Rojas Mismanages Pitching Staff and Mets Hit Into Five DPs in 3-2 Loss

edwin diaz, mets

Absolutely nothing has come easy for the New York Mets over the last two weeks against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. When things finally did for them, manager Luis Rojas found a way to complicate things once again. The Mets offense also continued their season-long woes by hitting five double plays in the 3-2 loss.

Taijuan Walker cruised through the first six innings of the game, allowing just one hit and run on a Kris Bryant home run. After the Mets gave Walker a lead for the seventh, an error and bloop single set up runners at first and second. Despite having 74 pitches and showing no signs of fatigue, Rojas turned to Aaron Loup, and it backfired instantly. Brandon Crawford jumped all over the first pitch for a double and gave the Giants a 3-2 lead.

Rojas Losing His Touch

The issue is not who Rojas turned to but when he turned to Loup. Walker felt like this was his game to lose and certainly pitched well enough to deserve the opportunity to work out of the mess. This season, Loup has been the Mets’ best reliever, and the move is probably overlooked if he does not have a rare rough outing. He was the right reliever to turn to, but it was definitely the wrong time to pull Walker. The aftermath was visible frustration from Walker on the mound and in the dugout along with “Fire Rojas”.

The Mets had some life in a very bizarre ninth inning, including Brandon Belt dropping a pop-up in foul territory and the Giants’ miscommunication in the outfield leading to a dropped fly ball. It led to runners on first and second with Francisco Lindor at the plate, but he popped up for the second out of the inning. Brandon Nimmo worked a gutsy walk to set up a bases-loaded situation for Pete Alonso. Unfortunately, the disappointment continued as Alonso blooped a fastball into Tommy La Stella‘s glove to end the game.

The offense actually had two hits in seven chances with runners in scoring position, but the five double plays killed the Mets scoring chances. Rojas decision was the exact type of panic move we saw him make last season and the Mickey Callaway regime make as well. This has to be the nail in the coffin for anyone who had hope in the Mets making a run. It would not be surprising if Rojas also lost his job before this weekend’s series.

Carlos Carrasco looks to build on his solid start against the Dodgers as he faces off against Alex Wood. The first pitch for Thursday’s finale is set for 7:10 p.m. ET from Citi Field.

New York Liberty: Three stars from Wednesday’s loss vs. Phoenix

Despite further energy from DiDi Richards, the New York Liberty couldn’t overcome a garish first quarter on Wednesday night against Phoenix.

On a night where the New York Liberty honored one of the most accomplished sharpshooters in franchise history, their visitors came ready for the occasion.

Three members of the Phoenix Mercury cross the 20-point plateau (paced by 27 from Skylar Diggins-Smith) while Brianna Turner (10 points, 12 rebounds) earned her third double-double over the last four games. Their antics paced a 35-19 first quarter advantage, which was enough to power the Mercury to a 106-79 victory over the Liberty on Wednesday night at Barclays Center. Their visit coincided with the Liberty’s induction of Crystal Robinson, the franchise’s all-time leader in three-pointers (400), into their Ring of Honor.

Phoenix (14-10) has now won five in a row to move into fifth place on the WNBA playoff bracket. The Liberty (11-15) have dropped four of their first five in the post-Olympic slate. A chance for redemption awaits on Friday night in a rematch with the Mercury (8 p.m. ET, CBSSN).

Brittney Griner had 26 points for the Mercury but left the game with a late injury that required assistance from trainers to leave the floor. Wednesday also marked a homecoming showcase for Kia Nurse, the Liberty first-round pick from 2018. Nurse earned six points after being dealt from New York to the desert in the multi-team deal that brought Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb to Brooklyn.

ESM has three silver linings from this latest defeat.

3rd Star: Bec Allen

12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists

1st Star: DiDi Richards

14 points, 3 rebounds

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

After defeating Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 34, what’s next for Jared Cannonier?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 34, we saw a big time matchup in the middleweight division headline the card. Jared Cannonier (14-5) was taking on former Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum (17-8, 1 NC).

Both men entered the contest with a lot to prove. Gastelum was at the top of the division just a couple of years ago but he’s recently fallen on hard times. The former TUF winner was entering Saturday just 1-4 in his last five.

Jared Cannonier was looking to get back into the UFC title picture himself. Last year, Cannonier was being called out by Israel Adesanya. However, before Cannonier could get a UFC title shot against Adesanya, he had to defeat former champion Robert Whittaker.

Cannonier ultimately came up short against Whittaker and never got that shot at Adesanya. With the stakes high for both men, UFC Vegas 34 looked like it was going to deliver a great main event.

The main event did deliver a solid contest. Cannonier and Gastelum fought a very close fight throughout. However, it was Cannonier who was landing the more forceful shots throughout and even dropping Gastelum once. Gastelum’s corner thought he won, but all three judges gave the fight to the Killa Gorilla which was the right call.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 34?

After the event, Cannonier said that he wanted to be active and get a fight when he can. Fortunately for him, the UFC has a few big middleweight fights coming up that could provide the perfect opponent.

One fight to watch out for is the UFC Vegas 36 headliner between Darren Till (18-3-1) and Derek Brunson (22-7). These two contenders are both ranked inside the top ten and whoever wins next Saturday will likely be in the top five.

Pairing Cannonier with the winner would potentially give the UFC middleweight champion a fresh contender. Another main event to watch out for is the headliner between Paulo Costa (13-1) and Marvin Vettori (17-4-1).

Both of those men are coming off losses in UFC title shots. They, like Cannonier, are at the very top of the division. The winner of this matchup would provide the highest ranked opponent for Cannonier, but with them not fighting until October, there will be more of a delay.

If Cannonier is really wanting to be active, next weekend’s main event is the one to watch. If either Till or Brunson come out clean with a victory, the UFC could pair them up with Cannonier at the end of the year.

New York Giants: Kyle Rudolph’s return to the lineup could be huge for Evan Engram

New York Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants had an eventful day of practice on Wednesday. They saw a couple of key starters go down with injuries (seemingly nothing significant, though). But they also got a crucial member of the offense back from injury. Kyle Rudolph was activated off the PUP list and returned to practice.

Kyle Rudolph is a phenomenal red zone threat and reliable tight end that can do it all for the Giants’ offense. Rudolph was part of the Giants’ big offensive spending spree in free agency this offseason. New York made it a priority to upgrade their offense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season. Kyle Rudolph will enter the Giants’ lineup, not as a full-time starter, but as a complementary piece to Evan Engram. The addition of Rudolph into the lineup could be huge for Engram as he takes his game to the next level.

Why Kyle Rudolph might unlock the next level of Evan Engram

Engram going vertical

Evan Engram made the Pro Bowl last year, despite having a season most fans want to forget. The dynamic tight end dropped 11 passes last season, some of which came at crucial moments and cost his team games. But there are reasons to believe Engram will bounce back in 2021.

Engram is best used as a deep-receiving weapon. When going vertical, Evan Engram can be a true playmaker. He and Daniel Jones connected on a few deep bombs last year, including two 40+ yard receptions against the Cincinnati Bengals.

However, the majority of Engram’s routes were run underneath, not vertical. 69 of Evan Engram’s 109 targets came between 0-10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Only six of his targets were on passes 20+ yards downfield (PFF). Evan Engram is one of the fastest tight ends in the NFL. It is malpractice for him to be used purely on hook routes five yards from the line of scrimmage. Let Engram put that 4.42s 40-yard dash to work and get downfield. The addition of Kyle Rudolph in the lineup will allow Engram to do just that.

Kyle Rudolph underneath

Kyle Rudolph has not dropped a pass in the last two years and is incredible at making contested catches. Rudolph’s contested catch rate since 2016 is 51.9%. Compare this to Evan Engram’s career contested-catch rate of 32.1%, and it’s easy to understand why Kyle Rudolph could be one of the Giants’ most valuable offensive weapons.

In the Giants’ 2021 offensive scheme, Kyle Rudolph will be able to do the things that Evan Engram struggled with during the 2020 season. Rudolph can run all of those routes from 0-10 yards of the line of scrimmage that Engram failed to run efficiently. Having Kyle Rudolph as the reliable pass-catcher underneath will allow the Giants to play Evan Engram to his strengths, pushing him downfield as a vertical receiving threat and putting together explosive plays.

Knicks: Julius Randle aims to come back as a completely better player

knicks, julius randle, trae young

Even after becoming $140 million richer, New York Knicks’ All-NBA forward Julius Randle continues to put in the work.

Summer is Randle’s favorite season of the year, not because he can enjoy rest and recreation under the sunny weather. He loves it because of the grind.

Randle credited his All-Star and All-NBA season to the offseason work with his long-time personal trainer Tyler Relph and new conditioning coach Melvin Sanders last year.

After a disappointing end in the playoffs to his breakout season, Randle is back in his hometown in Dallas, reconnecting with Relph and Sanders.

“There’s a lot that I can improve on to become a better player and help my team win some more games. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I love the process,” Randle said on The Jump on the day his new backcourt mates —Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier — were formally introduced at the Garden.

A couple of weeks earlier, Randle agreed to a $117 million, four-year extension with the Knicks that elevated his current contract to $140 million and five years.

Right after the news broke out, Relph tweeted out a congratulatory post accompanied by a photo of Randle working on his game.

”Agree to $140 million and get straight to work! It’s been different! Nothing changes,” Relph said in the caption.

Relph’s Instagram account provides a window to Randle’s offseason work. One video shows Randle working out with Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner, who hails from nearby Bedford, Texas. Another footage shows Randle working on his three-point shot. His latest Randle workout video shows the Knicks leader working on his perimeter shot off the dribble.

Last summer, Relph made it their goal to improve Randle’s outside shot as his downhill threat would open up those opportunities. Randle outpaced their goal of 1.5 3s per game as he hit a career-high 2.3 per game on 41 percent. It was a big jump from just one three-pointer on 28 percent shooting during Randle’s first season with the Knicks.

With Walker and Fournier coming in, Randle is expected to see less double or triple-team coverage he frequently commanded last season. His downhill threat and the three-point shot will always be there, and so is his signature corner mid-range jumper. Now, he’s adding a pull-up threat from the top of the key.

Last season, most of Randle’s shots were pull-up jumpers with a frequency rate of 43.4 percent, a big jump from the 20.5 percent rate the year before. His pull-up jump shot accuracy also increased from 35.3 percent to 50.3 percent in his second season with the Knicks.

Next season, Randle wants to improve from 46.3 percent accuracy on his shot after two dribbles and 45.4 percent after three to six dribbles.

“I love the grind and everything. So, I’m enjoying it right now. And I’m looking forward to coming back as a completely better player and help my team win,” Randle said.

His work ethic, as Relph described, is legendary. Randle got it from the late Kobe Bryant, who took Randle under his wings during their time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

”If you have never seen it and you see it for the first time, you’re in shock at how hard this man works. When I think I’ve won, he looks and says, ‘let’s go again’ … Some run to work, others run from it… It’s really that simple,” Relph posted on Twitter.

The Knicks are reaping the reward of that legendary work ethic. In return, they have rewarded Randle by extending him with the maximum offer they can give this offseason and surrounding him with better overall talent than what he enjoyed last season.

Randle repays their trust by continuing to take on the challenge of leading the once laughingstock franchise with another legendary summer grind that hopefully becomes the bedrock of another playoff run for the Knicks.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees have been incredibly dependable in close games, and the numbers back that up

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees have won eleven consecutive games, something that they hadn’t done since 1985. It has been an incredibly impressive display of skill, determination, and mental toughness, against some tough opponents. Last night’s game against the Atlanta Braves was the perfect example.

Aroldis Chapman allowed a run and left the bases loaded yesterday for Wandy Peralta in a 5-4 game. After a long at-bat against Freddie Freeman, no less, the left-hander hung on and induced a game-ending fly ball to left field.

“Just gutsy,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone of Peralta to MLB.com. “Freddie’s putting together a tremendous at-bat. [Peralta] keeps filling up the strike zone. Just a classic matchup there. … You know Freddie is going to control the zone, so if he’s out of the zone, it’s probably ball four. And [Peralta] just kept making pitches.”

“[He’s a] real polished hitter, everybody knows how good he is,” Peralta said through an interpreter. “You just focus and execute pitch by pitch. … If you go in the game, [you have] to have a sense of urgency to get the job done.”

The Yankees are extremely strong mentally

The Yankees have been excellent in close game this year. They have played 70 games that have been decided by two runs or less, the most in the Majors, and they have an amazing 47-23 record in those contests.

Per MLB.com, since July 1, the Yankees have a 25-5 record (.833 winning percentage) in games decided by three or fewer runs, the highest in the Majors in that period. Before July 1, New York went 28-24 (.538) in those contests: 6-9 in April, 14-5 in May and 8-10 in June.

“I feel like our guys are very comfortable in these close games,” Boone said. “Whether we pull it out, whether we lose one, whatever it may be — I know we’re comfortable and we’re gonna play our game.”

 

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge is hot, but still getting cheated

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankee slugger Aaron Judge is having a great season for the Yankees, he has been mostly healthy, and as of yesterday, he has racked up a .285 batting average with 27 home runs and 65 runs batting in. He leads the Yankees in many categories. But Judge is being cheated regularly by MLB umpires. Image the player and stats he could rack up if he were treated fairly by the umpires. Instead, judge consistently get strikes called on him that are not strikes.  Judge is not alone in being called out, but he is the poster boy for umpire mistreatment.

Through no fault of his own, Judge’s hulking body stands 6′ 7″ tall. Obviously, that helps him in reach, but it also hurts him when umpires continually call strikes below the zone on him. After five years in, the major’s umpires just don’t get it; he’s tall you have to adjust the strike zone.

Somehow it seems that umpires, in general, hold the New York Yankees to different standards than other teams, although that can be argued. What can’t be argued is that they constantly call strikes on Aaron Judge that are balls. Computer replays have shown it over and over again.

The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler shared a mid-summer pitch plotting during the next-man-up season of 2019. The plotting showed the bad calls against Judge, but that has not gone away; it is as much today as ever. The New York Yankees can’t accept this nonsense as they pursue a race to the postseason.

Typically, Judge doesn’t lose his cool much and takes these bad calls in stride. But maybe with the postseason on the line, he needs to show a bit more emotion when he loses out on those bad low calls. All we New York Yankees fans ask is that Judge is treated fairly, and this is not happening and may not happen until the era of the robot umpire that is computer controlled and adjust for a hitter’s height.

Plain and simple, Aaron Judge is at the disadvantage of protecting the egregiously low strike calls.

@CodfiyBaseball has put together a video showing the strike calls that Judge has had to ignore and suck it up as he is cheated time after time.

 

Ex-Islander Mikhail Grabovski to coach Belarus at 2022 Winter Games

It’s been two years since Mikhail Grabovski called it a career, but the former Islander is now getting a very special honor after transitioning to coaching following his post-playing days.

On his Instagram yesterday, Grabovski confirmed he is now a part of the coaching staff of the Belarusian squad that will participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing next February.

Grabovski, who was actually born in Potsdam, Germany, grew up in the country he’ll be representing. He and his family moved to Belarus when he was three, so this chance to coach really makes things come full circle.

This will be Grabovski’s first opportunity behind the bench at the international level. He’s been an assisstant with HC Dinamo Minsk of the KHL for the past two years after annoucing his retirement from playing in June 2019. (By the way, if you haven’t seen Grabovski’s retirement video, I highly recommend checking it out. Great stuff.)

As a player, Grabovski spent his junior years in Belarus suiting up for HC Yunost Minsk, the legendary squad of the Belarusian ExtraLeague. The 37-year-old had played in international competition for Belarus seven times, including the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Grabovski also won two gold medals for his country at 2004 World Juniors and 2005 IIHF World Championships.

The Belarus legend still holds a soft spot in the hearts of Islanders fans too. Grabovski played a small role in the organization’s resurgence during the middle part of the last decade. Brought to Long Island during the now memorable “Summer of Garth” — the offseason in prior to the 2014-15 season — he, Nikolay Kulemin, Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk all became Islanders, instantly adding credibiliy and resulting in a playoff berth for the first time since 2012-13.

His time on the Island was disappointing and didn’t produce nearly the results many expected due to injuries. Grabovski only appeared in 58 games over two years and recorded 44 points. But Grabovski was always remembered as a great character, which fans gravitated too.

Seeing how things ended with the Islanders, “Grabo” getting this shot now to coach on the Olympic stage is awesome. Isles fans will no doubt be rooting for him.

 

New York Jets incoming DE Vinny Curry out for the season

The departure of Curry is another big blow to a New York Jets pass rush that also lost fellow newcomer Carl Lawson.

The New York Jets’ beleaguered pass rush took another hit on Tuesday, as the team announced that defensive end Vinny Curry was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list. Such a designation will force him to miss the entirety of the 2021 season, as Curry was originally placed on the Active/NFI list.

Formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, Curry inked a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Jets in March. The Neptune, NJ native was set to enter his tenth NFL season, spending all but one in Philadelphia. Curry was part of the Eagles’ Super Bowl champion squad at the end of the 2017-18 season alongside current Jets general manager Joe Douglas, who was part of Philadelphia’s front office at the time. His final season with the Eagles saw him earn 16 tackles over 11 games including three sacks.

Curry becomes the fourth Jets defender set to miss significant time this season. The news of his medical departure due to this unspecified ailment comes less than a week after the Jets learned that they would be without fellow newcomer Carl Lawson this season due to a ruptured Achillies sustained a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers. Undrafted cornerback Zane Lewis (torn patella tendon/sprained MCL) is likewise out for the year while yet another free agency arrival, linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) is on pace to miss the first five games after leaving an exhibition showcase against the Packers early.

Placing Curry on the Reserve/NFI list was part of the Jets’ efforts to reach the league-manded 80 players allowed on their active roster by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The team also announced the releases of receivers Manasseh Bailey and Josh Malone, as well as offensive lineman Tristan Hoge and linebacker Edmond Robinson.

New York (2-0) concludes its preseason slate on Friday night at MetLife Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Yankees receive great Gio Urshela injury news, Aroldis Chapman must be stopped

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

The New York Yankees secure their 11th straight win on Tuesday evening, overcoming a red-hot Atlanta Braves team who just saw their nine-game winning streak snapped on Monday by the Bombers. In the contest, Andrew Heaney took the mound, lasting 4.0 innings, giving up three hits and two earned runs. The bullpen performed well, giving up two runs over five innings and recording five strikeouts.

However, it was the timely hitting of Gary Sanchez and DJ LeMahieu that pushed the Yankees over the edge. However, closer Aroldis Chapman did his best to blow another save, giving up two hits and a run in the ninth inning before skipper Aaron Boone turned to Wandy Peralta to finish off the contest. Peralta, with the bases loaded, drew a fly ball to left-field, which was caught by Joey Gallo.

Another tight squeeze for the Bombers, who extracted yet another victory. Unfortunately, both the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays won on Tuesday as well. Currently, in the AL East standings, the Yankees are 4.0 games behind Tampa and now have a 2.5 game cushion in the Wild Card over Boston.

The Yankees finished off the two-game series against the Braves with a sweep and now look forward to the Oakland Athletics in a four-game series on the West Coast. After Oakland, the Yankees will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Angels before returning home against Baltimore.

Seemingly, this race for the AL East could come down to the final series of the season, which comes against Tampa Bay. This could end up being a playoff-like atmosphere at Yankee Stadium.

Nonetheless, the team is expecting starting third baseman Gio Urshela to return after successfully getting through several rehabilitation games with Double-A Somerset.

Urshela will return to the team on Wednesday, as the Yankees have off before they take on Oakland starting Thursday. In his absence, the Yankees have depended on a rotation of players at third base, including Rougned Odor and Tyler Wade. Returning Gio will offer the team one of the most consistent hitters and arguably one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball.