New York Liberty clinch final spot in 2021 WNBA playoffs

The New York Liberty are playoff-bound for the first time since 2017 thanks to Sunday losses in Washington and Los Angeles.

The New York Liberty’s 25th anniversary celebration isn’t over just yet.

For the first time since 2017, the Liberty (12-20) will partake in the WNBA Playoffs. Placed in the eighth and final slot of the tournament, New York will take on the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury in the opening round’s single-game elimination on Thursday night (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The game will be held at Grand Canyon University Arena as the Mercury’s regular home of Footprint Center is occupied for a concert.

Though the Liberty’s season wrapped on Friday night, Sunday’s results allowed the team to punch its ticket. The wearers of seafoam needed losses from both the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks to extend their season. Fortunately for New York, the Minnesota Lynx and Dallas Wings were happy to provide an assist.

Minnesota topped Washington 83-77 in the nation’s capital (allowing them to move past defending champion Seattle for the No. 3 seed) while Dallas narrowly defeated Los Angeles by an 87-84 margin to finish things off. The Liberty set up the Sunday scenarios with a 91-80 win over Washington on Friday night at Barclays Center, a win that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

New York now returns to the playoffs after enduring a two-win showing in the Bradenton bubble, one that forced the team to rely on the services of seven rookies, including touted top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu. The Oregon alumna partook in only three games before an injury erased most of her freshman campaign. She returned to a revamped Liberty squad that brought in Bradenton’s Most Improved Player and Rutgers Betnijah Laney, as well as WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb through a trade.

This Liberty season, their first as full-time tenants in Barclays Center, began with wins in five of its first six games, the first of which ended in a game-winning buzzer-beater from Ionescu. Though things cooled down in terms of wins and losses, the Liberty made several proud strides throughout the season.

Laney was invited to her first WNBA All-Star Game while Ionescu earned the 10th triple-double in WNBA history in a May victory over Minnesota. Paced by Whitcomb’s 76 (second-best in the league behind Arike Ogunbowale of Dallas), the Liberty also set a new WNBA record with 321 successful three-point attempts. Bec Allen finished third in the league in steals (1.6 per game) while Michaela Onyenwere (8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds per game) is considered a front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.

The Liberty and Mercury, two of the WNBA’s three remaining original franchises that remain situated in their original markets (Los Angeles is the other) have met twice in the WNBA Playoffs. New York took the first matchup to advance to the inaugural WNBA Finals in 1997 while Phoenix upset the Liberty as an eighth seed in 2016. Phoenix won two of the three matchups between the teams this season, the most recent being an 80-64 triumph on August 27 in Brooklyn. Two members of the Liberty’s bubble squad, Kia Nurse and Megan Walker, currently reside on the Mercury roster as they were dealt out west in the Howard/Whitcomb deal that also involved the Seattle Storm.

Full WNBA Playoff Schedule

Date Game Time (ET) TV
September 23 No. 7 Dallas @ No. 6 Chicago 8 p.m. ESPN2
September 23 No. 8 LIBERTY @ No. 5 Phoenix 10 p.m. ESPN2
September 26 TBD @ No. 3 Minnesota TBD ABC or ESPN2
September 26 TBD @ No. 4 Seattle TBD ABC or ESPN2
September 28 TBD @ No. 1 Connecticut (Game 1) 8 p.m. ESPN2
September 28 TBD @ No. 2 Las Vegas (Game 1) 10 p.m. ESPN2
September 30 TBD @ Connecticut (Game 2) 8 p.m. ESPN2
September 30 TBD @ Las Vegas (Game 2) 10 p.m. ESPN2
October 3 Connecticut @ TBD (Game 3) TBD TBD
October 3 Las Vegas @ TBD (Game 3) TBD TBD
October 6 Connecticut @ TBD (Game 4)* TBD TBD
October 6 Las Vegas @ TBD (Game 4)* TBD TBD
October 8 TBD @ Connecticut (Game 5)* TBD ESPN2
October 8 TBD @ Las Vegas (Game 5) TBD ESPN2
October 10 WNBA Finals (Game 1) 3 p.m. ABC
October 13 WNBA Finals (Game 2) 9 p.m. ESPN
October 15 WNBA Finals (Game 3) 9 p.m. ESPN2
October 17 WNBA Finals (Game 4)* 3 p.m. ESPN
October 19 WNBA Finals (Game 5)* 9 p.m. ESPN2
*-If Necessary

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees Recap: Gerrit Cole bombs, Yankees lose again to the Indians

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees continued their roller-coaster season today at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees shamed the Cleveland Indians in game one of the series by shutting them out 8-0, only to be shamed in game two with an 11-3 loss. Today was the rubber game of the three-game series with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound for the Yankees and Eli Morgan for the Indians. This was a must-win game for the Yankees, as with yesterday’s loss, they slipped out of a wild card berth. In a complete shock, Cole gave up 7 runs, and the Yankees lost 11-1.

Cole faced Brad Zimmer leading off in the first inning. Zimmer didn’t get a chance to hit the ball as a pitch hit him. The game was delayed as he tried to walk it off. Oscar Mercado struck out swinging. Jose Ramirez walked. With two on and one out, Bobby Bradley singled, loading the bases for Harold Ramirez, who singled past a diving Rizzo scoring two runs. Yu Chang with men on the corners and still only one out hit into a double play, getting Cole out of further trouble.

DJ LeMahieu led off in the bottom of the first against Eli Morgan and struck out. Anthony Rizzo flew out to right. Aaron Judge ground out to short. Cleveland Indians 2 Yankees 0.

The second inning was led off by Roberto Perez, who ground out softly to second. Andres Gimenez struck out. Ernie Clement flew out to Stanton in right. At the bottom, Giancarlo Stanton went down swinging. Luke Voit ground out to short. Gleyber Torres hit a double off the center-field wall. Brett Gardner ground back to the pitcher to end the inning. Indians 2 Yankees 0.

It was the top of the lineup for the Indians in the third. Zimmer singled up the middle. Mercado flew out to Judge in center. Ramirez singled to center, moving Zimmer to second. Bradley struck out. H. Ramirez singled to the left-center. Gardner and Judge converged, and neither caught the ball, scoring another two runs for the Indians. Chang singled up the middle, moving H Ramirez to third. Perez, with men on the corners and two outs singled, bring in another Indian’s run. Gimenez ground out to second, but the Indian tacked on three more runs.

At the bottom of the third, Gio Urshela led off and homered into the centerfield wall, with Ramirez crashing into the wall; following a delay, it was determined that he couldn’t throw and was taking out of the game. Higashioka gave one a ride to the warning track in center for out number one. LeMahieu got a base hit to left. Rizzo singled to right, with DJ moving to second. Judge with two on and only one out flew out to center. Stanton flew out to the warning track in right-center. Cleveland Indians 5 Yankees 1.

The fourth inning was led off by Clement, who ground out to left. Zimmer stuck out, and Mercado ground out to third. At the bottom, Voit flew out to the center. Torres flew out to right. Gardner flew out to left for the first quick inning of the game. Indians 5 Yankees 1.

Jose Ramirez led off the fifth inning with his 35th home run of the season into the second deck at Yankee Stadium. Bradley struck out swinging. Myles Straw hitting for Ramirez that was taken out of the game, singled to center. Yu Chang at the base, Straw was caught off first for the second out, and Chang struck out. At the bottom, Urshela singled up the middle. Higashioka hit into 4-6-3 double play. LeMahieu flew out to left. Indians 6 Yankees 1.

The sixth inning Yankee crowd was stunned when Gerrit Cole gave up his seventh run to Perez, a homer into the left-field bullpen. Gimenez struck out. Clement lined out to left. Cole was taken out of the game to boos from the Yankee faithful. Zimmer faced the new Yankee pitcher Lucas Luetge and ground out to first. At the bottom, with Morgan still in the game, Rizzo singled to left. Judge struck out. Stanton ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Indians 7 Yankees 1.

Oscar Mercado led off the seventh inning by grounding out to short. Ramirez singled to left. Bradley struck out. Myles Straw reached on an E5, with Ramirez moving to second. Chang singled, driving in Ramirez as the Indians tack on another run. Perez stuck out. In the bottom, Luke Voit struck out against new pitcher Trevor Stephan. Torres went down on strikes. Gardner also stuck out. Indians 8 New York Yankees 1.

The eighth inning was led off by Gimenez, who singled to left off new Yankee pitcher Clarke Schmidt. Clement walked. Zimmer singled, both runners moved up on a passed ball by Higashioka. Mercado walked. Ramirez came to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out and singled out to right, allowing two more runs to score. Bradley struck out, and Straw struck out, but the Indians picked up another two runs. At the bottom, Urshela flew out to right. Higashioka doubled to right. LeMahieu singled into right field. Rizzo struck out. Judge with two on and two outs struck out, stranding two. Indians 10 Yankees 1.

At the top of the ninth, Chang singled to left. Perez struck out. Chang moved to second on a passed ball. Gimenez singled with Chang moving to third. Gimenez beat out Schmidt to the base. Clement reached on an E3 sloppy play by Rizzo as another Indian run scored. Zimmer ground out. Mercado ground into a force out. Stanton came to the plate and struck out at the bottom, with last licks on the line for the Yankees. Voit struck out. Torres also struck out to end the game.

The final score was the Cleveland Indians 11 and the New York Yankees 1. The winning pitcher was Eli Morgan, and the loser was Gerrit Cole.

 

 

 

Chicago Bears finish off Bengals, Justin Fields get some action

bears, matt nagy

Sunday afternoon saw the Chicago Bears welcome fans back to Soldier Field for the first time since the 2019 season and everyone got exactly what they wanted: An extended opportunity to watch rookie quarterback Justin Fields. After veteran Andy Dalton injured his knee midway through the second quarter, the Bears were forced to play Fields in a game where the 11th overall pick did just enough to lead Chicago to a victory.

The story of the afternoon revolved around Chicago’s defense, which forced Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow into throwing three interceptions during the second half, breaking the game wide open. The Bears also took advantage of a weak Cincinnati offensive line, sacking Burrow on five different occasions.

Chicago set the tone early, marching down the field on the opening drive, where Dalton connected with wide receiver Allen Robinson for an 11-yard touchdown, putting the Bears on the board first. Running back David Montgomery played an integral role in Chicago moving the chains with 20 carries for 61 yards, including an 11-yard run. Despite a victory, the Bears still dropped three potential touchdown passes with Fields in the game. Drops by Robinson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney led to Bears kicker Cairo Santos kicking two fields.

Fields didn’t exactly light up the Bengals’ defense but throughout the afternoon, the 11th overall pick did display poise, accuracy, mobility, and pocket presence, averaging 4.6 yards per pass attempt. Going 6-for-13, Fields had just 60 yards but tacked on 31 rushing yards, scrambling for 10 yards in a third-and-nine situation, giving the Bears a fresh set of downs to set up a Bears victory.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will return to practice early this week to prepare for a road matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The biggest question of the week will revolve around the quarterback position for Chicago. If Dalton is healthy, will the Bears coaching staff stick with Fields or go back to the 11-year veteran? Or will head coach Matt Nagy opt to stick with his handpicked quarterback in Fields? We’ll know next week.

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. New England

michael carter, jets

Sunday will be defined by Zach Wilson’s mistakes, but several bastions of hope emerged from the New York Jets’ latest loss.

New quarterback, same painful result.

Damien Harris and James White each had a rushing touchdown while J.C. Jackson earned two interceptions of Zach Wilson. The second overall pick’s East Rutherford introduction was a painful one, as he threw four interceptions in a 25-6 defeat. New England (1-1) has now won 11 consecutive meetings over the Jets, who fall to 0-2 for the third consecutive season.

ESM has three silver linings who emerged from the first defeat in East Rutherford…

Honorable Mentions

  • WR Elijah Moore: 4 receptions, 47 yards
  • RB Ty Johnson: 12 carries, 50 yards
  • WR Jeff Smith: 1 reception, 35 yards
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 10 tackles, 1 pass defense
  • LB Shaq Lawson: 4 tackles, 2 TFL
  • DL John Franklin-Myers: 3 tackles, 1 sack
  • DL Sheldon Rankins: 2 tackles, 1 sack

3rd Star: WR Braxton Berrios

7 receptions, 73 yards

With Corey Davis enduring a tough afternoon (one of Wilson’s interceptions went through his hands and into the waiting arms of J.C. Jackson) and Jamison Crowder still working his way back from COVID-19, Berrios came through for the New York offense. His 73 yards were a new career-best and he leads the Jets with 12 receptions in the early going. Berrios also averaged over 23 yards per kick return, including a 38-yard tally that set up the Jets’ only points of the first half.

2nd Star: S Marcus Maye

6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

Considering the awkward circumstances Wilson’s mistakes forced them into, the Jets defense mostly prevailed. New York particularly raised the pressure in the first half, earning three sacks of Mac Jones, the first coming from the safety Maye. The Jets’ real problem was stopping the New England running backs. White caught all six of his targeted passes (tallying 45 yards) while Harris more or less put the game away with a scoring run that dragged several defenders in the end zone. Maye’s ability to break into the backfield is certainly inspiring to a Jets defense working with makeshift material.

1st Star: RB Michael Carter

11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions, 29 yards

The Jets running back committee put forth a solid effort, as metropolitan rushers had 152 yards on 31 attempts (4.9 average). Carter was particularly impressive, serving as one of the Jets’ most consistent offensive sources. Many expect Carter to break away from the committee set up and grab the lion’s share of attempts before the end of the year. The Jets enjoyed a taste of what the fourth-round pick could bring in an expanded role on Sunday. More importantly, Carter worked through a downtrodden offensive line that was missing its anchor (Mekhi Becton) fairly well. As Wilson continues to figure out the NFL game, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the Jets do with Carter, perhaps relying on him as a consistent momentum shifter in the immediate future.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Yankees News: Joey Gallo picks up injury at worst time, Wild Card is a battle of the AL East

joey gallo, yankees

With the season winding to an end, every game has extreme importance for the New York Yankees in the Wild Card standings. Now sitting in fourth place in the AL East, the Bombers are desperately fighting to stay in the race at the top of the WC.

Sitting 0.5 games back, Toronto and Boston currently hold the top two spots, and after an unfortunate loss to Cleveland on Saturday, things are only getting more difficult for the Yankees. Allowing 11 runs is unacceptable for a team that has postseason expectations. Starting pitcher Luis Gil gave up three hits and two earned runs over 4.1 innings. The bullpen was equally as inconsistent, as Albert Abreu allowed five runs in less than an inning and Andrew Heaney gave up three runs and five hits over 3.0 innings.

The Yankees miss Jonathan Loaisiga dearly, and there is a possibility he is unable to make it back in time to help his team close out the season. However, the Bombers are expected to return Luis Severino in the coming days, and he will offer them a solid option out of the bullpen to get his season started.

Speaking of injuries, the Yankees also saw slugger Joey Gallo pick up a neck issue. They have him listed day-to-day.

“He was trying to work through it all morning with different stretches and stuff, but I think after his first at-bat, it was just barking too much on him,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He got some more treatment during the game, so we’ll see where we’re at.”

Gallo has struggled since joining the Yankees this off-season in a trade with the Texas Rangers. He’s hitting .204 with 37 homers and 75 RBIs. He’s quickly closing on his career highs in the HR category, hitting 41 in 2017, a personal record. He’s walking a career-high 18.5% the season but is striking out 34.3% of his at-bats. Overall, he’s had several small streaks of success but otherwise had been inconsistent for the Bombers.

New York Yankees Report Card: A look at players that could be impactful in the postseason

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

The New York Yankees have certainly had a roller coaster 2021 season. It’s actually a tale of two different teams when you look at the first half and the last half. If the Yankees don’t make the postseason, they can look back on the first half of the season as the primary reason why.

The Yankees starting pitching other than ace Gerrit Cole was average, although the bullpen was stellar in the first half. The real culprit was the Yankees’ lineup itself. Outside of Aaron Judge trying to carry the team on his back, the rest of the lineup was awol for the most part. The games were boring as the Yankees seemed just to be going through the motions. Fans looked for who to blame, as no one seemed to be able to motivate the team.

Then in two series between the Red Sox and the Phillies in late July when they won four games in a row, a new team seemed to be emerging. So much so that in August, the Yankees were the winningest team in baseball. Since then, they have put themselves in jeopardy, possibly losing a place in the playoffs. But in the past week, the Yankees may be turning things around. But yet their last two games are a microcosm of the whole season; a shut out of the Indians only to be annihilated by them the following night. So here’s a look at how some of the Yankees are playing.

Gerrit Cole: A

Without question, Gerrit Cole has been the best Yankee starting pitcher all season long. He is actually much better than his 15-7 record would suggest. His ERA or 2.75 and 224 strikeouts show that. But suffering from only 3.81 runs of support in his games, he has lost or had no-decisions in games that could have been won.

Corey Kluber: B

After not pitching for nearly two years, Corey Kluber got off to a slow start with the Yankees but gradually got better to the point he had a no-hitter.  But then Kluber went to the IL with a shoulder strain that would keep him out for three months. Since his return, he struggled. . Last night, he showed a huge improvement. He looked like an ace, pitching six full innings only allowing 4 hits in his scoreless outing.

Jordan Montgomery: B

Montgomery is not Gerrit Cole, and because of that, his lack of run support has been more impactful on his record. He has pitched better than his 5-6 record would suggest. He has a respectable 3.63 ERA with 149 strikeouts.

Nestor Cortes Jr.:  B+

Cortes Jr. has been a Godsend for the Yankees; taking over for Kluber when he was on the IL, Cortes did nothing but impress.  The Yankees have won 5 of his 8 starts since August. He has a 2.00 ERA for September.

Luis Gil: B-

The Yankee prospect Gil has been beneficial starting games that the Yankees had no one to start. In his first three starts, he was magnificent, not allowing a single run. But in his last two starts, he has stumbled. First, in a start against Toronto, he lasted only 3.1 innings giving up three runs. Then, against the Twins, he gave up 5 runs, but the Yankees won in extra innings. As Aaron Boone said, Gil may have a bright future, but right now he is not the finished product.

Chad Green: C –

Most recently, the wear and tear of a 162 game season and being overused Green has become undependable in the late going. The transition from a 60 game season to a 162 game season and being overused has been unkind to him through no fault of his own. (see Wandy Peralta).

Lucas Luetge: B

After not pitching in the bigs for nearly six years, the Yankees bet on Luetge to help the bullpen. He has done that and more. The Yankees hit gold in employing him. He has been one of the Yankees’ most dependable relievers, even finishing 13 games for them with one save. He has a .667 winning percentage.

Wandy Peralta: B+

On April 27, 2021, the Giants traded Peralta to the Yankees for outfielder Mike Tauctman. Peralta has been an asset replacing Justin Wilson and Zack Britton. He is the guy Boone goes to most frequently when Chapman fails. He has pitched in 51 games and has five saves. One has to wonder how much better he and Chad Green could have been had the Yankees not traded Luis Cessa away. Cessa was a workhorse and doing marvelously with the Reds with a 2.35 ERA in 48 games.

Aroldis Chapman: C

Aroldis Chapman has been one of the Yankee’s greatest disappointments this season, somewhat of an enigma for the Yankees. After starting the season stellar, his second half has been anything but. Fans cringe when he has to enter a close game. He has lost control of his firebrand fastball. C is not a very good rating for a supposed championship team’s closer.

Aaron Judge: A+

Aaron Judge, for the most part, has carried the team on his shoulders, he has been the best performer in the lineup all season with consistent hitting. He has a .288 batting average, is second in home runs, and leads with 85 RBIs.

Joey Gallo: A-

After being acquired before the trade deadline, Joey Gallo got off to a slow and spotty start with the Yankees. But, most recently, he has really heated up, leading the Yankees with 37 home runs. Last night he hit two home runs; it was the second time he managed the feat this month. He has 7 home runs in 13 games during September.

Giancarlo Stanton: A-

Outside of Aaron Judge, Stanton has been the most dependable hitter this season. He had a .327 average in August and .281 this month. He is third in home runs with 30 and, for a change, doesn’t lead the team in strikeouts. In addition, his excellent play in the outfield has given manager Boone more options.

Brett Gardner: B+

Gardner’s first half was disappointing, to say the least, making the Yankees wonder if resigning him was a wise decision. But his second half has been significantly better. More recently, he, as in past years, has really heated up in the postseason run. This month he has hit two multi-run homers. In addition, his baserunning and excellent defense have made him an everyday player.

Gleyber Torres: D-

Torres has been a disappointment all season long. He has never regained the power that he showed off in 2018 and 2019. But the biggest disappointment is his team-leading number of errors. The Yankees even rearranged the infield for him so he could return to second base. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out well either, and he has had two significant errors at second base.

Anthony Rizzo: B-

Anthony Rizzo has been hot and cold since joining the Yankees. He started gangbusters but then cooled off. He has had two home runs during September, but his biggest asset to the Yankees is his excellent defense at first base.

Gary Sanchez: C+

Gary Sanchez has had a somewhat better season than last year. Other than Gleyber Torres, Sanchez is the team’s most controversial player. Although he shows hints of greatness with the fireball arm and powerful home runs far into the stands, he also makes bone head plays, running mistakes, and passed balls. Sanchez has trouble staying focused at some critical times.

I hesitate to rate Luke Voit, mostly because he had had so many injuries that he could never regain the form he had in 2020 when he led all of baseball in home runs. Last night he hit a two-run homer in a failed effort to sustain a rally when the Yankees lost to the Indians. I also have not rated DJ LeMahieu mostly because I don’t know what to make of the second baseman that will be a Yankee for the next five years. His performance this year is certainly average but not close to what Yankee fans expected of him.

There are also several pitchers and relievers that have not been rated, mostly because their injuries have not allowed them to be impactful this season, one way or the other.

 

New York Yankees: 3 Major takeaways from embarrassing loss to the Indians

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

If the New York Yankees were pleased with themselves after their shutout of the Indians on Friday night, they have to be at least equally embarrassed by the loss they suffered last night. In an ugly game with little Yankee hitting, the Yankees lost the second game 11-3 against the poor hitting Cleveland team. The Indians have only six other teams that hit less than they do.

Luis Gil’s secondary offerings didn’t cut it

Luis Gil has had some amazing starts for the Yankee’s while helping replace Cy Young Award winner Cory Kluber, but he has also had flashes of little control of his secondary pitches that have cost the Yankees. As manager Aaron Boone had said last night and before, Gil, although he may have a great future, right now he is not the finished product.

Gil started yesterday’s game great, striking out two in the first inning, but with his lack of control, the game was pretty much over by the time he was taken out of the game in the fifth inning. He had given up three runs and left two on base when he exited. Alber Abreu entered and couldn’t hold those remaining runners on base, allowing them to score and adding three runs of his own. At the close of the inning, it was 8-0 Yankees. The Yankees couldn’t recover from that deficit.

The offense came too little, too late

At the beginning of the seventh inning, the Yankees were scoreless, not able to do anything off Indian’s starter, Aaron Civale. But in the seventh inning, Giancarlo Stanton went deep off of Bryan Shaw for his 30th home run of the season. Luke Voit added a two-run homer of his own in the eight, but this was too little, too late to make any difference in the game’s outcome.

If the Yankees can reach the postseason, they have to correct a big problem they have had all season. And that was on full display yesterday. The Yankees can’t hit off of good pitching. They only beat up on poor pitchers and tired bullpens. In the postseason, you are only going to see great pitching that goes deep into games.

One thing the Yankees can do to improve that is to keep Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield daily; use Luke Voit, who may not be elite at first as the everyday DH; he is a better hitter with the potential of hitting more home runs than Anthony Rizzo, the better defender. They have got to play clean baseball and improve the consistency of their hitting.

Yankees slip out of the wild card yet again

The New York Yankees are in a very tight race to get a wild card spot with the Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. For nearly two weeks, the Yankees held that number one spot giving them the home-field advantage in that game. But, since then, they have slipped entirely out of the wild card, then back in and out yet again.

Yesterday their rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, both won their games. The Yankees lost and slipped back out of a wild card berth, looking in on their rivals. The last 13 games are so critical to the goal of playing in the wild card. It doesn’t appear that either of their rivals will be collapsing, so the Yankees must win at least the majority of the remaining games.

If they can’t do that, it will be a long cold winter of discontent spent examining all the things they could have done better instead of celebrating a long-awaited 28th World Championship.

 

 

 

 

Knicks: Is Evan Fournier really a big upgrade over Reggie Bullock?

evan fournier, knicks

After a solid season from Reggie Bullock, the New York Knicks elected to let him hit free agency in search of a new team. Averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field, Bullock was one of the players who could’ve reached an extension with the Knicks, but instead, they elected to retain Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose, and Alec Burks. Bullock was, unfortunately, the odd man out, despite shooting 41% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

Ultimately, Bullock is a spot shooter that rarely creates opportunities for others, which could be viewed as a negative as more pressure was placed on players like Julius Randle and RJ Barrett to make something out of nothing. To supplement the departure of Bullock, the Knicks went out and signed Evan Fournier to a four-year, $73 million deal with an out after the third season. He will earn an average of about $18 million per season, a contract that dwarfs Bullock’s deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Reggie signed a three-year, $30 million deal, similar to the contract Burks’s landed with New York.

However, when looking at Fournier’s statistics, he averaged 17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and shot 45.7% from the field. He also connected on 41.3% of his shots from three-point range and is a career 80% shooter from the free-throw line.

Right off the bat, there is a tremendous difference and assists between Fournier and Bullock, and the French native also got to the free-throw line about three times as much as a former Knick.

The statistics start to lean heavily in favor of Evan when looking at field goals made unassisted. For example, last season, Fournier averaged 37.2% of his points on unassisted shots, while Bullock sat at 6.5%. This essentially details Fournier’s ability to creating his own opportunities while Bullock feasts off of other’s hard work and being in the right place at the right time.

97.5% of Bullock’s three-point field goals were on assists, while Fournier landed at 78.6%, a significant difference that tells a story between the two players. Fournier posted 21.4% on three-point field goals unassisted, while Bullock finished at 2.5%. Defensively, Fournier is more efficient stealing the ball, averaging 1.1 steals per game compared to Bullock’s 0.8. However, Bullock offers better perimeter defending with his length and athleticism whereas Fournier has been susceptible to more athletic shooting guards in the past. With an extra inch of height, Evan does have slightly better-blocking percentages and totals over Bullock, but both are rather irrelevant in the category.

Both averaged about 30 minutes per game on the floor, but Fournier contributed seven more points, justifying a more significant contract. While the Knicks might’ve overpaid a bit for his services, there is no question he is a better player and will provide an upgrade at the shooting guard/small forward position.

How will the New York Giants supplement the massive loss of Nick Gates on offensive line?

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants already had problems in the trenches before losing starting center Nick Gates to a fractured lower leg against the Washington Football Team on Thursday evening. Gates, who was shifted over to left guard, was pushed back into quarterback Daniel Jones when a defender landed awkwardly on the back of his leg, sending him to the ground in a heap, experiencing obvious pain.

Losing Gates for the rest of the 2021 season is a massive casualty, as the OL was already thin. They’ve been actively trying to work in two players who the Giants recently traded for, Billy Price and Ben Bredeson.

Gates, who had allowed just one hurry and one pressure over 74 snaps the season, will be replaced by Price on the short-term at least. Price, who was recently acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for B.J. Hill and a conditional draft pick, struggled in his first action with Bug Blue. He recorded an 8.7 pass-blocking grade, per PFF, allowing one sack, four hurries, and five pressures.

The Giants also have Matt Skura, who has been activated and will compete with Price for the starting job. Skura had issues last year snapping the football in Baltimore but was battling injury and was once considered to be a rising star at the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Skura gave Price a serious run for his money, overtaking him and establishing himself as the starter moving forward. The Giants would be smart to provide both with an opportunity to showcase their qualities in live-action.

At left guard, the expectation is that Bredeson will take over full-time, despite having his fair share of struggles in pass protection through two weeks. He has a 28.6 overall pass-blocking grade, allowing five hurries and five pressures over 100 snaps. He has been far more efficient as a run blocker, but the Giants have unfortunately been unable to curate a consistent running game, aside from Daniel Jones and the read-option.

However, Bredeson has plenty of potential, and the Giants will likely exercise him at left guard with hopes he can develop as a pass blocker. Luckily, the performance of Andrew Thomas has been extremely encouraging and should help Bredeson adapt quicker. He is still learning the playbook and developing chemistry with his teammates, so there will be hiccups along the way.

There’s also the possibility the Giants trade for another player, which is where safety Jabrill Peppers and their extensive draft capital might come into play.

Phil Davis shuts out Yoel Romero at Bellator 266

Phil Davis, MMA, UFC

In the main event of Bellator 266, we saw one of the more highly anticipated promotional debuts in some time. The Solider of God, Yoel Romero (13-5), was making his return and Bellator debut as he took on Phil Davis (22-6).

This is the first time Romero competed since March of last year when he lost a middleweight title fight to Israel Adesanya. This was also Romero’s first fight in the light heavyweight division in years.

After signing with Bellator, Romero was put in the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. However, Romero was pulled off the Grand Prix due to an eye issue. He’s now been cleared and he’s ready to take on the former Bellator light heavyweight champion.

Like Romero was supposed to be, Phil Davis was in the Grand Prix. Davis lost to the current champion Vadim Nemkov. That loss snapped a three fight win streak for Davis. Overall, Davis is now 9-3 since making the jump to Bellator.

Bellator 266 Recap

Round 1

The Bellator 266 main event started out with a touch of the gloves. Both men bouncing on the outside to start as they gauge the range. Davis pawing with a left hook but nothing on it early on.

Romero now standing flat footed just watching as Davis is trying to start the striking. Davis throws a right straight that falls a bit short. Nice 1-2 from Phil Davis. Romero throws a headkick that gets blocked by Davis.

A switch of stance from Romero and the crowd is becoming restless with the limited action. Davis is throwing combinations on the outside but nothing is really landing. Powerful low kick lands for Yoel Romero.

Romero explodes and just missed on some power shots and settles back in. Low kick from Romero and Davis works the jab. Another powerful low kick from Romero but Davis answers with his own.

Romero showing a lot of feints here as Davis is looking to striking. Another big power shot just misses for Romero but that power is keeping Davis tentative early. The round comes to a close and I honestly have to lean towards Davis on activity at Bellator 266.

Round 2

Entering the second round at Bellator 266 and the crowd is wanting more action out of these two. Romero takes the center to start the second round but it’s Davis who starts the striking with a couple of jabs.

Davis is looking much more active with his jab here in the second. 1-2 lands for Phil Davis and he’s looking to be very active here. Romero throws a power shot that misses. Davis comes in but gets out quickly after nearly getting clipped with a power shot from Romero.

Power shot lands for Romero and Davis is backing up. Phil shoots for a takedown but it’s easily stuffed by Romero and they’re back to striking. Davis seems comfortable again and starts working his jab.

Davis is pulling away from Romero in terms of the striking numbers. Romero seems to be trying to time a knockout shot, but there’s not a lot being thrown. Right hand over the top lands for Phil Davis.

Huge leg kick lands for Romero that almost took Davis off his feet. Massive 1-2 lands for Davis and Romero smiles. Davis turning up the pressure here. Davis shoots in for a takedown and gets it just before the round ends. 2-0 Phil Davis at Bellator 266.

Round 3

Entering the final round at Bellator 266 and Yoel Romero is going to need a finish here. Romero bouncing on his feet and immediately takes the center to start the final round. It seems like he knows he needs to finish the fight here.

Davis starts to work his jab here in the opening minute. Romero tries to throw some power shots, but Davis immediately takes him down. Romero gets to his feet briefly but Davis slams him right back to the ground.

A few elbows land for Davis. Romero uses the fence to get back up but again, Davis takes him right back down. Things are looking pretty bleak for Yoel Romero here in his Bellator debut.

Halfway through the final round and it’s all Phil Davis. Romero uses a quick explosion to get back up, but he can’t keep Davis off of him. Again, Davis takes him right back down.

Romero tries to get back up, but Davis is controlling him here. Davis is landing big knees to the body. Romero gets back to his feet, but he can’t separate from Davis. Davis holds a clinch against the fence as the fight comes to an end. Completely one-sided here at Bellator 266.

Phil Davis def. Yoel Romero by Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-26)