good football player show up as consistently as we would like, but Hernandez is capable of being a starting offensive guard. 2021 is his “make-or-break” year. Fully healthy in 2021, looking slimmer and in better shape in his most recent social media posts, Will Hernandez could bounce back this season and return as a starter on the New York Giants offensive line.

Tim Tebow is reportedly back in the NFL, and that’s perfectly fine

new york jets, tim tebow

Questions can be raised about Tim Tebow’s NFL comeback, but it’s fair to give him one last chance in a new role.

Tim Tebow more than likely won’t be getting a video tribute on the MetLife Stadium videoboards this fall. It remains to be seen whether Tebow will be on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 53-man roster when Duval County’s finest hit the road to battle the New York Jets. For now, however, it appears that the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time college football national champion, and overall accoladed quarterback will spend at least a little time in teal and back.

Reports from Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reveal that the 33-year-old Tebow will attempt to resume an NFL career that fizzled out in 2015. Tebow reunites with his college coach Urban Meyer, the two previously having united for collegiate fireworks at the University of Florida, but with plans to move to tight end while 2021’s top overall pick Trevor Lawrence assumes the franchise quarterback role.

Tebow has not partaken in a regular season football game since December 2012, when he played a single drive in an ugly showdown with the Jake Locker-led Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. The 14-10 slog is perhaps best known for five Mark Sanchez turnovers and eliminating the Jets from playoff contention.

Tebow’s reported rearrival has sent shockwaves at a rare dull period on the football timeline. Per ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, “not everybody (in Jacksonville’s building is thrilled” about the potential Tebow deal. The debate over Tebow’s NFL inclusion has continued amongst observers and analysts.

Some are interested to see what Tebow can do at tight end, a transition that has been debated ever since Tebow was preparing for the 2010 draft. Others have had their fill of Tebow, including New York sports fans who have now seen him invade both their football and baseball circles, as Tebow’s new NFL beginning stems from the end of a minor league baseball career in the New York Mets’ system. More observers wonder why Tebow has been invited back to the NFL while another polarizing quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has not.

One can fully wonder why Tebow, whose last official football action is a 2015 training camp stint in Philadelphia, was invited back. A common argument against the reinsertion of Kaepernick, having moved onto activism and a partnership with Nike, is that it would cause too much of a media frenzy, though Tebow’s signing has caused quite a stir as is…even without an official announcement from the Jaguars. These are all fair questions to ask, debates to be staged.

But when it comes to Tebow the individual, it’s fair to grant him what likely amounts to a final professional football opportunity.

For one thing, a regular season roster spot is anything but guaranteed. Jacksonville is currently equipped with five tight ends, including fellow two-sport star and former Carolina Panther Chris Manhertz (previously a three-year captain with Canisius’ basketball team), fifth-round pick Luke Farrell, and veteran re-signee James O’Shaughnessy. Tebow’s going to need to earn his way onto the Week 1 roster, and it’s an uphill battle in a role he has never played.

Succeeding in unfamiliar roles has been something Tebow had gotten used to during his baseball career. It’s fair to say that Tebow was never destined for Queens, but he managed to put up respectable numbers, particularly at the AA level in 2018 (.273, 6 home runs, 36 runs batted in with Binghamton). Those numbers could’ve been well inflated by the end of the year (on a roster that included current Mets slugger Pete Alonso) had Tebow not suffered a season-ending finger injury.

Those numbers did plummet once Tebow moved onto the AAA level. His most recent baseball travels…time in the Mets’ shortened spring training proceedings…weren’t pretty (.154, six strikeouts in 18 plate appearances), but he did manage to go out on a relatively high note, hitting a home run off MLB veteran Alex Wilson in a spring training tilt against the Detroit Tigers.

One could argue whether Tebow was used as a sideshow of sorts, a cog in the “Same Old Mets” machine. But the baseball player that hadn’t played competitively since 2005…his junior year of high school…made it clear to his observers that he was serious about this trial, no matter the challenges thrust upon him.

“What he’s doing and the strides I’ve seen him make from last year to this year, that’s impressive,” then-Binghamton pitching coach and 1988 Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola told Rob Centorani of The Press & Sun-Bulletin in 2018. “He doesn’t have to do this, but he chose to do it and he’s working as hard as anyone, if not harder. It’s a great story but very difficult.

“There’s so much instinctual stuff from baseball that you learn as a kid all the way up. When you take a hiatus like he did, it’s hard. He’s 30 years old, but he’s still trying to learn.”

Adding to Tebow’s current football cause, and why it shouldn’t matter on a broader NFL landscape, is that Jacksonville is a team with relatively little to lose. They’ve chosen in the top ten in all but one of the past 14 NFL Drafts, their one shining moment being a “stolen” Super Bowl appearance in 2017. If Lawrence doesn’t pan out, he simply lands in the same category as other false throwing saviors like Blake Bortles or Blaine Gabbert.

In other words, it’s the perfect place for Tebow.

Unlike his arrival to a Jets team on the decline in 2012, one mired with questions at quarterback at the end of the Sanchez era, Tebow is under no pressure to switch things up immediately. That Jets squad was one tailor-made for the rise of the social media era, one packed to the brim with personalities, none more boisterous than their head coach Rex Ryan. It was there Tebow resided while at the height of his professional powers.

Tebow, of course, was coming off a year as the Denver Broncos’ primary quarterback after they chose him 25th overall in the 2010 selections. His box scores weren’t always pretty and he had the services of a budding dominant defense featuring future Super Bowl champions like rookie Von Miller. He did, however, often manage to work with what the defense gave him and contribute to the final score in the process. That trend was prominently on display in a November win over Kansas City, when Tebow completed only 2-of-8 passes in a 17-10 triumph over the Chiefs. He was nonetheless responsible for two Denver scores, running in a seven-yard tally before hooking up with Eric Decker for a 56-yard de facto winner in the fourth quarter.

Yet, Tebowmania grew through a series of uncanny, unconventional fourth quarter comebacks, one of which was achieved in a Thursday night thriller against the Jets. A jaw-dropping 95-yard scoring drive to end a nationally televised tilt served as Tebowmania’s outbreak and fueled Denver to the AFC West title. The Broncos even earned a playoff win over Pittsburgh…one that ended with Tebow finding Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard overtime score…before the New England Patriots did New England Patriots things in the Divisional round.

That season should’ve proven that Tebow had the skill and talent to serve as a capable, serviceable quarterback in the NFL…a Chad Pennington/David Garrard type worthy of building a solid career in the league. But when the legendary Peyton Manning became available, Denver had no choice but to make the switch and prematurely end Tebow’s days as a long-term franchise quarterback.

The subsequent trade to the Jets (sending two draft picks out to the Rocky Mountains) came at the worst possible time for a young quarterback…one already attracting caravans of cameras due to his collegiate career and public religious displays…trying to find his NFL place. What resulted was a volatile mix of coverage, silliness, and excess, trends only exacerbated by the rise of “embrace debate” culture that continues to dominate modern sports media.

To their credit, the Jets often spoke of using Tebow in non-conventional settings, almost becoming a Taysom Hill-type player before the latter left his mark on New Orleans and the league as a whole. Alas, the Jets were never able to implement Tebow the way they wanted to. He was used mostly on special teams and through the Wildcat offense, but it didn’t stop observers’ insatiable appetite for Tebow coverage.

Even though Tebow had fleeting flashes of New York brilliance…he converted a 23-yard fake punt using his trademark jump pass as a personal protector in a win over Indianapolis…the Jets failed to consistently work him into their system. Several players later anonymously ripped Tebow and eventually, it became too much trouble to keep a backup quarterback with that kind of baggage. He was released by the Jets the following year and failed to catch on to a 53-man roster after training camp stints with New England and Philadelphia.

Before Tebow left the NFL behind, former Jets coach Herm Edwards later told USA Today Sports that he didn’t understand the criticism.

“He’s done nothing wrong,” Edwards said to Jim Corbett. “All he’s done every day is come to work, and he’s working hard every day. And they blasted the guy. Like, really? I could see if he was playing.”

Now, the cycle begins anew in Jacksonville, an ideal place for Tebow to create something new of an NFL career. It’s downright peaceful compared to New York and he won’t be relied upon to win games or turn the tide. In addition to Lawrence, the Jaguars are packed to the brim with young talent acquired through drafts past and present.

Again, there are certainly questions to be raised about how and why Tebow will make it back to the NFL. But it isn’t fair to level those quandaries against him personally. One can certainly question the sense of cronyism that seems rampant through professional sports…just look at how many retreads appear in head coaching spots during the annual winter searches…but it isn’t fair to question Tebow’s work ethic and dedication to his craft. If the Jaguars’ biggest problem is having Tebow…whose foundation has been remained active in off-field issues like human trafficking…on their roster, that would bring about welcome normalcy to Duval.

Questions can be asked about the details of this situation, and rightfully so. But one look at Tebow’s sporting career shows that if he does make it Jacksonville for Week 1…and makes that appearance against the Jets in East Rutherford…it will be earned.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Breaking New York Yankees: Phil Nevin tests positive for Covid 19, four other coaches suspect

New York Yankees, Phil Nevins

As the New York Yankees were focused on starting a series with the Tampa Bay Rays, news has come out the Yankees 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, who has been fully vaccinated, has tested positive for Covid 19 virus. There is also news that other coaches may be involved as well. The Yankees released this statement:

“We have a breakthrough positive involving 3B Coach Phil Nevin, who is fully vaccinated. He is currently under quarantine protocol in Tampa. Under Major League Baseball’s guidance and advice, and with its assistance, additional testing and contact tracing are ongoing.”

UPDATE 5:24 PM

Manager Aaron Boone indicated that tonight’s game in Tampa would be played. Baseball development coordinator Mario Garza will coach first base and bench coach Carlos Mendoza will coach at third base in place of Nevin.

EmpireSportsMedia.com will be updating this story as more information becomes available.

After another solid win at UFC Vegas 26, what’s next for Neil Magny?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 26, we saw a big welterweight contest between Neil Magny (25-8) and Geoff Neal (13-4). These two were originally supposed to fight last year, but Neal had to pull out due to some health issues.

2020 was a great year for Neil Magny who returned after a USADA issue. Magny went a perfect 3-0 inside the octagon with a big win over former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.

On the heels of those three wins, Magny had a main event slot booked against Michael Chiesa back in January. Chiesa halted all of the Magny momentum and was able to pickup the decision win.

This matchup at UFC Vegas 26 was a big opportunity for Magny to shake off that loss and get back on track. To be honest, I was worried about how Magny would do with someone like Geoff Neal.

Geoff Neal is great about pressuring his opponents and throwing a ton of heat in his shots. Historically, those type of fighters have given Neil Magny problems. However, Neal proved to be no problem for Magny on Saturday night.

Magny was able to work his jab and keep Neal at distance from landing anything major. Ultimately, Magny walked away with a clean decision victory at UFC Vegas 26 and he’s right back on track.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 26?

With the victory on Saturday, Magny has risen to eighth in the UFC’s welterweight rankings. With that ranking, it’s time for Magny to get a shot against someone near or around the top five.

However, there is one name that could show up outside the top ten. That name is Khamzat Chimaev (9-0). Chimaev has been vocal about wanting to fight Magny and Magny has been vocal about wanting to fight Chimaev.

Chimeav is set to return sometime this summer and if Magny wants to fight, the UFC will definitely make that matchup happen. Another name that could make sense for Magny is Jorge Masvidal (35-15).

I know that might throw some people off, but at the end of the day, Masvidal is ranked seventh currently. Only one spot ahead of Magny and he’s coming off of a brutal knockout loss. A fight with Magny could be good for all parties involved.

The other opponent which would make a lot of sense is Vicente Luque (20-7-1). Luque has won three and a row and is currently ranked fifth in the welterweight division. A fight between the two would generate a new top contender for the UFC.

New York Yankees Analysis: The Yankees need to break out now. Must read

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton

The New York Yankees got off to a slow start this season, and although they have been playing better lately, mostly due to better pitching, they are still only two games above .500. Some will say give them a break; it’s early in the season. Well, my answer to that is that it’s no longer early; the season is approaching 25% completed. Now is the time the Yankees need to step up and break away from the rest of the east.

The baseball picture right now is very different than it was on Opening Day. Back then, the New York Yankees were the clear favorites to win the East and go on to a 28th World Championship. Today, six weeks later, almost the opposite is true. The Boston Red Sox, who seemed to be a mess and sure to end up on the bottom of the division, are surprisingly leading the East, and that is without their ace Chris Sales. The Tampa Bay Rays were thought to be weaker, losing two of their best pitchers, having already won five of six games against the Yankees, and the Blue Jays don’t seem to be as good they were thought to be.

For the New York Yankees to win the AL East and go on to the postseason, it seems to me that they must win at least half of the games played against the Tampa Bay Rays. They play the Rays 19 times this season. They have already lost 5 of those games, which means they must win 9 of the next 13 to even up with the Rays. Going into this three-game series is why the Yankees need to turn this around right now. They must win this series with the Rays or sweep them to have any chance at reaching the goal of evening games with them. If they lose this series or get swept, they have almost no chance of winning the East.

What makes this so important is that although no team in the East is playing particularly well, the Boston Red Sox, with relatively no team, is three games ahead of the Yankees, what worse is that the Yankees still have not faced the Red Sox and will have to face them 11 times in a three-week period from late June to July. They have yet to face the Rays 13 more times, the Red Sox 14 times, and the Blue Jays 13 more times. The Yankees must win at least half of those games. The Yankees should also win the majority of games with the Orioles. But they only face the Orioles 10 more times.

It is probably good for the Yankees that they only have two west coast trips this season. For the last two years, the Tampa Bay Rays have kept the New York Yankees from advancing; the Yankees must change this and sooner than later. The Yankees must win the AL East; they don’t want to get involved in a one-game Wild Card situation, even with Gerrit Cole on the mound.

Getting back to the Red Sox for a moment, the big difference between the two teams is that the Red Sox having basically no pitching; their hitting lineup is widely outperforming the Yankee’s “strongest lineup in baseball.” The Yankee’s pitching is figuring it out, but it’s no secret to Yankee fans that, for the most part, the Yankee hitters have been dead on their feet so far in most of this season’s games. The Yankees have scored 3 or fewer runs in 29 of their games, including spring training.

To fix this, the New York Yankee hitters have got to start hitting. Only Giancarlo Stanton is hitting above expectations. DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Judge are doing okay but not up to what is expected of them. LeMahieu’s batting average is 86 points below his best hitter in baseball season last year. Gleyber Torres has just hit his first home run of the season. Of the rest of the lineup including the bench 8 Yankee hitters are hitting at .200 or below. The Yankee coaches and players must find a way to get several players such as Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Mike Ford, Rougned Odor, and Gary Sanchez off the interstate and hitting more consistently.

The Yankees also have to look at the catching situation. The Yankees have won a higher percentage of games with Kyle Higashioka behind the plate than when Gary Sanchez is catching. Also, add this fact, Higgy’s batting average is 50 points higher, and he has the most home runs on the team per number of games played.

There is no better time than right now for the Yankees on this 10 road trip to overtake the Red Sox and start to separate themselves from the rest of the AL East.

 

 

 

 

Yankees: Amazing Luke Voit injury news as he prepares for awaited return

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

Prior to the start of Tuesday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees announced that star first baseman Luke Voit would be reinstated from his rehabilitation. Voit tore a meniscus in his left knee a few months ago and has been working his way back slowly, playing in five rehab games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He batted .389 with three home runs, two doubles, and six RBIs.

The Yankees desperately need Voit’s bat, as the Yankees prepared to embark on a 10 game road trip starting in Tampa.

Last season, Voit led the MLB in home runs with 22, finishing with a .277 average and 23.1% strike-out rate. Defensively, he saw enjoyed improvement, but his offense remains a catalyst for a Yankee team that desperately needs his presence.

While the Yankees have clawed their way back to above .500, their offense has only posted 11 runs over the last three games. They clearly need more support, and Voit should provide just up with his latest performance in Triple-A ball.