Kyle Larson continues dominance as NASCAR debuts at Nashville

Kyle Larson continued his dominant ways on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, which ran at Nashville Superspeedway for the first time.

A new track produced the same result for the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday afternoon.

Kyle Larson once again dominated proceedings on the premier racing circuit, leading 264 of 300 laps in the inaugural Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway to win the Ally 400. Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has now won each of the last four Cup Series events, including last weekend’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas. HMS vehicles have won five consecutive official points events overall, helping the team strengthen its grip on the record for most team victories in Cup Series history (now at 271 after Sunday).

“It was another good one. We’ve had probably the best race car on the racetrack for at least a month and a half, so good to take advantage of it, get another win,” Larson said after the win. (We were) able to jump out to a lead right from the get-go, basically lead the rest of the race. If it wasn’t for the cautions at the ends of the stages, we had a near-perfect day.”

Larson took the lead on lap 6, shortly after the race restarted following Quin Houff’s wreck on the opening lap due to a lost tire. The No. 5 went three-wide with Kyle Busch and pole-sitter Aric Almirola to nab the top spot, setting the tone for familiar domination. HMS teammate Chase Elliott was able to take the first 90-lap stage after staying out during a caution induced by Chris Buescher and Justin Haley’s wreck on the 77th circuit. It was all Larson after that, as he coasted to his 10th career Cup Series victory and series-best fourth of the 2021 season.

“It’s awesome to get multiple wins in a row now in the Cup Series…just cool to do that,” he said. “I didn’t think that was possible ever for me in the Cup Series anyways. I’ve gone on streaks in dirt racing and stuff before, but never been close to doing anything like that in Cup. It’s been awesome. To get to now double-digit point-paying wins is great. I’d like to keep winning and keep inching my name up the winner’s list not only at NASCAR but at Hendrick Motorsports, too. I think that’s important to me.”

Larson has now led a career-best 1,426 laps this season (tops in the series and 670 ahead of points-leader Denny Hamlin) and is the first driver to win three straight points races since Brad Keselowski in 2018. The No. 5 is also only 10 points behind Hamlin for the Cup Series points lead, which affords a 15-point bonus for when the NASCAR playoffs begin in September.

Ross Chastain had a career-best finish in the runner-up slot, followed by HMS representative William Byron and Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick.

This weekend marked NASCAR’s return to the Music City area at the newly renovated 1.333-mile track in Lebanon. The track previously held events in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series (as well as the IndyCar Series) from 2001 through 2011, but the Cup Series had not been to Nashville since 1984 at Fairgrounds Speedway. Larson praised the fans’ enthusiasm and relished this win a little more due to its significance on the NASCAR calendar.

“I stayed in the city this week. I got to see how pumped up all the race fans were for the race this weekend,” he said. “There (were) a lot of fans that recognized me throughout the last couple days walking around, wishing me good luck, saying how excited they were to go to the race. That’s what kind of made me feel extra special about this race, is just seeing how excited the fans were to go to a new venue, sort of getting to watch some Cup racing in Nashville.”

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next weekend at Pocono Raceway, which will host a doubleheader on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Race Notes

  • With the series descending upon Nashville for the first time, qualifying was held hours before Sunday’s event. Almirola earned it in No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and used the momentum to nab his first top five of the season.

 

  • Elliott went on to finish 13th but he was disqualified in postrace inspection due to five loose lug nuts that relegated him to last place (39th). His stage win was transferred over to runner-up Kurt Busch, who finished eighth. A fine and crew chief suspension will likely be announced later this week.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney give passing attack much-needed YAC ability

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants offense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2020. The unit averaged a measly 17.5 points per game, ranking 31st in the league. In Jason Garrett’s first season as offensive coordinator of the Giants, he put a disappointing product on the field. New York had a phenomenal defense in 2020, but their putrid offense held the team back from making a serious playoff push.

The Giants recognized this fault and worked hard to correct it in the 2021 offseason. Dave Gettleman and co. invested plenty of resources into the offense by signing playmakers like Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph in free agency. They then doubled down in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, selecting wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

The Giants’ offense was hindered with the loss of its greatest playmaker in 2020, Saquon Barkley. The superstar running back went down with a season-ending ACL injury in Week Two, leaving the Giants without any deadly weapons on offense. The Giants still managed to have a decent rushing attack with Wayne Gallman in the backfield. However, the Giants’ offense severely lacked any receiving threat from the backfield. Now, with Saquon returning to the lineup and the addition of Kadarius Toney to the offense, the Giants have two elite yards-after-catch receiving threats to utilize.

Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney stats and highlights

In his dominant 2018 rookie season, Saquon Barkley led the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,028) en route to winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Saquon was incredible running the football that season, but he was just as impressive in the receiving game. In 2018, Saquon Barkley set a New York Giants franchise record with 91 receptions, the most in a single season by a rookie in the team’s history.

Barkley totaled 91 receptions for 721 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was a major focal point in the Giants’ passing attack. Saquon’s receiving workload decreased in 2019 as he was hampered with injuries. In 2021, he likely will not be asked to catch as many passes with the Giants’ influx in receiving talent, but Saquon will be an X-Factor in the passing game. He provides phenomenal receiving skills out of the backfield and elite tackle-breaking ability after the catch as the Giants’ third or fourth receiving option on the field.

According to Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus, the New York Giants ranked dead last in the league with the fewest yards after the catch per reception in 2020 at 3.0 yards per. Now, with two tackle-breaking machines in the lineup, the Giants’ yards after the catch should improve drastically. In addition to Saquon Barkley’s return to the lineup, Daniel Jones will enjoy the arrival of the human joystick that is Kadarius Toney.

Kadarius Toney forced a missed tackle on 35% of touches since 2018, which was first among the 2021 wide receiver draft class (PFF). Toney forced 32 missed tackles on 80 catches the past two seasons (PFF). The young man from the University of Florida is nearly impossible to bring down. On 177 touches in his collegiate career at UF, Kadarius Toney forced an insane 64 missed tackles (PFF).

Daniel Jones was one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL last season. However, he struggled to gain efficiency in the intermediate portion of the field. Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney are the perfect weapons for Jones to utilize underneath. They are quick, shifty players that can catch the ball and take it to the house on any given play. Expect to see a lot more yards after the catch generated by the Giants’ offense in 2021.

New York Yankees Recap: Gary Sanchez puts the Yankees ahead as they take the A’s series

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

This afternoon the New York Yankees met up with the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx in the rubber game of the three-game series. The A’s won the first game, and yesterday afternoon the Yankees had a comeback win 7-5 to force the rubber game today. Jordan Montgomery faced the A’s Sean Manaea on a sweltering and humid day at the Stadium. The Yankees won the game and took the series 2-1.

In the first inning, Mark Canha faced Montgomery and flew out to Judge in center. Matt Chapman struck out swinging. Then, matt Olson hit a homer all the way into Monument Park in deep center. Ramon Laureano flew out to Andujar in right. At the bottom of the frame against Manaea, DJ LeMahieu ground out directly to second. Aaron Judge struck out swinging. Gary Sanchez continued his hot-hitting ways with a double that split the outfielders. Giancarlo Stanton struck out to end the inning. Oakland A’s 1, Yankees 0.

Jed Lowrie led off the second inning by grounding out to Urshela at third. Chad Pinder ground out back to Montgomery. Sean Murphy went down on strikes for a 1-2-3 inning for Montgomery. At the bottom, Gleyber Torres led off by swinging and missing. Gio Urshela struck out. Miguel Andujar ground out to third for a short inning for both pitchers. A’s 1 Yankees 0.

The third was led off by Elvis Andrus, who popped out to short. Aramis Garcia singled through short. Canha stuck out. Matt Chapman walked. Olson flew out to the wall and Frazier. First baseman Chris Gittens led off the bottom by striking out. Frazier struck out for Manaea’s six strikeout in three innings. LeMahieu split the outfield for a double. Judge struck out stranding LeMahieu at second. A’s 1 Yankees 0.

Laureano led off the fourth grounding to short. Lowrie struck out, and Pinder flew out to Judge at the wall as Montgomery was really settling in. At the bottom, Sanchez popped back to the catcher. Stanton flew out to far-right. Torres struck out in what was fast becoming a pitching duel. Athletics 1 and the Yankees 0.

Murphy flew out to Andujar to start the fifth. Andrus struck out on a change-up. Garcia struck out for Montgomery’s sixth strikeout of the game. In the bottom, Urshela struck out for Manaea’s ninth strikeout. Andujar popped out to third. Gittens struck out. A’s 1 Yankees 0.

The sixth inning was led off by Canha, who walked. Chapman flew out to Judge at the 408′ mark. Olson singled through left. Laureano faced the new Yankees pitcher Jonathan Loaisgia and singled on a reviewed call at first, but Olson was out at second. Lowrie ground out to first to end the half. Clint Frazier led off the bottom by getting the first walk off of Manaea. LeMahieu struck out. Frazier moved to second when a balk was called on Manaea. Aaron Judge walked. Gary Sanchez hit into the gap in right-center, driving both Frazier and Judge with Sanchez moving to third base. With Stanton due up, the A’s went to the bullpen and called in veteran Sergio Romo. Stanton struck out. Torres ground out to third, but the Yankees took the lead in the game. New York Yankees 2 A’s 1.

Tony Kemp pinch-hit to lead off the seventh inning, and he popped out to Urshela in foul territory. Murphy walked on a bad call. Andrus lined back out to Loaisiga. Mitch Moreland pinch hit for Garcia, and he struck out. In the bottom, Urshela struck out. Andujar popped out to right. Gittens flew out to left field. Yankees 2 A’s 1.

The eighth inning was led off by Canha, who faced the new Yankee pitcher Lucas Luetge and he flew out to Tyler Wade in center. Chapman tripled to the left-field wall just beyond Frazier’s glove. Olson struck out. Laureano flew out to Frazier to end the half. At the bottom, Frazier faced Cam Bedrosian and struck out. LeMahieu ground out to short. Judge went down on strikes to keep the game Yankees 2 and the A’s 1.

The A’s lineup faced the Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman, at the top of the ninth inning. Lowrie walked. Kemp walked with no one out. Murphy hit into a triple play, their third of the season for an amazing end of the game as the New York Yankees took the series from the second-best team in baseball. The final score was Yankees 2 and the Oakland A’s 1. The winning pitcher was Jonathan Loaisiga, the loser was Sean Manaea, and Aroldis Chapman got his 16th save of the season.

 

 

New York Yankee Profiles: Catcher Gary Sanchez, rising star?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

There is probably no New York Yankees player that is more controversial than Gary Sanchez; you either love or hate him, according to how you see him. Some see him as a miserable failure as a backstop, and others see him as the most powerful catcher in MLB history. As I see it, neither is entirely true, but I will say his improvement in 2019 was remarkable, defensively even though his hitting was not good. In 2020 he elevated horrible to new heights hitting only .147.

The is no question that Gary Sanchez has been the most maligned New York Yankee player in the last few years, causing many fans to say he should be replaced. Sanchez was once a Yankee star. In 2017 he had 33 home runs, 90 RBI’s, and batted .278. He was an All-Star, MVP candidate, and a Silver Slugger. After that performance, he was projected to be the next big Yankees star.

But, that was not to be; from that point on, his performance in front and behind the plate deteriorated until a low point last season when he hit only .147 and was mostly replaced by backup catcher Kyle Higashioka even in the postseason. No matter how bad he was, the Yankees continued to show their support for the catcher by awarding him a one-year contract, stating that he would be the starting catcher. After a couple of weeks of poor play, he again lost that position, with Higashioka catching Cole and Kluber.

This season up to two weeks ago, there was only marginally better performance as his struggles at the plate continued. But nineteen days ago, a new Gary Sanchez showed up. In his last 19 games, he has hit six home runs, appears far more comfortable at the plate, hitting an improved .229 batting average. He also, in the period, has 7 extra-base hits. Should he continue at this torrid pace, he could become the Yankees’ next big star again.

To know Gary Sanchez, you have to go back to the beginning. On December 2, 1992, Orquidia Herrera gave birth to a baby boy in the Dominican Republic. That boy was Gary Sanchez. His parents separated when he was young, and he, his three brothers, and one sister were raised by their mother and Grandmother, Agustina Pena. There is not a lot known about how Gary started in baseball, but we do know he played in the sandlots of the Dominican Republic and that he was discovered by Mark Newman, who was at the time the head of the Yankees farm system. At the Yankees training facility complex in Boca Chica, a 15-year-old Gary Sanchez impressed him. In a game, Gary, in just four swings, hit a homer to right, then to center, and then to left field.

Yankees sign prospect Gary Sanchez

At the age of seventeen in 2009, the New York Yankees signed Gary as an international free agent, giving him a $3 million signing bonus. After signing, he started playing with the Gulf Coast Yankees, but he was promoted to the Staten Island Yankees a year later. In 2010, he finished the season with a batting average of .329 with 8 home runs and 43 runs batted in and was called one of the best prospects in all of baseball. He started the 2012 season with Charleston but was quickly promoted to the Tampa Yankees and eventually to the Trenton Thunder. in 2015; he was promoted to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders. He got his major league appearance as a pinch hitter on October 3rd, where he went hitless in two at-bats. When the season was over, he played for the Arizona Fall League, leading the league in home runs.

Sanchez competes for starting catcher

During spring training in 2016, Gary competed with Austin Romine for a backup catcher, but Romine won out, and Gary started the season with the Rail Riders. The Yankees again promoted Sánchez to the major leagues on August 3, and he recorded his first major league hit that same day. On August 10, Sánchez went 4-for-5, with his first major league home run and 3 singles. On August 16, Sánchez had his first two home run game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Early in 2017, Gary served his first stint on the DL. Later in the year, he participated in the Home Run Derby, beating out Giancarlo Stanton 17-16 but losing to Miguel Sano.

Yogi Barra held the New York Yankee record for the most home runs by a catcher record until Gary broke it with 33 in September of 2017. That same season he received the Silver Slugger Award and tied for the most passed balls in the majors. In 2018 he was again on the DL and was out for a month. Also, during the year, he was criticized for lack of hustle and more passed balls. After being on the DL twice, Gary played in only 89 games during the year. He finished the year batting .186 and got the award for the most passed balls in majors.

A Gary Sanchez rebirth?

During 2019 he was again criticized for his lack of hustle and more passed balls. But on April 7th Gary hit 3 home runs in the same game, but he quickly found himself on the IL again. After a few weeks, he returned to a stretch of 0-11 at the plate. He then hit the first grand slam of his career against the San Francisco Giants. During a game in July at Target Field, Sanchez again found himself on the IL, this time with a groin strain. He returned to the rotation much sooner than expected and as a different player. No more lack of hustle no more passed balls, and more home runs. The fact is that the trio of Sanchez, Romine, and Higashioka was the most potent catcher trio in the AL.  As the season progressed, he found himself in a home run contest, with Gleyber Torres falling one short of Torre’s 38.

Fast forward to the coronavirus shortened 2020 season. Sanchez managed to stay healthy.  However, he was nothing short of horrible offensively. On the defensive side of the plate, he has 4 passed balls on the season so far.  That equates to roughly 12 in a standard season.  All of last year, in 162 games, he had only 7 passed balls. So, his 2019 defensive improvement has been lost that year. Sanchez has not had an acceptable batting average since 2017.  Last season his batting was just .147, his worst season batting average ever. Many fans thought his batting was like a deer in the headlights, uncomfortable and completely lost.

Gary Sanchez  facts

The facts are this: Sanchez is an average catcher with an accurate bullet of an arm that few base runners should challenge. According to pitchers, he calls an excellent game. He is a catcher that can hit home runs and lots of them when he is hitting. Gary is still young as a backstop and could very well be known in the future as one of the greatest New York Yankee catchers in history, rivaling Yogi and Thurman.  As we watch Gary, we worry about staying healthy and stopping striking out with runners in scoring position.

So, according to which side of the fence you’re on, you either think Gary doesn’t try hard enough, lacks the hustle, and is a failure as a catcher who can’t hit either. Or you think he’s the best thing since sliced bread and a future Yankee great. Even his greatest supporters are continually reexamining their support.

Sanchez lives with his wife Sahaira and their five-year-old daughter Sara in New York, but during the offseason, they love traveling. In the past two seasons, they’ve been to Costa Rica and Peru. Sanchez has often said the birth of his daughter made him realize that he couldn’t squander his opportunity to be a big-league player.

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

Yankees are starting to make up ground in the AL East

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

The New York Yankees are getting hot at the right time. After an extended period of sloppy play that almost took them back to .500, they are streaking at the most opportunistic moment of the season and are finally starting to make up some ground in the AL East standings, where they sit in third place with a 37-33 record, 5.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees earned a hard-fought 7-5 victory against the Oakland Athletics in the second game of the series, after Gio Urshela overcame a bat splinter in his eye to knock a crucial home run.

The A’s had won seven games in a row, but the Yankees ended their streak and made sure they took their fourth victory in their last five contests.

“That was a really exciting game,” Urshela told MLB.com. “We were fighting all day long. We were losing and then we came back. It doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing; we always stay positive, doing the right things. It’s going to help us a lot, and today we showed that.”

The Yankees dodged a bullet with Urshela’s eye

Yankees’ manager considered removing Urshela from the game after the piece of a shattered bat landed in his eye, which was later flushed.

“It was a scary moment initially, but he was OK,” Boone said. “Gio’s always been a guy that, in the biggest spots, you love him up there. You love the ball hit to him. I think he’s a really good player that’s confident in his ability. He always surprises you with how good his power is, especially to straightaway center field.”

The Yankees are playing with a chip on their shoulder, and have taken advantage of Tampa’s five-game losing streak to come closer in the standings.

“I think there’s a lot of guys playing with a chip on their shoulder,” said Clint Frazier, who hit two doubles yesterday. “I think we prevail whenever we have a little bit of pressure on us. It has not been super easy, and right now things are going good.”

“We’re getting hot at the right time,” Frazier said. “We’re a really good team, and we’ve got to perform that way.”

Knicks: What does the future hold for Obi Toppin?

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

When the New York Knicks drafted Obi Toppin with the 8th overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, they saw a potential starting power forward who could replace Julius Randle if need be. However, their cautious approach backfired, as Randle had one of the best seasons in Knicks’ history and won the Most Improved Player award.

However, despite Randle’s dominance, Toppin struggled to find his footing at the NBA level, connecting on .306 of his three-point attempts and recorded a .731 free-throw percentage. There’s no question that Toppin has plenty to work on moving forward, but he has the work ethic to get it done. Having been overshadowed by Immanuel Quickley during the 2020-21 season, the Knicks’ 25th overall pick, there’s no doubt the Dayton product could bounce back with major development this summer.

Toppin finished the season averaging 4.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and shot .498% from the field over 11 minutes of action. Ultimately, with Randle playing so well, the Knicks could not give the rookie PF as much playing time as they desired.

At 22 years old, they will look to get him more involved in the future, even if it means playing both Toppin and Randle at the same time. Worst case scenario, Obi ends up complementing Julius off the bench and offering an adequate player to fill the power forward spot in case of injury or fatigue.

One major positive for Toppin was his postseason performance, where he elevated the team at times, averaging 6.4 points per game, more than his regular-season average.

There is the possibility that Toppin could find himself in an awkward position as the Knicks look to acquire a star player this off-season via trade. Toppin could very well be a part of the equation, considering they have Randle and are expected to offer him a max contract. Nonetheless, I believe they are committed to the Brooklyn native for the time being.

There is an interesting combination of players that could maximize the Knicks’ roster, but they desperately need a star point guard to help unlock the potential of their current players. A front-court combo of Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and Toppin would establish an exciting trio, but they need a PG with elite court vision to feed them the ball in good positions.

The most exciting part about Toppin was witnessing his shot efficiency and comfort on the floor increase as the season went on. Despite having minimal minutes to operate with, he experienced tremendous growth, and Toppin is not the type to sit quietly and ignore his craft. He will participate in this Summer League to improve his skills and work alongside Quickley and Luca Vildoza, who the Knicks signed to a four-year contract this off-season.

There is a reason to be confident in Obi and his growth, and this off-season could end up being a tremendous opportunity for him to work his way into the starting team, but it is entirely dependent on his shooting prowess and efficiency as a defender — we all know how much Thibs loves him some defense.

Do you think Obi Toppin will be starting by next season? Comment below! 

Yankees News, 6/20: Great Luke Voit injury news, Luis Severino dodges bullet

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

The New York Yankees have won four of their last five games, extracting a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday by a score of 7-5. The Yankees posted 11 hits, striking out seven times, but saw consistent offense for a change.

The Athletics are a superior team at the moment, sitting 44-20 on the season, but the Yankees have crawled back of the AL East race with their most recent “W.” Thanks to another Gary Sanchez home run and a dominant performance by Gio Urshela, the Bombers are 5.5 games back from the Boston Red Sox and five games back from the Tampa Bay Rays. They are well within reach of inserting themselves right back into the playoff picture, but they need to remain consistent and string together a few wins over quality teams.

The Yankees are waiting on big-time reinforcements:

Luckily, the Yankees have support on the way, as starting first baseman Luke Voit is working his way back from a right oblique strain he suffered on May 26. The 30-year-old has been dominant with the Somerset Patriots, going 3-for-4 with a home run, double, and three RBIs on Friday.

Voit is working his way back quickly, but he must remain healthy once he finally returns to the top team. He’s only enjoyed 12 games this year with the Yankees, recording a .182 average and one home run over 50 at-bats.

In addition, the Yankees also received good news regarding starting pitcher Luis Severino, who has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery last year or so. He suffered a grade 2 groin strain two weeks ago in Brooklyn during a minor-league assignment.

The Yankees are excited to return Severino after two years of dealing with an injury, and luckily the groin strain won’t keep him out for a considerable amount of time.

Severino has already begun throwing just a week after the injury, and was playing catch before the Yankees’ game against Oakland. Traditionally, a groin strain of this nature can take 3 to 6 weeks to heal fully. Realistically, Severino will likely see his return date pushed back a month or so, which could’ve been much worse considering how bad the injury looked in the first place.

New York Yankees: 3 Major takeaways from Yankees win over the Athletics

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Last night the New York Yankees had a gutsy comeback win over the Oakland Athletics. They won the game 7-5 in one of the most exciting games of the season. After four and a half innings, the Yankees were behind 4-0. After that, they clawed their way all the way back for a win in the eighth inning. What made this game so exciting was not only a comeback, but it was a total team effort. It was a win that broke the backs of the A’s, breaking their seven-game winning streak.

A pitching saga unfolded

Domingo German started yesterday’s matinee game for the Yankees after a disastrous start back on June 13, when he gave up seven runs in just 4.1 innings. For the second game in a row German was ineffective, giving up four runs in as many innings. German has been the Yankee’s second-best starter this season, but he didn’t have it in the last two starts as he continued to give up home runs. He gave up two home runs, walked two, and struck out 6 in his four innings of work.

But the pitching story yesterday was not about German; it was about the gutsy performance of Nestor Cortes Jr., who stopped the bleeding and kept the Yankees in the game. He, without a doubt, was the unsung hero of the game. Without his effort, the Yankees couldn’t have come back in the game.

After Matt Olson singled, driving in two more A’s runs in the fifth, German was pulled from the game. With men on the corners and no outs, new pitcher Nestor Cortes faced pinch hitter Laureano, who struck out, Chapman also struck out. Murphy flew out as Cortes limited the damage. He would continue to pitch for three scoreless innings, only allowing one hit and giving the Yankees time to come back for that win.

Yankees come alive with 11 hits

The New York Yankees couldn’t do much against the A’s starter Chris Bassitt. Once they got into the bullpen, the Yankees came alive with 11 hits. They got two runs off of Burch Smith and three runs off of Jesus Luzardo, who took the loss in the game. The Yankees’ power started when Gary Sanchez homered in the sixth that knocked starter Bassitt out of the game. Gio Urshela got his 9th homer of the season in the eighth, winning the game for the Yankees.

As I said earlier, it was a team effort. Clint Frazier got two doubles in the game. Judge, LeMahieu, Stanton, and Urshela all had RBI’s. After Nestor Cortes Jr.’s stellar performance, Chad Green came in and pitched a scoreless inning striking out all three batters he faced, paving the way for Aroldis Chapman’s save.

Is Gary Sanchez becoming a Yankee star again?

The is no question that Gary Sanchez has been the most maligned New York Yankee player in the last few years, causing many fans to say he should be replaced. Sanchez was once a Yankee star. In 2017 he had 33 home runs, 90 RBI’s, and batted .278. He was an All-Star, MVP candidate, and a Silver Slugger. After that performance, he was projected to be the next big Yankees star.

But, that was not to be; from that point on, his performance in front and behind the plate deteriorated until a low point last season when he hit only .147 and was mostly replaced by backup catcher Kyle Higashioka even in the postseason. No matter how bad he was, the Yankees continued to show their support for the catcher by awarding him a one-year contract, stating that he would be the starting catcher. After a couple of weeks of poor play, he again lost that position, with Higashioka catching Cole and Kluber.

This season up to two weeks ago, there was only marginally better performance as his struggles at the plate continued. But nineteen days ago, a new Gary Sanchez showed up. In his last 19 games, he has hit six home runs, appears far more comfortable at the plate, hitting an improved .229 batting average. He also, in the period, has 7 extra-base hits. Should he continue at this torrid pace, he could become the Yankees’ next big star again.

 

Why the Knicks will likely trade away their draft selections, but for who?

new york knicks, immanuel quickley, obi toppin

The New York Knicks have an interesting decision to make during the 2021 NBA draft. Luckily, they won’t be partaking in the lottery, which could be seen as a negative, but it does indicate one major positive, the Knicks have finally dragged themselves out of the dungeon they’ve been living in the past decade or so.

New York is as attractive a destination as any in the NBA, and with the team capable of making the postseason and putting forth quality performances, drawing the attention of star players will be easier than ever. However, the Knicks have to figure out what they want to do with their draft selections, as walking into the 2021-22 season with three new rookies doesn’t exactly indicate a desire to win now.

The Knicks have the number 19, 21, and 32 overall picks, which provides them two first-rounders and a second-round selection. Considering they added two players last year in Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, the organization should be looking to allocate their draft picks toward acquiring one established player instead of multiple developmental projects that likely won’t make an impact in their first year.

According to Ian Begley of SNY:

That’s a question some agents with players in New York’s range are asking. They don’t see the Knicks keeping all of their early picks (**No. 19, No. 21, No. 32).

Several opposing teams with picks near New York’s feel the same way.

“I can’t see them carrying three rookies on the roster (next year),” a member of an opposing organization said this week.

Clearly, there’s a belief around the NBA the Knicks won’t be sticking with their draft selections, based on Tom Thibodeau’s desire to put together a winning team rather than develop youngsters.

Of course, there is the possibility President Leon Rose decides to package the picks together and move up in the first round, adding just a singular player instead of looking to allocate their draft assets in a trade.

However, there are multiple players worthy of being acquired via trade, including Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, and more. The more beneficial route might be spending their $60+ million in free agency and packaging their selections to move up as high as possible to acquire a high-upside first-round pick.

What would you prefer the New York Knicks do? Trade their draft picks for a player or package them to move up in the first round?

New York Giants: One young corner could end up being a building block for the future

aaron robinson, new york giants

Nobody anticipated the New York Giants spending so much of their resources on the secondary this off-season. Ranging from the signing of Adoree  Jackson on a three-year, $39 million deal to spending multiple draft picks on corners, they have completely upgraded a unit that performed well in 2020 despite deficiencies.

Having gone through a rotation at CB2, finally landing on Isaac Yiadom, who opposing teams picked on throughout the campaign, they decided they needed a corner who could thrive in press, man coverage. That corner is Jackson, a former Tennessee Titan who represents an aggressive style defender that can match up again speedy and more shifty receivers.

However, the Giants also added a nickel option in UCF stand-out Aaron Robinson. Robinson will compete with second-year player out of UCLA, Darnay Holmes, for the starting slot corner job.

Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report believes Robinson can develop into a solid starter:

With most of the team’s early 2019 and 2020 picks also expected to be big factors as the Giants wrap up a rebuild, that leaves cornerback Aaron Robinson as the one to watch for the future.

The UCF product will likely have to compete with sophomore fourth-round selection Darnay Holmes for a slot role in support of presumed starters James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson, both of whom make big money.

The smooth and physical Robinson has the length and instincts to turn into a strong starter, but rookie corners almost always need time, and he lacks the speed to compensate for the work he’ll have to do early on.

Robinson is another aggressive corner who plays tough man coverage. With Patrick Graham going in a different route compared to his 2020 scheme, we should expect to see more cover-1 and cover-0, relying on heavier blitz packages and more man coverage.

The Giants traded up in the third round to snag Robinson, who the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys eyed. The 5’11”, 186 pound senior had a round-2 projection by NFL.com. They noted his strengths as a combination of size and speed as a nickel. He has an effective punch when given the greenlight to press and adequate foot quickness and agility. His weaknesses remain diagnosing routes and having top-end speed.

Given the role he will play, the Giants might’ve landed themselves a day one impact player in the secondary, and providing competition for Holmes can only bring out the best of both players.

There is a very good chance the Giants have one of the best defenses in football after bolstering the secondary and pass rush this off-season. Hopefully, Robinson will have a successful career with Big Blue, as they look for athletes with tremendous upside that can also make an immediate impact.