Mets get swept in Philadelphia; star urges fans to believe in the team

mets, pete alonso

Former New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, now with the Philadelphia Phillies was just too much to handle for a struggling team that has lost four straight games and fallen all the way to third place in the NL East standings, a division that they led for nearly three months before giving up the top spot last week.

The Mets were swept by the Phillies in Philadelphia and are now 56-55, dangerously close to being a sub-.500 team. They are now 2.5 games behind the division-leading Phillies and half a game behind the second-place Atlanta Braves.

Yesterday, the Mets had no answer for Wheeler’s stuff. They could only muster two hits and one walk all day, throwing Taijuan Walker’s quality start to waste.

Wheeler threw a complete game shutout by using only 108 pitches all day. He gave up the two hits and the walk while striking out 11 Mets hitters. At times, he made it look easy, and that’s in part because of his talent and also because the Mets’ offense isn’t really threatening these days.

Mets’ slugger is confident the team will get over the speed bump

But Pete Alonso, one of the faces of the franchise, is urging fans to believe in this team.

“Mets fans, believe in us,” Alonso said to MLB.com. “And don’t just believe. Know. Because there’s tough times not just in baseball, but in life in general. Know that this is just a speed bump and a challenge. And also, smile. You get to watch baseball. It’s a game. I know we have the most passionate fan base in baseball. I know that. And I understand that it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for us. But just understand that we’re here together. We’re all in this together, and we’ve got this. We’ve got this. Just smile and know that we’ve got this.”

The Mets have dropped nine of its last 11 games and have ceded 6 1/2 games in the National League East standings.

“We believe that we can do this,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We trust that we can still do this.”

“We’ve still got to keep being positive,” Walker said. “We’re going through a little rough patch right now, but it happens. This is a long season. There’s still plenty of ballgames left to go. I think we’re going to catch fire, and it’s going to be at the right time.”

Yankees’ Luis Gil does it again, Luke Voit ‘frustrated’ over Anthony Rizzo trade

luis gil, yankees

When Luis Gil stepped on the mound for the first time in the major leagues last week, the New York Yankees didn’t anticipate him completely dominating the opposition. In his first outing, Gil struck out six batters and allowed four hits over 6.0 innings. He didn’t give up a single run over 88 pitches, displaying a fantastic performance that earned him another opportunity on Sunday afternoon.

Despite the Yankees falling to the Seattle Mariners 0-2, Gil posted another fantastic performance. Over 5.0 innings, he allowed two hits and struck out eight batters, but unfortunately the offense couldn’t pick him up.

On the season, Gil hosts a 0.00 ERA, including an 11.45 strike-out rate and 2.45 walk rate. His left on-base percentage sits at a beautiful 100%, averaging 96 mph with his fastball. Gil seems to be possessed on the mound as of late, as he struggled at times in Triple-A with Scranton, posting a 5.64 ERA over eight games.

He’s quickly working his way into the starting rotation, especially with Luis Severino, Corey Kluber, and Gerrit Cole all missing time currently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gil on the mound at the end of the week, looking to put forth another stellar outing.

Yankees’ Luke Voit displays “frustration” as he fields questions regarding Anthony Rizzo acquisition:

When the Yankees acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs, one player was thrown under the bus, Luke Voit.

Voit has been a reliable player for the Bombers the past few seasons, especially in 2020 when he cracked a league-high 22 homers. However, he’s only played 30 games this year. The Yankees felt it necessary to supplement his loss with an offensive weapon.

While Voit was frustrated answering questions regarding the trade to reporters after the loss on Sunday, also mentioning the rumors that suggested he would be traded shortly after.

“After the Rizzo thing … my name was getting thrown out there a lot,” Voit said. “As much as you can watch (the trade rumors), you have no idea. With all the rumblings and stuff, it was more I left my phone on the table and if something happened, it happened. Luckily, I’m still a New York Yankee.”

Voit understands the Yankees had to make a move, and Rizzo has been a godsend for the team since his acquisition. Of course, Luke feels as though he earned the opportunity to be the starter, but injuries force teams to make necessary moves at times.

“I get it,” Voit said. “I haven’t been around a lot this year. I guess the right opportunity came up for the front office to do something. I’ve played 20-some games this year.”

Voit made it clear that he will be playing for 29 other teams this year, trying to prove his worth and why acquiring him would be a positive move. However, Rizzo is in the final year of his contract, so it is entirely possible the Yankees allow him to walk and keep Voit as their primary first baseman.

How can Knicks’ Obi Toppin take his game to the next level? | Solid Summer League performance brews optimism

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

When the New York Knicks drafted Obi Toppin 8th overall out of Dayton last year, they knew they were getting a player with a relentless mentality toward improvement. Toppin had an underwhelming rookie campaign last season, despite the Knicks landing the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Over 62 games, Toppin averaged 11 minutes on the floor, posting 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds. He shot 50% from the field and 30% from range, showing issues on both sides of his game. He was a defensive liability at times, and his failure to make an impact on offense stood out. However, he looked far more comfortable during the postseason, ironically. In Game 4 against the Atlanta Hawks, he shot 62% from the field, scoring 13 points.

Toppin thrives in transition, and the Knicks simply didn’t have the point guard to help him in that category. Derrick Rose doesn’t have the legs anymore to continuously get down the court fast enough, and Elfrid Payton was a liability in almost every way.

If Toppin wants to take his game to the next level, the Knicks need to play to his strengths. During the team’s first Summer League game of the year, Toppin recorded 24 points over 37 minutes of play. He shot 10-of-21 from the field and 2-of-10 from downtown. He was a menace around the rim, finishing with ease and showcasing some of his exciting athleticism that lead the Knicks to select him in the lottery last year.

While Toppin’s impact during the regular season didn’t live up to expectations, he’s confident the team is going to take a big step forward this upcoming year.

Earlier this off-season, Toppin stated, “the work that, not only myself, but the other guys is putting in… We are going to make it far in the playoffs next year.”

Adding Evan Fournier to replace Reggie Bullock and Kemba Walker to replace Payton, the team has a lot more offensive weaponry to work with. Their acquisitions should open things up for Toppin, as defenses simply hyper-focused on Julius Randle and crowded the rim. With better shooters on the perimeter, defenders will have to spread the floor, which will open up the transition game, and pick-and-rolls for Toppin, who will benefit from an entire year with good point guard play.

Report: Giants’ Saquon Barkley being activated off PUP list, eyeing Week 1 return

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

Ever since the New York Giants lost Saquon Barkley in 2020 during a Week 2 regular-season game against the Chicago Bears, they’ve been waiting patiently for his return. Rehabilitating during the off-season, Barkley tore his ACL, MCL, and partially tore his meniscus.

An injury of this magnitude requires time and hard work to recover from, but he’s expected to make it 100% return this upcoming season. The Giants gained a bit of good news on Monday morning.

According to Paul Schwartz of the NY Post, star running back Saquon Barkley is preparing to rejoin the team from the PUP list this week.

Big Blue is hoping that Barkley can reach his rookie statistics, totaling over 2000 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. Recording 121 targets in the receiving game, including 91 receptions, Barkley is not only a force on the ground, but through the air as well. The attention he commands from opposing defenses opens up the rest of the offense for players like Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to dominate their matchups.

The last time Barkley had himself a WR1 to work with was during his rookie campaign when Odell Beckham Jr. roamed the field. While Golladay offers an entirely different style of player, thriving in possession and red zone situations, the results should be the same. Barkley forces defenses to stack the box, which ultimately takes a player out of deep coverage.

With one less safety to deal with, Golladay has more room to roam in deeper portions of the field where he can use his long frame and physical presence to overwhelm defensive backs.

The impact Saquon Barkley will have on the New York Giants is huge:

However, Barkley will also be a tremendous help to quarterback Daniel Jones, who was overrun by pass rushers last season. With an extra linebacker or safety in the box at the second level, that’ll be one less pass rusher Jones has to account for.

The expectation for the young running back is that he will be available for the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Denver Broncos, barring any setbacks. Head coach Joe Judge indicated they would be having daily conversations regarding his rehab and making sure he’s on pace to make an impact his upcoming year. It’s all about daily progress instead of a timetable for return, Joe mentioned.

Barkley has been rather skeptical about his comeback this off-season, but to no one’s surprise, he’s making fantastic progress and should be ready to go in a few weeks.

New York Yankees: 3 major takeaways from Sunday’s play

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

After winning the first three games of a four-game set, the New York Yankees went into yesterday’s game hoping for the sweep. Unfortunately, it was not to be had as the Mariners pitchers limited the Yankee hitter to just six insignificant hits as they remained scoreless in the game. The final score was the Mariners 2, Yankees 0. With yesterday’s win by the Rays over the Orioles and the Yankees loss, they are now 6.5 games behind those Rays in the AL East.

Gil continues as Yankees best pitcher

Luis Gil is a young man who has dreamed of being a major league pitcher. But, due to the Yankee’s shortage of starting pitchers, because of injury and Covid and his own pitching prowess in the minor leagues, last week, he got his chance. Last week in his major league debut, he pitched six scoreless innings. Then, in yesterday’s matinee against the Seattle Mariners, he got his second start.

Although not as sharp as in his first start, he matched the Mariners Yusei Kikuchi with five scoreless innings. In fact, he was better than Kukuchi with fewer hits and more strikeouts. He went five giving up two hits while striking out eight Mariners.  In his first two games, he has pitched 11 scoreless innings making him the best Yankees pitcher over the span. In the process, he became the Yankee’s first pitcher to do that since “Slow Joe” (Judd Bruce Doyle) in 1947.

Yankees struggle with men on base

Even though the New York Yankees have played good baseball during the last few weeks, one remainder of the first has continued to raise its ugly head. The Yankees are leaving men stranded, denying them of scoring more runs. In yesterday’s shutout by the Mariners, the Yankees went 0 for 11 with men in scoring position.

Only Gleyber Torres got an extra-base hit, a double. Torres also stole his12th base of the season; he also went 3 for 4, being the Yankee’s best player of the day. Other less desirable stats include Aaron Judge, the returning Luke Voit, and Kyle Higashioka, all going 0 for 4.

If there is a single reason the Yankees don’t get a postseason berth, it will be that they don’t lift the ball out of the infield. This causes them to lead baseball hitting into the most double plays. It also causes them to hit the second-fewest extra-base hits.

Severino is perfect in rehab start

It’s no secret that the Yankees have been playing great ball, even missing several key players and pitchers. But help is on the way. General Manager Brian Cashman stated that Corey Kluber and Luis Severino would be back into the fold sometime between August 20 and September 1st.

Yesterday with the Somerset Patriots, Luis Severino came one step closer to that return. On Sunday evening, he pitched four flawless frames for the Double-A Somerset Patriots, retiring all 12 batters he faced in order. As a result, the game ended up a no-hitter for the Patriots. However, a walk in the ninth inning prevented it from being a perfect game. Nevertheless, it was the first no-hitter in the Patriot’s history. Severino threw 48 pitches in four innings for the combined no-hitter.

Did the Knicks land a steal in Jericho Sims? | Texas product dominates in first Summer League game

jericho sims, knicks

It wasn’t until late in the draft that the New York Knicks landed Texas big man Jericho Sims, who signed a two-way deal early on Sunday before posting an eye-opening performance in his NBA debut during the 2021 Summer League.

Sims can compete in a maximum of 50 NBA games this upcoming season on his new contract. However, the team might be looking to offer him a longer deal if he continues dominating in the paint and showcasing incredible athleticism.

In the loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Sims played nearly 22 minutes. During his time on the floor, he connected on six field goals, hitting 100% of his shots. He also posted six defensive rebounds, two offensive rebounds, and one block, making him the only Knick to have a positive +/-.

Surprisingly, he dominated the game, at one point landing a beautiful alley-oop from Immanuel Quickley in which he seemed to levitate above the rim before slamming it down on the defender’s head.

“Jericho, man, does he jump really high,’’ fellow dunker Obi Toppin said. “Jericho is a sponge and loves to learn and get better. He’s going to be a really good player.’’

At 6’10”, Sims electrified the team, scoring 12 points. While the entire team shot just 37%, his success elevated that number. He is known as a classic defensive specialist but also has bouncy athleticism that could translate well in the transition game at the NBA level.

Last year with Texas, Sims averaged 9.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. He also connected on 70% of his shots, making him a traditional big man that dominates around the rim.

Sims indicated the Knicks simply want him to be a “rim runner,” hovering in the paint and taking advantage of good point guard play.

“That’s what they had planned for me,’’ Sims said of his contract. “Right now. I can do other things, but [rim-runner] is what they want me to do right now.’’

The majority of scouts coined him a defensive weapon, but it was quite clear he can also contribute offensively, especially when the defense breaks down. The Knicks have a ton of quality shooters who will force defenses to spread the floor, opening up the pick-and-roll game for athletic big men like Jericho.

If he continues performing like this, he could find himself sitting on the bench to open the year, but it would take a tremendous Summer League display to put him in a position of leverage.

Giants’ wide receiver core shaping up to be an all-out battle for roster spots

david sills, new york giants

Last season, New York Giants receiver John Ross might’ve been starting Week 1, but now he’s simply fighting for a roster spot at the back-end of the unit. A lot has happened over the past few months. The Giants bolstered the offense, adding Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to the WR corps.

With only two spots left for the taking, several receivers are gunning for a chance to land on the 53 man active roster. It’s coming down to Ross, Dante Pettis, David Sills, Austin Mack, and CJ Board.

Ross, Sills, and Board have looked the best thus far during camp, but with only two of the three having real NFL experience, the Giants have a tough decision to make with Sills, who is a traditional wideout dominating in the red zone during specific drills.

The former West Virginia standout has five touchdowns during training camp, the most of any receiver up to this point. He has looked great with his route running and creating separation, including solid vertical hops to leap over defenders.

Head coach Joe Judge raved about Sills, who’s making a strong case for a roster spot:

“Sills is a guy who does everything you ask and he does it 100 percent,” head coach Joe Judge told reporters on Friday. “He’s definitely a guy you’ve got to tell, ‘Hey, slow it down a little bit.’ This guy’s commitment off the field in terms of what he’s done in the offseason, basically this guy followed Daniel around the country. Wherever Daniel was, he was going to be there to catch passes. That’s someone who you can tell has really invested in himself to give every shot he has.

The issue here is that both Ross and Board are capable of featuring on special teams. Board is a starting punt gunner and average receiver. That is enough for him to land a roster spot. With only one remaining, Ross is also capable of being a kick returner but has plenty of competition in the category, with Jabrill Peppers and Kadarius Toney taking reps.

Ross has two avenues to securing a roster spot: either he can flash talent as a punt returner during preseason or he can make an impact as a gadget player with jet motions and pre-snap movement.

If the Giants feel as though they can deploy him in unique ways, different than a traditional receiver like Sills, he could provide more value. The team would likely place Sills on the practice squad anyway, but that would enable an alternative team to snag him.

Based on Board’s ability as a gunner, I believe he has a spot locked down, but with Pettis missing time the past few days due to an injury, he has fallen behind in the race. It is quite intriguing to see so much talent fighting for backend positions. Pettis not making the roster should attest to how strong the wide receiver unit looks this season.

What are realistic expectations for the 2021 New York Jets?

The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team over the past eight months. But are they a playoff team? ESM’s experts discuss.

The 2020 New York Jets left the franchise’s immediate and long-term future in a rare state of optimistically macabre: after the Jets sunk to the depths of the football underworld…plummeting to dubious valleys that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid…any move the team made in the offseason could’ve been seen as an improvement.

With both the Stanley Cup and Larry O’Brien Trophy…not to mention every medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo…earned and bestowed, it’s officially socially acceptable to start forecasting the 2021 NFL season. The metropolitan arrivals of so many elite new faces, of both the rookie (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore) and veteran (Carl Lawson, Corey Davis) variety have gotten fans excited, as has the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh.

But the ultimate question lingers: after a two-win season and now ensnared in the NFL’s longest active playoff, just how much improvement will the Jets show in the one place it matters…the standings, namely the win column?

ESM’s Jets experts ponder this quandary as the preseason opener against the New York Giants looms on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC)…

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Magliocchetti

To take a page out of another New York sports decisionmaker Brian Cashman, let’s view Joe Douglas’ New York Jets from the perspective of the Death Star.

Ignoring the fact that the Star Wars-based superweapon is destroyed in each of its incarnations, Douglas does have a Death Star at his disposal. But it’s not the behemoth seen in A New Hope (and, by extension, Rogue One), nor is it the partially constructed but “fully armed and operational battle station” from Return of the Jedi. Rather, the Jets’ Death Star resembles the infantile version Vader and Palpatine look over at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

The Jets began this offseason with the hiring of head coach Saleh. In contrast to the Adam Gase hire, a transaction praised exclusively by modern hot take artists, the Saleh move was lauded by on-field participants both domestically and abroad. New York was and is by no means a football destination yet…one needs to establish a victorious on-field prescience before they become that…but the Jets were able to attract several names with championship experience, winners that were attracted to what Saleh was trying to build.

Douglas and Co. could’ve stood pat on the pass rush, a rare 2020 silver lining after the breakouts of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. They instead bolstered the unit by bringing in rising pressure artist Lawson and NFC postseason staples Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry. Elsewhere on defense, they prepared for Saleh’s reimplementation of the 4-3 with the arrival of linebacker Jarrad Davis, whose finest defensive days came in Florida and Detroit’s similar formations.

On offense, newly minted quarterback Zach Wilson’s arsenal appears to contain more firepower than anything Sam Darnold had to work with. Two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is ready to work with potential day three draft gem Michael Carter in the backfield, while the upgraded aerial attack features Davis and Moore uniting with returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims. Mekhi Becton returns on the line with Alijah Vera-Tucker on Wilson’s blindside.

Yet…the playoffs remain a pipe dream.

The AFC East already appears to be under the control of a new potential dynasty in Western New York, so capturing the quartet for the first time since 2002 appears to be out of the question. The North could well send three teams to the postseason, while the West’s mighty Kansas City Chiefs show no signs of slowing down, even with the Los Angeles Chargers rising fast with Justin Herbert. Even with an extra playoff spot, it’s asking a lot for the Jets to establish themselves in the crowded conference.

Even if the AFC wasn’t packed to the brim with contenders, the Jets aren’t fully completed just yet. There were so many holes so fill, so much damage to repair from the Gase era that it was a guarantee that some area of the roster was going to be neglected. One look at the current depth chart shows that the secondary got the raw deal, as inexperienced options like Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, and Bryce Hall are set to assume primary roles. On offense, there are plenty of players that can become major contributors (Carter, Moore, Davis), but they lack the experience in the primetime situations they’ve been called upon.

Until Saleh’s group proves otherwise on the field, their dire straits are more indicative of just how poorly the Gase era went. Gase might be gone, but the dark spirits of his tenure will linger over the Jets’ facilities until the fruits of Saleh’s process appear in the win column. A good season in 2021 would be to at least double the two-win tally from last season and perhaps earn an upset win over an elite opponent, a similar process to what the Chargers went through last year with Herbert.

Record Prediction: 6-11

new york jets, zach wilson
Mandatory Credit: New York Jets/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Carpenter

The New York Jets have a lot of hype leading into the season and for good reason: rookies Wilson and Moore highlight a revamped offense. Lawson adds a much-needed pass rush to a defense that needs it with unproven corners.

The Jets, however, are not a playoff team just yet. Aside from their own play, they find themselves in an increasingly brutal AFC East. Each team is improving, but, at the moment, Gang Green finds themselves behind Buffalo and, most likely, either New England or Miami…maybe even both.

Yes, the future is bright and fans should be excited. All of the excitement should be taken with a grain of salt, though. There need to be reasonable expectations for this season. So, realistically, look for this team to win about 6 games of the newly-implemented 17 game schedule.

Record Prediction: 6-11

carl lawson, new york jets
(Photo: Getty)

Dylan Price

As the Jets head into a season filled with promise, I want to make one thing clear before I begin: I do NOT expect the New York Jets to make the playoffs.

I expect the team to take a significant step up and approach the 7-9 win territory. With that said, I foresee hiccups along the way: Wilson will likely experience significant growing pains early as he leaves Brigham Young University and acclimates to the bright lights of Broadway. I firmly expect struggles from both sides of the ball early as they look to establish a new identity under a new coaching staff. Lastly, I have a bad feeling about the secondary, but guys like Hall and Michael Carter II will likely get better as the season progresses.

On a lighter note, I foresee a strong debut in green and white for Lawson, Rankins, and Davis. Lawson is a legitimate threat to finish in the top ten in sacks, while Rankins and Davis will likely be impact contributors if they can stay healthy. Finally, look for rookies, Michael Carter (the running back) and Alijah Vera-Tucker to make names for themselves early, although the story will be Moore, the budding star receiver.

Record Prediction: 7-10

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags