Good news as Yankees ride Gerrit Cole masterclass to victory over Tampa Bay

yankees, gerrit cole

After dropping a disappointing game against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend (10-9), the New York Yankees returned to the win column on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays. Having traveled all the way north to Toronto, the Bombers packed their bags and headed south to Florida, playing at Tropicana Field.

The Yankees hosted starter Gerrit Cole on the mound, who put together a dominant performance over 7.1 innings. He struck out 12 batters over 111 pitches, allowing just one earned run before handing two baserunners to closer Clay Holmes, who struggled in a rare dud of a performance. However, Holmes was dealt an unfortunate hand, giving up an infield single that allowed Tampa to tie the game.

The Yankees offense came in clutch:

Aaron Boone’s offense stepped up to the plate, though, driving in two runs in the top of the 9th inning thanks to an Aaron Hicks triple off the right-field wall that sent Manuel Margot crashing to the ground. He left with an injury.

Both teams combined for 25 strikeouts. Cole and Tampa starter Shane McClanahan struck out 20 total batters. McClanahan was stellar on the evening, aside from an Anthony Rizzo solo homer in the 1st inning that traveled 410 feet. Rizzo has been unstoppable in the month of June, hitting eight homers with 19 on the season, including a .286 average and 37.5% on base rate.

Offensively, the Yanks produced seven hits, with Josh Donaldson and Hicks combining for four and two runs. The team’s sluggers failed to get much going. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for four strikeouts and just one base runner.

The Yankees will look ahead to Tuesday for the second game of the series with Nestor Cortes on the mound. Cortes currently houses a 1.94 ERA but has given up five earned runs in his last two starts over 9.2 innings. He’ll be looking to bounce back against Tampa, who still haven’t decided who their starter will be in the second game of the series.

Which option will Knicks pursue: Kyrie, Ivey, Brunson or Brogdon?

Jaden Ivey Knicks

Suddenly, the New York Knicks have a plethora of options to fill their backcourt void: Kyrie Irving, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Brunson or Malcolm Brogdon?

But they all come with a cost. The million-dollar question now is which way will the Knicks go?

On Monday, The Athletic’s top NBA news breaker Shams Charania added Irving to the Knicks’ growing list of lead guard options. Irving’s future with the Brooklyn Nets remains murky since GM Sean Marks’ cold remarks during his end-of-the-season interview.

The Knicks, along with the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, are expected to be among the interested suitors if Irving heads elsewhere, according to Charania.

“For the Knicks, the likely path to acquire Irving depends on what the Nets prioritize. New York is even with the salary-cap line for 2022-23, so it could clear enough space to sign Irving on a maximum contract by offloading salaries such as Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kemba Walker. But the Knicks could also offer some or all of those players to the Nets or a third team in a possible sign-and-trade,” Charania wrote.

Irving is the best option for the Knicks in terms of star power and skill set, bar none. But the fit is questionable regarding the Knicks’ timeline and Irving’s penchant for attracting off-court drama.

Ivey, the projected top-4 pick, further fueled speculations about the Knicks’ Draft Night plans when he listed them as potential landing spots.

“I started looking at films of Sacramento (Kings). Obviously, there could be a situation where I could land in New York. I watched a lot of Detroit (Pistons) — the pieces that they have, [they have] young talent — and OKC (Oklahoma City Thunder) is where I could see myself at,” Ivey said in a zoom call with reporters Monday.

Ivey spoke about the Knicks with reverence. The 6-foot-4 combo guard said it would be an honor to play for the Knicks, which he described as a tremendous organization. There seems to be a strong mutual interest between both sides as the Knicks are reportedly one of the teams planning to trade up to get the Kings’ No. 4 pick.

“I feel like I could complement [Knicks] organization and help them win if they drafted me,” Ivey added.

While Ivey did not visit New York, the Knicks were front and center during his Pro Day led by team president Leon Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau. And they don’t need more intel since Ivey is a client of Creative Artists Agency, a known Rose’s bailiwick before taking the Knicks job. Ivey shares the same agent (CAA’s Austin Brown) with Knicks former lottery pick Obi Toppin.

The Purdue star, whose game resembles a cross between Ja Morant and Russell Westbrook, believes he’s a natural fit with the Knicks.

“I think I could definitely fit,” Ivey said. “I have that DNA to be a winner. Obviously, you have to have guys who want to win in order to win. Like you said, RJ Barrett, I feel like they want to win. It starts just in practice and I just feel like I have that DNA to win and we’ll just see what happens.”

The Kings’ asking price may be high, but it’s not as high as the price of getting Donovan Mitchell down the road or Irving this summer. But the Knicks need to trump any offer from the Thunder, armed with seemingly bottomless draft picks and intriguing young players, and the Pistons, who have Jerami Grant.

Somewhere in the middle of the Knicks’ pursuit of a lead guard is Indiana Pacers’ oft-injured Malcolm Brogdon.

According to Charania, the Knicks (No. 11) and the Washington Wizards (No. 10) are interested in trading for Brogdon using their lottery picks.

Brogdon, who Brown also represents, signed a two-year, $45 million extension with the Pacers last year that will run through the 2024-25 season.

A wild card is the Dallas Mavericks’ breakout star Jalen Brunson, whose father Rick will be part of Thibodeau’s coaching staff beginning next season.

Brunson is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the Knicks need only to shave around $20 million in salaries to pursue him in the open market.

On Thursday night, we will have a little clarity.

Will the Knicks go all-in on Ivey or weigh their other options and wait for July?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

How the New York Giants can get the most out of Kenny Golladay in 2022

new york giants, kenny golladay

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay was the New York Giants‘ major splash-signing in the 2021 free agency period. Big expectations were set for the former Detroit Lions wide receiver as the Giants handed him a contract worth $18 million on average annually. Unfortunately, Golladay failed to meet those expectations in a tumultuous 2021 regular season. Entering the 2022 season, the Giants are hoping for their number one receiver to bounce back in a major way.

Going deep with Kenny G

Kenny Golladay was once looked at as a true alpha dog wide receiver. In 2019 with the Detroit Lions, Golladay led the NFL in receiving touchdowns. But in 2021, KennyG did not manage to score a single touchdown. During his time in Detroit, Golladay was also considered one of the best deep receiving threats in the league. The Giants, however, failed to utilize this aspect of Kenny Golladay’s skillset. If the Giants want to get the most out of Kenny Golladay in 2021, they need to give him more deep targets.

Kenny Golladay received only 14 targets on passes of 20+ yards in 2021. This made up only 18% of Golladay’s targets. Comparatively, in 2019, Kenny received 36 deep targets which made up 32% of his targets. His 628 yards on deep passes ranked second in the league in 2019 (PFF).

Entering the 2021 season, PFF ranked Kenny Golladay as the third-best deep receiving threat in the NFL. Golladay also ranked fourth among NFL wide receivers in deep receiving yards from 2018 to 2020 and was just nine yards behind third-place despite playing in only 5 games in 2020.

Kenny Golladay was a Pro Bowl selection in 2019 after he led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns to go along with an impressive 1,190 receiving yards on 65 receptions. Golladay topped one thousand receiving yards in back-to-back seasons (2018-2019), establishing himself as one of the top receivers in the league. Injuries and coaching were a factor, but Kenny Golladay was a complete disappointment in 2021. He is in desperate need of a bounce-back campaign and if the New York Giants want to enable him to have one, they need to let him go deep.

Yankees lose intriguing relief pitcher to free agency after demotion

ryan weber. yankees

One thing the New York Yankees can’t afford to be doing is losing bullpen arms, which happened on Monday afternoon as relief pitcher Ryan Weber elected to hit free agency instead of accepting an assignment to Triple-A Scranton.

Per the Yankees:

Today RHP Ryan Weber elected free agency in lieu of accepting an outright assignment.

Weber recently made his first appearance of the season with the Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays last week, pitching 3.2 innings and allowing one earned run against two hits. He tossed 48 pitches, collecting one strikeout and eight ground balls.

The 31-year-old pitcher has bounced around the league since joining the MLB in 2015. He spent time with the Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, and Yankees this year. He has a career ERA of 5.22 and a 4.43 xFIP.

The veteran bullpen arm utilizes a variety of pitches, including a fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up. His fastball came in the form of a sinker, which he’s thrown at 53.9% throughout his career at 89.4 mph.

Weber’s pitches move tremendously, making it incredibly difficult for batters to make quality contact, given his 53.2% ground ball rate.

In his absence, the Bombers will have to continue relying on some of their younger options, notably Ron Marinaccio and David McKay. Veterans Manny Banuelos and Wandy Peralta will also be leaned on until Jonathan Loaisgia makes a full return.

There’s also a big question at closer once Aroldis Chapman returns. The expectation is that Clay Holmes will lock down high leverage situations, whether that be in the 8th or 9th inning. Chapman should continue factoring in as the primary closer in low-leverage situations unless he loses all favor with the coaching staff.

Just how great can New York Jets second-year WR Elijah Moore be?

elijah moore, jets

With the 34th overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft, the New York Jets made a thrilling selection in wide receiver Elijah Moore. It was a surprise that Moore was still on the board. Even with more pressing needs elsewhere and at the time a good group of wide receivers, general manager Joe Douglas made the right move in drafting Moore.

Rookie year stats

As a rookie, Moore played in 11 games. On 77 targets, he caught 43 passes for 538 yards (12.5 per catch) and five touchdowns. Moore averaged 48.9 receiving yards per game. His longest reception of the year went for 62 yards. He also got five carries, which went for 54 yards and a touchdown. In total, Moore recorded 592 yards from scrimmage (53.8 per game) and six total touchdowns. In 2022 and beyond, expect far greater production from Moore.

Moore’s complete skillset

Moore offers a relatively complete skillset. He can line up out wide, in the slot, be utilized on pre-snap motioning, and in the backfield to allow offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to be even more creative calling plays. Moore offers multiplicity in the screen game, on jet sweeps and end arounds. With the football in his hands, Moore is dynamic. After the catch, he has great play strength to break tackles. He is built lower to the ground and can beat tackling attempts in space with his elusiveness.

Moore has great footwork with his releases to defeat press coverage, and he runs crisp routes. He has a special combination of speed and quickness. In short areas, he is shifty and can separate on his route or beat a defender in space after the catch. Moore has 4.3 speed and can win downfield vertically. Overall, he is a very explosive athlete that can win running routes in a variety of ways.

One of Moore’s most notable strengths is his reliable hands. He hardly ever drops the football. Moore is tough over the middle of the field. He can win on the intermediate level. Even for a 5-foot-10 receiver, Moore made his presence felt in the red zone in 2021. Five of his six touchdowns came inside the 20-yard line, a good amount for his first year as a Jet. In the end, Moore has every trait to be tough to defend and ultimately one of the best.

One bright future ahead

Moore will play his second year at 22 years old. Going forward, what gives Moore an even better chance to be great is his off-field character. He has a strong reputation for the person he is. His work ethic and knowledge of the game are there. Moore is a competitive, tough, and confident young player.

Going forward, the expectation should be for Moore to be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and one of the Jets’ best players for a long time. His production on the stat sheet should be toward the top of the league year in and year out. Especially as he gains more time with Zach Wilson, the big games should pile up over the years. The complete talent and, more importantly, the character is there for Moore to be the best for the Jets.

After dominant win at UFC Austin, what’s next for Kevin Holland?

Kevin Holland

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Austin, we saw an entertaining scrap in the welterweight division. Kevin Holland (23-7, 1 NC) was making his second appearance at 170 when he took on “The Dirty Bird” Tim Means (32-13-1, 1 NC).

Both men had a lot on the line on Saturday night. For Holland, he’s been on the comeback trail to reestablish himself as a top contender. After surging up the latter at 185 pounds, Holland hit a wall due to his wrestling defense.

Now, he’s at 170 and he’s looking to show he’s one of the UFC’s best. For Tim Means, he was trying to win his fourth in a row which could’ve meant a ranking or a ranked opponent in his next fight.

From the opening bell, there was one fighter that seemed to have the advantage. That fighter was Kevin Holland. Holland was just a step ahead of Tim Means throughout the first round and did a great job of landing long and straight punches.

Tim Means never was able to build a ton of momentum. In the second round, Holland hurt Means bad with a body shot. He swarmed him and the fight went to the ground. Once there, Holland locked up a d’arce choke and was able to get the submission win at UFC Austin.

What’s next after UFC Austin?

I don’t know if Kevin Holland will end up in the 170 rankings after his UFC Austin win, but he’s going to be close. Holland is going to get a ranked opponent in his next fight I can assure you of that. In his post-fight interview, Holland had an opponent in mind.

Holland called for a fight with top UFC contender and undefeated fighter Sean Brady (15-0). We haven’t seen Brady since he decisioned Michael Chiesa back in November to stay undefeated.

Brady expressed some interest in fighting Holland due to the lack of fights for him lately. He can’t seem to get a fight lined up and he’s wanting to get back in the cage with a willing opponent. There’s no one in the UFC more willing than Kevin Holland.

Sometimes matchmaking is easy and not complicated. This is one of those times as Holland and Brady is the fight to make.

Yankees’ top shortstop prospect turning heads as he hits his stride

anthony volpe, yankees

Anthony Volpe, the New York Yankees‘ top prospect according to just about any publication, had an inauspicious start of the 2022 minor league season. Through May 15 (a little less than a month and a half of baseball), he was slashing a putrid .165/.286/.321 with a .607 OPS, struggling to adapt to Double-A pitching after acing both Low-A (1.078 OPS) and High-A (.977 OPS) last season.

People started doubting his 2021 performance after seeing him struggle so much to open the year against high-minors pitching. But the Yankees refused to bring in a star shortstop via free agency because they knew all along that Volpe was a special player. They had the patience to let him slump and work himself out of his funk eventually. And he did just that.

Volpe is repaying the Yankees’ faith with a stellar June that has seen him return to prominence. Since the calendar turned to June, the star shortstop prospect is hitting .294/.351/.485 with a .837 OPS. That’s more indicative of his immense talent.

Volpe has the Yankees excited about the future

Volpe has seven doubles and two home runs this month so far, together with six stolen bases. He is back to hitting the ball hard frequently, and looks like one of Double-A’s best players already.

For the year, the Yankees’ shortstop of the future already has a 102 wRC+, which means he is now an above-average offensive performer after his rough start. He is hitting .231/.323/.407 with seven home runs, 38 runs, 32 RBI, and an incredible 24 stolen bases. All of those numbers are on the rise, too.

If he keeps dominating at this pace, it’s not out of the question that he finishes the season in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Logic indicates that unless he forces a promotion this year, which seems unlikely but not impossible, he could be ready to take over as the Yankees’ shortstop at some point next year. The Yanks are not going to rush him, but organizational optimism surrounding his career prospects is really high at the moment.

New York Giants: One underrated pass rusher who could make an impact in 2022

elerson smith, new york giants

The New York Giants fell in love with fourth-round pick Elerson Smith during the 2021 Senior Bowl, expecting him to be an agile pass rusher off the edge. Smith was a Joe Judge draft pick, and while he missed the majority of the 2021 season due to injury, he still has plenty of value he can provide the Giants’ defense.

Most are focusing on names like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari to start the 2022 campaign, but Smith is working hard to make an impact moving forward, utilizing his blazing speed and athleticism. Smith recorded a 9.87 relative athletic score, ranking 18th out of 1333 defensive ends from 1987 to 2021. There’s no question he has the capabilities to be a great pass rusher, but he lacks the functional strength to hold down the edge in run defense. It should be interesting to see how Wink Martindale gets him involved, likely on later downs that are pass-heavy.

“I’m gonna make sure I take advantage of every opportunity I have in front of me,” Elerson Smith told The New York Post this offseason. “If people remember my name or not right now, that’s not gonna help us win games. I’m going to try to take care of the opportunity I have in front of me.”

What kind of impact can Elerson Smith make on the New York Giants?

Last season, Smith made eight appearances, totaling eight tackles, two QB hits, and a forced fumble. At 6’6″ and 260 pounds, he certainly has the height to be a good defender in the NFL, but he may have to transition slightly or play a hybrid linebacker role to maximize his value.

Despite his size limitations, Martindale will find ways to utilize Elerson, primarily as a pass rusher behind some bigger defensive lineman.

“I always say there’s a good place for a small person,” Martindale said. “It’s behind a big, long person in this league, because you know, it helps everything. It helps your open-field tackling and helps separating off blocks and it helps going up to the 50/50 ball. Length does play a big part of it.”

Luckily, Smith is learning a defense that focuses heavily on speed and attacking the opposing quarterback. Everybody knows that Martindale is calling heavy blitz packages, so Smith fits right in with his speed and agility to beat offensive lineman in 1V1 battles. While he has a few players ahead of him that will likely garner more reps to open the year, he can easily carve out a nice role for himself when called upon.

Smith’s biggest limitations will be as a fun defender, and since Martindale’s system requires the defensive ends to participate heavily in that category, he has a hill to climb. However, he made a few nice plays in 2021, showcasing his football IQ. Coming from a smaller school, it will take him longer to adjust to the NFL level, especially after missing time due to injury during his rookie season.

What’s next for Calvin Kattar after losing close decision at UFC Austin?

UFC

This past weekend in the main event of UFC Austin, we saw a big time matchup in the featherweight division. Top seven contenders battled it out as Calvin Kattar (23-6) took on powerhouse Josh Emmett (18-2).

Whoever won this matchup was looking to establish themselves squarely in the UFC’s title picture at 145. Entering the fight, I figured we’d see a close fight pairing the power and explosiveness of Emmett to the precision and length of Kattar.

That’s exactly what we saw at UFC Austin. In the first few rounds, Kattar did a good job staying at range and landing straight shots. However, Emmett was landing the bigger shots.

It was very close when looking at the striking numbers. In my opinion, Emmett was up 2-1 entering the fourth round. In my opinion, Kattar clearly won the fourth round with his striking and I had it 2-2 entering the final frame at UFC Austin.

The round was another close one, but if you look at the numbers, it was another round for Kattar. I had Kattar winning 3-2, but honestly, didn’t have any issue with Emmett winning. Two judges gave it to Emmett and Kattar lost the split decision.

What’s next after UFC Austin?

This is another decision where there was a questionable call from the judges. I have no issues with giving Josh Emmett the fight, however, I do have an issue with one of the judges giving him the fourth round. Chris Lee has no business judging MMA and that’s been proven many times.

Anyway, Emmett got the win at UFC Austin and now it’s time for Kattar to regroup. I don’t think The Boston Finisher calls much after taking the loss on Saturday night. However, he isn’t going to be in the title picture after going 1-2 in his last three.

With that in mind, who should be next for him? I think when determining who is next for Kattar, we should look to the UFC Fight Night coming up in Long Island. In the main event, Brian Ortega takes on Yair Rodriguez.

Whoever loses that fight will be in a similar position as Kattar. I think whoever loses would make for a great matchup for Kattar and that’s what I’d go with.

The Yankees have found their long-term solution at 2nd base with resurgent season

gleyber torres, yankees

The month of June has been lucrative for New York Yankees’ second baseman Gleyber Torres. The 25-year-old infielder hosts a .320 batting average with a 39.3% on-base rate and a .680 slugging percentage. He’s hit four homers with 16 hits over 50 at-bats, tallying eight RBIs and just 10 strikeouts.

On paper, it seems as if Torres has finally revived his career at the plate after a few tumultuous seasons. Back in 2019, Torres set the stage for what most believe to be an incredible career. He hit 38 homers with a .278 average and 90 RBIs. So far this season, Torres is hitting .267 with a 31.4% on-base rate, 13 homers, and 32 RBIs. He’s on pace to hit over 25 homers this season, the first time he’s reached double-digits since his 2019 master class.

“Man, it’s really good [what he’s doing at the plate],” manager Aaron Boone said. “More just great at-bats.”

On Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays in a 10–9 loss, Torres posted three hits and a homer, including three RBIs. He’s simply hitting the ball at a magisterial rate, providing the Yankees’ offense with a dangerous batter in the middle of the order.

Gleyber has found his groove on defense as well:

Aside from his offensive prowess, Torres’s defense has also been solid at second base. Over 446.1 innings, Torres hosts a .985 fielding percentage this year with just three errors and 84 putouts. He has a career-best 81% success rate on 156 throwing attempts, indicating he’s making far fewer errors.

“It’s probably taking a little bit of pressure off of him overall, which probably has helped his offense a little bit, although probably not to the degree that maybe the narrative might suggest,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Torres primarily feturing at 2B over SS.  “He’s a really good offensive player and he’s made some quality adjustments that have gotten him to this point.”

There was an immense amount of pressure on Torres to succeed at shortstop in 2021. After the Yankees acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Minnesota Twins, Torres was moved back to second base, his strongest position.

“I still think [Torres] has a skillset in a pinch to go over there [to shortstop] because he has arm strength and he’s got good hands,” Boone continued. “Hopefully at some point we’ll get him over there to keep that option going, but I think he’s played outstanding this year and obviously he’s swung the bat really well for us.”

Yankees management still feels confident that Torres can play SS:

Boone still feels confident that Torres can manage at shortstop, which he did valiantly against Toronto on Sunday, despite the loss. However, it was his offensive qualities that once again stood out. He has earned an impressive 50.3% hard-hit rate this season with an 11.9% barrel rate, the best in his career. In addition, he has a personal best 92.5 mph exit velocity and 20.5° launch angle. These stats indicate he’s making stellar contact with the baseball, resulting in home runs.

Gleyber is hitting .255 with 10 homers against fastballs and .342 against breaking balls with three homers. Whether it’s fastballs or breaking balls, Torres is seeing pitches at an extraordinary rate. This is helping move him along during a resurgent 2022 season. At this point, we can comfortably say he’s a long-term option at second base.

Despite DJ LeMahieu being the better defender at second, the Yankees have been utilizing him perfectly as a utilityman to mitigate fatigue and supplement injuries. Overall, they found the perfect balance in the infield. They’ve leaned on Torres’s offensive production but also committed to him as a defensive player as well.