Chicago Bears: What does Sunday’s win over the Lions mean?

justin field, bears

The Chicago Bears accomplished on Sunday afternoon what many fans hoped: A win against the Detroit Lions at home. In the Bears’ first divisional game of the season, Chicago closed out the Lions 24-14, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields going 11-for-17 and 209 passing yards.

The Bears’ win over the Lions is significant for two reasons. First, Chicago is back to .500 and trying to keep pace in the division with the Green Bay Packers. Second, Fields and the entire Bears offense rebounded, proving that poor playcalling and bad execution was holding the Bears offense back.

While head coach Matt Nagy acknowledged after the game that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was calling plays, Chicago proved in week 4 that the offensive coaching staff could cater the game plan to Fields strengths. Sunday afternoon also showcased what the Bears’ philosophy on offense needs to be: A balanced offense with running back David Montgomery being fed early, setting the tone for the course of the game.

“Scoring on the first drive, that definitely sets the tone for the rest of the game,” Fields said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I’m just proud of everybody on offense from the o-line to the receivers to the running backs.”

What we saw on Sunday wasn’t just flashes of what Fields could become. We saw the Bears’ offense clicking at a high level, playing complementary football, keeping the defense off the field for extended periods of time. The Bears’ game plan moving forward needs to continue featuring a heavy dose of play-action and Lazor’s playcalling.

What we have to acknowledge is this: The Bears under Nagy want to develop into a pass-first offense. That won’t happen overnight but each week, the Bears can insert just a bit more passing concepts onto Fields plate. For now, however, a balanced approach is what Chicago needs, especially with a shaky offensive line that did look more than solid on Sunday afternoon.

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees get to the wild card in dramatic fashion

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees entered today’s last game of the season at Yankee Stadium with the hope of salvaging a game from the Tampa Bay Rays and holding onto a berth in the wild card one game winner takes all. But, unfortunately, the Yankees lost the first two games of the series and had a really embarrassing loss yesterday. So, in this final game of the regular season, the Yankees sent out Jameson Taillon to win against the Rays’ Michael Wacha. In a non-scoring game, the Yankees won it in the bottom of the ninth on a Judge hit that scored Tyler Wade from third for the 1 to nothing score putting them into the postseason.

Brandon Lowe led off yesterday’s game with a home run, another in the 3rd, and yet another in the seventh lead off today’s game against Taillon and flew out to second. Randy Arozarena popped out to Urshela in short. Wander Franco ground out to end the half. At the bottom, Gleyber Torres against Wacha ground out up the middle. Anthony Rizzo got hit by a pitch. Aaron Judge ground out into a double play to end the scoreless inning.

The second inning was led off by Austin Meadows ground out. Ji-Man Choi ground out to the right side. Mike Zunino popped out to the infield to end the half. At the bottom, Giancarlo Stanton led off by grounding out. Joey Gallo flew out to left field. Gio Urshela ground out to complete a quick inning for both pitchers. No score.

At the top of the third, Joey Wendle struck out looking. Kevin Kiermaier walked. Lowe singled to left, with Keirmaier making it to third base. Arozarena, with two on and one out, struck out when he couldn’t hold up. Franco flew out to Gallo in left for three shut-out innings for Taillon. The bottom was led off by Gardner, who ground out to second. Sanchez struck off swinging. Odor lined out to first. No score.

Nelson Cruz led the fourth inning with Taillon still on the ground out, but Taillon was taken out in favor of Wandy Peralta facing Meadows, who doubled down the left-field line. Choi walked. With two on and one out, Zunino singled to third, but the lead runner was called out at third. Then with two on and two outs, Wendle at the plate runners advanced on a wild pitch. Wendle ground out to Torres for the final out. Torres led off the bottom by singling up the middle. Rizzo flew out to a sliding Meadows. Judge with one on and one out struck out swinging. Stanton flew out to right to end the inning. No score after four.

Kevin Kiermaier led off the fifth by striking out swinging. Then, Lowe struck out swinging, and that was the day for Peralta. Clay Holmes came in to face Arozarena, who with two out and no one on base struck out as Yankee pitching struck out the side. At the bottom, Joey Gallo led off and walked for his 111th walk of the season. Urshela ground into a double play wasting Gallo’s walk. Gardner flew out to left field, making it five scoreless innings.

The sixth inning was led off by Franco against Holmes and popped out to Torres at second. Cruz ground out to third and spun and got the out. Austin Meadows faced the new Yankee pitcher Chad Green and popped up, in a long run by Urshela, he caught the ball going headfirst into the Rays dugout with no regard for his body, it was a spectacular play; he was injured, he slowly made his way to the Yankee dugout on his own power, and Yankee fans showered him with applause. At the bottom, Sanchez struck out swinging. Odor struck out. Torres, with no one on and two outs, battled through nine pitches for a walk. Rizzo flew out for a blank scoreboard after six.

Amazingly at the top of the seventh, Urshela was back out on the field after crashing into the dugout in the sixth. Ji-Man Choi led off and doubled in front of Judge in right. Zunino struck out. Wendle lined out to Judge. Kiermaier walked. Lowe faced new pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga and popped out to Odor to end the half. At the bottom, Aaron Judge led off and hit a soft ground ball out to second. Stanton popped out to the infield. Gallo struck out for yet another scoreless inning.

The eighth Arozarena got an infield single when Sanchez couldn’t get the ball. Arozarena stole second. Franco flew out to Gallo, but Arozarena got to third, avoiding the tag out. Cruz struck out swinging. Meadows flew out to Judge in right. Urshela led off the bottom by grounding out against former Yankee David Robertson. Gardner popped out to short center. Sanchez flew out to left. No score after eitght.

Still, with no score, Ji-Man Choi led off and struck out on a Chapman slider. Zunino lined out to Gallo in left. Wendle walked. Wendle stole second. Manuel Magot pinch hit for Kiermaier and struck out swinging. At the bottom of the ninth, Odor led off and singled up the middle. He was pinch-run by Tyler Wade. Gleyber Torres flew out to right with Wade going to second. Anthony Rizzo singled with Wade going to third and Rizzo going to second on the throw. With Aaron Judge coming up, the Rays went to Kittredge. Judge hit with two on and one out, scoring Wade as the Yankees go to the wild card game.

The winning pitcher was Aroldis Chapman, and the loser was Josh Fleming. The final score was the New York Yankees 1 and the Tampa Bay Rays 0.

 

 

 

New York Jets: 3 stars from Sunday’s win vs. Tennessee

It took all 60 minutes and then some, but the New York Jets earned their first win of the season in an overtime thriller over Tennessee.

New York Jets fans waited four weeks for their first win of the 2021 season…a nearly ten-minute extension was nothing.

Zach Wilson threw for 297 yards and two touchdown passes in conjunction with a strong defensive effort that was able to withstand 157 rushing yards from Derrick Henry en route to a 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. It’s the first win for both Wilson and Jets head coach Robert Saleh, as well as the Jets’ first over triumph since December 2020.

New York (1-3) earned seven sacks of Ryan Tannehill, their best output since a November 2017 showdown with Buffalo. The Jets erased an early 9-0 lead built through Randy Bullock’s field goals to earn the fateful triumph, as Wilson found Jamison Crowder (making his season debut) and former Titan Corey Davis to give the Jets a lead in the final frame.

Though Tennessee tied it on a Ryan Tannehill touchdown pass to Cameron Batson with 19 seconds to go in regulation, the Jets eternally secured the lead in overtime through a 22-yard field goal from Matt Ammendola. The defense then forced Bullock into a missed 49-yarder with 15 ticks left in the extra session to send East Rutherford into hysterics.

With their first victory in hand, the Jets will now head overseas to battle the Atlanta Falcons in London next Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

ESM has three game balls to bestow from a memorable win at MetLife…

Honorable Mentions

  • WR Corey Davis: 4 receptions, 111 yards, 1 TD
  • WR Keelan Cole: 3 receptions, 92 yards
  • WR Jamison Crowder: 7 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 13 tackles, 1 sack
  • LB Quincy Williams: 12 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
  • CB Bryce Hall: 5 tackles, 3 PD, 0.5 sacks
  • CB Javelin Guidry: 10 tackles
  • LB Bryce Huff: 1.5 sacks
  • RB Michael Carter: 13 carries, 38 yards, 1 TD
  • WR/Ret. Braxton Berrios: 2 carries, 15 yards, 3 total returns, 56 yards

3rd Star: QB Zach Wilson

21-of-34, 297 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Wilson broke away from the gridiron cesspool that the rookie quarterback class of 2021 stumbled into. Things threatened to spiral out of control when another “unearned run” hit the board (an interception that landed in the hands of Kristian Fulton when Davis fell tripped while running a route), but instead recovered to post the best numbers of his infantile career. Wilson, most importantly, looked composed when Tennessee upped the pressure and moved around well in the pocket, primarily on the 53-yard scoring tally that allowed Davis his revenge.

2nd Star: DL Quinnen Williams

7 tackles, 2 sacks

The Williams brothers have flourished while working with each other and united to make NFL history on Sunday: united for three takedowns of Tannehill, they become the first fraternal pair to earn a sack in the same game since it became an official statistic in 1982. Quinnen has appeared to have rediscovered his pass rush groove, having earned 3.5 sacks over the last two games. Sunday was a particularly emotional experience for Quinnen and Quincy, as Sunday marked the Jets’ celebration of the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” initiative that raises awareness and donations for cancer battles. The two lost their mother to cancer as teenagers and met with survivors prior to kickoff.

1st Star: DL John Franklin-Myers 

4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

When should the John Franklin-Myers Pro Bowl campaign commence: now or two weeks ago? Franklin-Myers got back on the sack ledger with a takedown of Tannehill in the first half and continues to establish himself as a premier pass-rushing threat. In addition to his sack, the former Ram had three further pressures and creating a full-scale invasion when the Titans lost some of their premier blockers to injuries. He dealt with some injuries himself, with the game stopping twice so medical examiners could get a look at him, but he wound up finishing the contest. Franklin-Myers is set to enter free agency this offseason; could the Jets have finally found a defender that they can convince to stick around for the long term?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants earn first win of 2021 season over the Saints

daniel jones, new york giants

The New York Giants are no longer winless. After today’s Week Four thriller with the New Orleans Saints, the Giants are officially in the win column. New York’s record improved to 1-3 after their 27-21 overtime win over the Saints.

Key stats and takeaways

Today featured a career game from New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. The third-year gunslinger out of Duke played a clean football game and threw for over 400 yards for the first time in his career. Daniel Jones completed 28 of his 40 passing attempts for 402 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Jones threw with great accuracy all day, connecting on multiple deep passes including one 50+ yard connection to John Ross that led to a touchdown. Ross fumbled the ball at the goal line and recovered in the end zone. A defacto touchdown for Daniel Jones. Jones also added 27 rushing yards (429 total yards on the day) plus a 2-point conversion on a rushing play.

Superstar running back Saquon Barkley had a breakout performance today. Barkley ran the ball 13 times for 52 yards, 1 game-winning rushing touchdown, and was electric in the receiving game. Saquon caught 5 passes for 74 receiving yards and one huge touchdown.

The Giants got the most out of their playmakers today. Kenny Golladay topped 100 receiving yards for the first time this season (116 yards on 6 receptions). Kadarius Toney shredded ankles en route to a 6 reception, 78-yard performance. John Ross III caught 3 passes for 77 yards and one touchdown.

The New York Giants offensive line came to play today. Daniel Jones was kept clean and the offensive line allowed 0 sacks to the New Orleans Saints defense that features All-Pro pass-rusher Cameron Jordan.

The New York Giants’ defense also had a solid, bounce-back performance. James Bradberry came up big with an interception as the Giants held the Saints to only 21 points. It was a thrilling and important victory for the New York Giants today as they look to turn their season around.

Chicago Bears win big, QB Justin Fields shines

justin field, bears

It was another win for the Chicago Bears against the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon as the Bears improved to 2-0 at home this season. Chicago closed out the first half with a 14-0 lead but the Bears offense set the tone by marching down the field on the game’s opening possession, capping off a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a rushing touchdown by running back David Montgomery.

From there, the Bears’ defense did its part, forcing turnovers, sacking Lions quarterback Jared Goff, while stopping Detroit’s offense three times inside the Bears’ 10-yard line, followed by forcing three consecutive punts. Chicago defense got after Goff, totaling four sacks, courtesy of Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Trevis Gipson, and Roquan Smith.

The real story of the afternoon was Chicago’s playcalling, which saw the Bears’ offense move the ball efficiently through the air and on the ground. Montgomery rushed 23 times for 106 yards, adding two rushing touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Veteran Damien Williams joined the fun by averaging 6.9 yards per carry, rushing eight times for 55 yards, scoring the Bears’ third rushing touchdown of the afternoon.

Fields and second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney established a rhythm early. Dubbed the future of Chicago, the two connected three times on the Bears opening possession, with Mooney finishing the game with five receptions for 125 yards, averaging 25 yards per reception. Wide receiver Allen Robinson, who wasn’t targeted until 2:05 remaining in the first half had three receptions for 63 yards, averaging 21 yards per reception.

Chicago played complementary football all afternoon, with the offense and defense feeding off each other to play a solid game, allowing for the Bears to get back to .500. While Bears head coach Matt Nagy refused to disclose who the playcaller was on Sunday afternoon, the Bears gameplan was clearly catered to Fields, who tested the Lions’ secondary with deep throws throughout the game.

What’s next for the Bears? A road game against the Las Vegas Raiders, who have looked better than most expected to start the 2021 season, with the likelihood that Fields makes his third consecutive start.

 

Knicks waive Luca Vildoza as point guard plans begin to take shape

knicks, luca vildoza

The New York Knicks made the decision to waive guard Luca Vildoza on Sunday, electing to go with some of their younger pieces and allow a few NBA veterans to compete for a roster spot this upcoming season. With Dwayne Bacon and Wayne Selden both on the training camp roster, they will be competing for one of the final spots, as Thibodeau mentioned the importance of wings in the league right now.

Vildoza, though, has been dealing with a foot injury the past few weeks, which kept him out of Summer League play and likely any preseason games. Ultimately, the team had to make a business decision regarding the Argentinian guard, who they anticipated will play a big part moving forward. However, the team brought in Kemba Walker and drafted Miles McBride to serve as their new point guards, seeing Vildoza’s contributions become a moot point.

“You gotta make roster decisions this time of the year, and so availability is a big part of it,’’ Thibodeau said. “And we feel that the guys who are here, those are the guys that are fighting it out for that last spot. But he’s a good player and we wish him well.

With training camp underway and the regular season rapidly approaching, the team can only work with their healthy players, and waiting for Vildoza to return was simply going to take too much time.

“We couldn’t wait, and we just felt like we’ve had guys here all summer doing a really good job,’’ Thibodeau said. “So, we feel that’s the best decision for the team.

Last season with Baskonia in the Euro League, Vildoza averaged 10.1 points, 3.4 assists, and shot 41% from the field. He will now be looking for a new opportunity, potentially in the NBA, once he returns to full health.

The Knicks originally signed him to a four-year, $13.6 million deal, but it was completely non-guaranteed unless he made the roster out of training camp. They will save that full amount, so they will have a bit of wiggle room regarding salary space heading into the season.

New York Yankees: Ken Singleton puts down the mic one final time today

Yesterday, during the New York Yankees game, long-time game caller and commenter Ken Singleton made an announcement that had fellow broadcaster Michael Kay holding back tears. He told his followers that today would be his last time broadcasting baseball. This shouldn’t have come as a big surprise because he has been hinting at it for the last few years. But, nevertheless, the news left many very sad, me included.

Kenny was one of my favorite broadcasters. I add his name to Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Mercer, Al Leiter, Michael Kay, and David Cone as my most enjoyable announcers over the years. Of course, these guys had their own thing, but Kenny was always a calming force in the booth with his knowledgeable and beautiful tone to his voice. There was no “Holy Cow” or the like, just clear and understandable comments. His most familiar call was “This one is gone.”

Singleton had an outstanding baseball career. He started with the Montreal Expos, but by 1974 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, where he finished his career in 1984 with the Orioles. He had a lifetime batting average of .282 with an on-base percentage of .388 with 246 home runs. In his 15-year major league career, he played in 2,082 games with 2.029 hits.  He was also an excellent defender with a .980 fielding percentage.

Immediately after retiring from active play, he became a radio broadcaster for WJZ in Baltimore. Then, for two years, he was the color commentator for the Toronto Blue Jays. After that stint, he became the color commentator for the Montreal Expos. Finally, after that, the then New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner lured him away to work for the New York Yankees and YES Network to serve in the dual role of play-by-play announcer and color commentator along with Michael Kay for the last 25 years.

Last year Singleton wanted to retire, but Kay and producer John J. Filippelli got him to stay with a reduced schedule covering mostly Baltimore Oriole games and a few other series sprinkled in, including these last three games of the season. But as of today, it is over. Singleton thanked everyone conceivable, including the Steinbrenner family and George in particular, for letting a non-Yankee player do his thing for so many years. The New York City native is now 74 and will retire to his home in the Baltimore area with his wife Suzanne Molino Singleton and their four children.

This writer wishes him a happy and healthy retirement for himself and his family.

 

Yankees News: Bad DJ LeMahieu injury news, most important day of the season

New York Yankees, Jameson Taillon

The Yankees couldn’t have made their final game of the regular season any more difficult for themselves. Dragging it out to the final moment to win the Wild Card, the Yankees are now in a position where they can miss the postseason for the first time in years. With Jordan Montgomery on the mound on Saturday afternoon, the Rays posted 12 runs, including seven earned runs in 2.2 innings, the starter’s worst performance this season.

The Yankees were rightfully embarrassed against a Tampa Bay Rays team that has it out for them. Tampa Bay is doing everything they can to ruin the Yankees’ season, and if Aaron Boone’s squad doesn’t extract a victory on Sunday afternoon, they will be watching the rest of the postseason from their couches with the Baltimore Orioles.

“We’ve got to win. It’s as simple as that,” veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Here we are going into Game 162 not knowing what the future is.

“It’s not ideal. But it’s nice knowing that we still have a chance,” he added. “The way the season has gone, it kind of makes sense that it would come down to the very last day. Seems about right.”

Currently, the Yankees and Red Sox are tied in the Wild Card, with Boston taking a slight advantage based on their head-to-head matchups this year. The Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays sit just one game behind.

The Yankees have multiple ways to make it into the WC game, but they mainly start with a big win on Sunday. Either they can win, hope for both the Blue Jays and Mariners to lose, or hope for the Yankees and Red Sox to lose, while the Blue Jays and Mariners would win and tie the WC with four teams.

Only the Yankees would find themselves in this position with such a strong team, indicating that management might need a shake-up after this season. Of course, injuries have once again hurt the team, with DJ LeMahieu suffering a sports hernia which will require surgery after the season ends. The team will feature Jameson Taillon on the mound versus Tampa Bay, who will host Michael Watcha and his 5.26 ERA this season. The Yankees have a clear advantage, but they must understand the importance of this game and come out firing against a deadly Rays team.

Knicks’ Evan Fournier says team is ‘hungry’ as they embody ‘old school’ vibes

evan fournier, knicks

New York Knicks free agent acquisition Evan Fournier wasn’t around for the 2020-21 season, so he didn’t know what to expect entering the team this off-season in preparation for elevated expectations.

Last year, the Knicks completely surprised the NBA and its fans, winning the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference, which was considered a longshot at the beginning of the season. Despite having deficiencies at multiple places, including point guard and center after Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot and hand, the team fought hard and played some of the best defense in the entire league.

They ranked among the top in defensive efficiency and points allowed per game, which is a staple of a Tom Thibodeau lead team. However, replicating that will be difficult, especially as they allowed Reggie Bullock to depart in free agency, despite Thibodeau wanting to retain him.

Fournier, though, offers a more refined skill set as a scorer but doesn’t offer the versatile defense bullock contributed last year. However, he is preparing to join a team that is deadly focused on the goal ahead — to go even further in a post season.

“I’m not sure what it was like last year on a daily basis, but the young guys are hungry, the veterans are hungry, the coaching staff is hungry,” veteran wing Evan Fournier said. “You can definitely feel that work atmosphere.”

The former Boston Celtic detailed how the team’s style is exactly what he expected, given Tom’s mentality and communication.

“Exactly what I expected,” Fournier said. “A coach that’s about working, a coach that’s very intense, that tells you things how they are, keeps it real, and just wants to get better. I think he’s very good at making sure you understand what he wants from you. It’s very clear. There’s no gray area and there’s no place for misinterpretation. As a player, especially a new guy, it’s easy because you know what to do.”

After signing a four-year, $73 million deal, the Knicks are expecting Fournier to contribute heavily on offense, averaging 17.1 points last year, including 3.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and shooting 41.3% from three-point range. He is far and away a better threat as a shooter and play creator compared to Bullock, so he does offer more value in some categories. Thibodeau loves a stingy defense, though, so he will expect the French sharpshooter to focus on that portion of his game as well.

New York Yankees: Takeaways from a terrible day in the Bronx

There really is no other way to put it; the New York Yankees were a mess yesterday in one of the most embarrassing losses of the season at one of the most convenient times. They didn’t pitch well, didn’t hit, and in one of the most visible gaffs, Gleyber Torres only jogged to first base when he should have run for his life. At the end of the day, the Tampa Bay Rays scored 12 runs off the boys from the Bronx that only scored two.

Montgomery gets booed off the field

One of the New York Yankees’ most dependable pitchers this season couldn’t escape the scorn of Yankee fans as he was booed off the field after he gave up seven earned runs. Manager Boone should have been likewise booed for leaving Montgomery on the mound when it was apparent he didn’t have it. He knew the pitches he should throw, but by his own admission after the game, he couldn’t execute them. To add insult to injury, the bullpen wasn’t any better.

Big guys again forgot to load the bullets

Superstars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton that have won so many games for the Yankees, were missing in action for the second night in a row. The Yankees lost their game on Friday night and again yesterday afternoon. A big part of the reason. The dynamic duo just couldn’t hit the ball. Judge got one hit yesterday, and Stanton got none. The rest of the team accounted for just three more hits compared to the Rays 19 off of Yankee pitching.

Bullpen fails miserably

If Jordan Montgomery’s performance wasn’t bad enough, the bullpen was even worse. The trio of Lucas Luetge, Michael King, and Joely Rodriguez combined for giving up thirteen hits and five more runs. It was the most hits given up by the Yankees all season long. The bullpen is obviously tired from being overused most of the season. Although the Yankees looked for length from Montgomery yesterday, the bullpen had to be used to get the last 21 outs of the game.

Wild card standings

As of this morning, the New York Yankees are still in the wild card game, but with the second loss in a row yesterday, they no longer have the home-field advantage. If the season ended with this writing, the Yankees would have to play the wild card game at Fenway Park. At the start of the week, the Yankees looked to have a lock on home-field advantage, but that is now gone. But it could get even worse.

Should the New York Yankees and the Red Sox lose today, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. win, there will be a four-way tie causing complete chaos at the end of the season. That is unlikely, but it is possible. The bottom line is that the Yankees are in control and must win today’s game. They have no control of the other scores today. By seven o’clock tonight, the picture will be much more apparent. If playoff games are required on both Monday and Tuesday, the whole postseason schedule will be pushed back.

Should there be a 4-way tie, here’s how it would break down. The clubs involved would receive designations based on winning percentage and assigned A, B, and C. Should clubs have identical winning percentages, then the head-to-head season records would come into play. Club A would host Club B, and Club C would host Club D. The winners of each game would be declared the Wild Card Clubs.

Note: Today’s New York Yankee game will be the season’s finale against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankees Stadium at 3:05 pm EDT. As of late last night, Jameson Taillon will be taking the mound for the Yankees against the Rays Michael Wacha. With such a critical game at stake, if the Yankees don’t win today, the big question will be why manager Boone didn’t use his best pitcher to avoid a playoff. But it won’t be surprising as Boone has worried about the future over winning today’s game all season long.