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Baseball's Races Tighten Up
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NFL Quiz: Barry Sanders led the NFL in rushing yards in 1996-97. Since then, only two backs have led the league in consecutive seasons. Name them. Answer below.
--What the Yankees have done to the Orioles this year is both historic and embarrassing, for Baltimore. In a doubleheader sweep of the O’s at the Stadium on Monday, 8-5, 11-8, Gleyber Torres hit a solo shot in the first game, and then two, three-run homes in the nightcap, giving him 13 of his 26 home runs this season against the Orioles, tied for second in MLB history for the most homers hit off one team in a year, and the most since divisional play began in 1969. The effort in the nightcap also represented an MLB-record five multi-homer games against one team in a single season.
Lou Gehrig had 14 vs. the Indians in 1936.
Roger Maris had 13 vs. the White Sox in his historic 1961.
Joe Adcock’s 13 came in 1956 vs. the Dodgers.
Hank Sauer hit 13 vs. the Pirates in 1954.
Jimmie Foxx hit 13 vs. the Tigers in 1932. [Someone remind ESPN.com ‘Foxx’ has two Xs.]
After Monday, the Yankees had also upped their record home run total against the Orioles to 59, 11 more than the prior mark. That’s staggering.
I do have to add that in the first game, Yankee starter James Paxton allowed three runs in six innings to improve to 8-6. More importantly, it was his third straight quality start, as the Yankees search for their top three come the playoffs. Masahiro Tanaka’s eight scoreless on Sunday was step No. 1. Paxton’s renewed consistency is step No. 2, perhaps.
Another Yankee is having an outstanding stretch, third baseman Gio Urshela, who has to be the surprise of the baseball season. Known strictly as a good glove man, Urshela hit .225 with 8 home runs and 39 RBIs in 466 at-bats over three seasons at Cleveland and Toronto before the Yanks picked him up last year from the Blue Jays for cash considerations.
But through Tuesday, Urshela, who has been on fire, batting over .460 with nine homers in his last 19 games with a plate appearance, was overall at .336, 18 homers, 64 RBIs, .969 OPS, in 327 at-bats.
What did the Yankees see that others didn’t? Or in outfielder Mike Tauchman, who had two great AAA seasons in the Rockies’ farm system, but did nothing in September call-ups 2017-2018, yet the Yanks acquired him for Philip Diehl, former director of the U.S. Mint and president of U.S. Money Reserve. [Oops, sorry, that’s a different Philip Diehl. Phillip Diehl, two ‘Ls’, is a pitcher the Rockies got for Tauchman.]
Anyway, Tauchman, who got off to a rough start in part-time duty with the Yanks this year, hit .423 in July and was at .385 thru Tuesday for August, now batting .299 overall, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs in just 197 at-bats, a .955 OPS.
There are countless other examples where GM Brian Cashman and his scouting staff have identified hidden talent.
The Yankees made it 15 straight over the Orioles last night, 8-3, though they hit only one home run, No. 60 in 18 games (Yanks 16-2). Domingo German is a stupendous 16-2, though with an ERA of just 3.96, after going seven innings, allowing 2 runs. Coupled with the recent strong performances by Tanaka and Paxton, maybe the Yankees’ playoff rotation is becoming clear.
One more game against the Orioles today.
--I think Mets fans were a little too cocky heading into Tuesday’s opener of a three-game series against the Braves in Atlanta. My attitude was, ‘just win one of three.’ After a 5-3 loss last night, now I really want 1-2. The Braves young talent outdid the Mets’, with 21-year-old superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. slamming his 34th home run. Acuna, with 28 steals, is going to become the second player age 21 or younger to go 30-30 in a season, the other being Mike Trout.
He is also seeking to become the third player (Eddie Matthews and Mel Ott) in baseball history to hit 40 homers in a season prior to turning 22.
But for the Mets, their best hitter, Jeff McNeil, left the game in the ninth with a left hamstring injury as he took an awkward stride attempting to beat out an infield hit. No word on the severity as I go to post, but the Mets’ wild-card hopes are finis if he is out more than two weeks. Just a fact. There is no ‘next man up’ like the Yankees have had.
We’ll see what happens the next two days in Atlanta, but what looked like such a bright future last weekend could well be extinguished in Hotlanta.
--The Reds lost to the Nationals 7-6 on Monday, an important win for Washington (as they all are entering the stretch run), but Cincy rookie Aristides Aquino became the first player in MLB history to hit eight home runs in his first 12 career games (including one game last season), Aquino has eight home runs and 16 RBIs.
Prior to being called up following the trade of Yasiel Puig to Cleveland, Aquino had 28 home runs in 78 games at Triple-A Louisville.
Washington also won 3-1 on Tuesday behind Joe Ross (Aquino 0-for-4), as Juan Soto slammed his 25th home run. The key here is that anyone watching Sunday’s game against the Mets saw Soto go out with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. Oh, to be 20 years old again. The kid recovered quickly.
N.L. Wild Card Standings (thru Tues.)
Washington 64-55... +1
St. Louis 62-55... ---
Milwaukee 62-58... 1.5
Philadelphia 61-58... 2
New York 61-58... 2
Arizona 61-59... 2.5
San Francisco... 60-60... 3.5
--In a 7-6 win over the Indians, that dropped Cleveland back out of the lead in the A.L. Central, the Red Sox’ Chris Sale struck out 12 in 6 2/3, allowing three earned in a no-decision. But Sale broke Pedro Martinez’s mark by reaching 2,000 strikeouts in 1,626 innings, vs. Pedro requiring 1,711 to get to 2,000, Randy Johnson 1,733 and Max Scherzer 11,784.
Meanwhile, the Twins beat the Brewers 7-5 in Milwaukee to retake first.
A huge battle down the stretch. You don’t want to be in the wild-card game. The two teams have six remaining against each other, though the last one is Sept. 15.
--We have a clear top three teams in Baseball....
And then there is everyone else.
--Stuff like this only happens to the likes of Alex Rodriguez, who had a half-million dollars’ worth of jewelry and electronics equipment stolen from his ESPN rental car in San Francisco while he was doing Sunday night’s game, more specifically while having a post-game dinner with the production crew, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, citing law-enforcement sources.
The robber made off with Alex Rodriguez’s camera, laptop, jewelry and a bag, according to the report. ESPN said in a statement: “It’s an unfortunate situation. We’re working with local authorities to address it.”
San Francisco police were treating the case as a “high priority,” according to the Chronicle.
A rep for a-Rod said the value of the items stolen was “grossly exaggerated” but would not provide a specific amount.
--The Little League World Series gets started this week in Williamsport, PA, and I normally couldn’t care less, only this year a team from nearby Elizabeth, NJ, is in it so the local newscasts will have a lot on their quest.
But there is a team I care about this time...the Latin America entry from Maracaibo, Venezuela.
I just can’t imagine how these kids made it, with the horrendous problems they face at home. Good luck to them...and I hope they all just stay in America, with the nation’s blessing.
On to the second round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the remaining 70 golfers. What could make this truly exciting on Sunday is the incentive to win, or be in the top three or four to put yourself near the top for the Tour Championship, which will reward the top points leaders with strokes. I’ll explain it all heading into next week’s finale...but it’s all you’ll hear this coming weekend in the third and fourth round.
For now the top six in points are:
Meanwhile, on the slow play issue, and, specifically, Bryson DeChambeau, he vowed that he will play faster.
“Slow play affects the quality of the game for both players and our fans and I’ve always had the utmost respect for my playing partners, including JT (Justin Thomas) and Tommy (Fleetwood),” he wrote on Instagram. “I’m constantly trying to improve and I will do my very best to improve my pace. Golf is my passion and livelihood. It’s my responsibility to help improve the game to be more enjoyable for all. Pace of play has been an issue for golf at all levels for a long time, and I’m committed to being a part of the solution, not the problem. I want to be a good representative of the game and the @PGATour and I look forward to working with the TOUR and fellow players to find a solution to slow play.”
DeChambeau added he’d be meeting with PGA Tour officials this week at the BMW Championship.
Also Monday, Eddie Pepperell apologized for calling DeChambeau a “single minded twit” during the uproar. “That was unnecessary and something I shouldn’t have said,” Pepperell tweeted in his apology. He also announced he’d be taking a break from Twitter.
So it was “Walk Back Monday” on the Tour.
Well, we’ll see how Bryson comports himself this weekend. He is No. 20 on the points list. First and foremost, he needs to play well enough to be in the Final 30 for East Lake.
But a lot of the eyes are going to be on Tiger Woods. He is No. 38 on the points list. He needs to play well to get in the top 30, which means he has to complete four rounds. Will his body hold up? Will he even tee it up Thursday?
Tiger arrived on the scene yesterday and all he did was putt.
--One more...my spy at the Northern Trust, who handled the caddie check-in and other stuff over the course of the week, said Matt Kuchar is despised by all...as in a “total fraud.” Sorry, Kooch fans.
CBS Sports’ Preseason All-America team was released and nine were unanimous first-team selections, with Alabama leading the way with three first-team selections and seven overall. Clemson had two first-team picks and five overall.
The SEC and Big Ten had 9 first-team picks, the ACC with five, and no other conference with more than one.
Among the high-profile positions....
QB...Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, sophomore
RB...Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin, junior
RB...Travis Etienne, Clemson, junior
WR...Jerry Jeudy...Alabama, junior
WR...Rondale Moore, Purdue, sophomore
QB...Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, junior
RB...AJ Dillon, Boston College, junior
RB...D’Andre Swift, Georgia, junior
WR...Laviska Shenault, Colorado, junior
WR...Tylan (sic) Wallace, Oklahoma State, junior
--The Cowboys reportedly offered Dak Prescott a contract extension with an average annual salary of around $30 million, but the Seahawks had reset the QB market earlier this offseason in awarding Russell Wilson a four-year, $140 million extension that includes $107 million in guaranteed money. The Eagles raised the floor by granting Carson Wentz a four-year, $128 million extension that exceeded Wilson’s guaranteed haul with $107.87 million.
So, boys and girls, why would Prescott accept less than Wentz, when the former has exceeded the latter in virtually every category?
--What a great story that emerged the last few days in Baltimore...and Minnesota. The Ravens traded back-up kicker Kaare Vedvik to the Vikings after Vedvik, who wasn’t going to supplant incumbent Justin Tucker, or punter Sam Koch, took advantage of a preseason opportunity the Ravens gave him and Vedvik made all four of his field-goal attempts and boomed punts of 53 and 58 yards in the exhibition opener.
So Baltimore was able to trade him to the Vikings for a 2020 fifth-rounder. The last kicker to be dealt for such a high pick was Pete Stoyanovich in 1996, according to the Baltimore Sun.
You know Vedvik was popular when the Ravens’ special teams coach Chris Horton said Sunday, “I’m really fired up for Kaare.” And Justin Tucker and Sam Koch were equally excited for him.
Why is this a special story? The Ravens had signed the former soccer player from Norway last year as an undrafted free agent, and he quickly became a sensation, making eight of nine field-goal attempts in the preseason and routinely hitting from beyond 50 yards in practice. The Ravens were optimistic they could trade him as the season approached, but their plans and Vedvik’s were derailed when he suffered an early-morning assault in East Baltimore.
Vedvik told police he couldn’t remember how the incident unfolded, but his injuries pushed him to the nonfootball injury list, where he remained the entire 2018 season.
Justin Tucker helped Vedvik immensely in his recovery. “We couldn’t be more proud of Kaare the football player...but I think we’re all more proud of Kaare the person, taking a horrible situation and turning it into something really, really positive.”
Vedvik learned to kick a football by watching YouTube videos.
Well, with the Vikings’ Norsemen fan base, he could be quite a hit if he’s successful. Someone to root for.
--I posted a little earlier than usual Sunday and missed Kevin Harvick winning the NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, his second of the year and the 47th of his career. Just three races remain, including Saturday night at Bristol, before the playoffs begin.
Meanwhile, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson fell to 18th in the points standings, only 16 making the playoffs, so he’s in danger of not making the postseason for the first time since the format was created 15 years ago. Johnson’s last win was on June 4, 2017 at Dover Speedway.
--In the Premier League, we have an important early match Saturday, Tottenham at Manchester City. Important in terms of no doubt showing just how superior City is, at the expense of my Spurs.
Tottenham was only 2-1-7 (W-D-L) against the other five Big Six clubs last year. That doesn’t cut it. We need something like 4-2-4, realistically, to ensure top four / Champions League status without having to sweat it out the final weeks as was the case last season.
--Nancy Armour / USA TODAY
“Another national title for Simone Biles? Been there, done that.
“But a move on floor exercise so difficult no other woman has done it and very few men even try it? Now that made it a night to remember.
“Biles landed her triple twisting-double somersault Sunday, getting so much height on the move the folks in the first half-dozen rows had to crane their necks to see her. An NBC replace showed she was actually above its boom camera, which means someone could have parked an SUV on the floor and Biles would have cleared it easily.
“Take that, NBA Dunk Contest participants....
“(With all her titles and multiple gold medals) there is no question Biles is the best her sport has ever seen and, no offense to LeBron James, Mikaela Shiffrin, Serena Williams and Alex Morgan, you can make the argument that she’s the best athlete in the world right now, too.”
--The chances of a polar bear encounter have increased, research reveals. Granted, not if you are in Atlanta, or Dallas, yet, but the bears are arriving on shore earlier and staying on land longer, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey, via the Anchorage Daily News.
The polar bears come to land from the Beaufort Sea during the ice-melt season, when the sea ice breaks up in the summer and refreezes in the fall, scientists said.
The average duration of the ice-melt season has increased by 36 days since the late 1990s, researchers said.
So that means the bears are arriving much sooner and that isn’t good. It could result in a heavy toll....which I hasten to add is good for Bar Chat’s ratings...hopefully some of the worst incidents occurring during “Web Sweeps Week.”
Top 3 songs for the week 8/14/76: #1 “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (Elton John & Kiki Dee) #2 “You Should Be Dancing” (Bee Gees) #3 “Let ‘Em In” (Wings...not their best...)...and...#4 “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (Lou Rawls) #5 “Rock And Roll Music” (The Beach Boys...mailed it in...) #6 “Love Is Alive” (Gary Wright) #7 “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” (England Dan & John Ford Coley) #8 “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” (KC & The Sunshine Band) #9 “Kiss And Say Goodbye” (Manhattans) #10 “Turn The Beat Around” (Vicki Sue Robinson...music close to tipping over... ‘C-‘...)
NFL Quiz Answer: Two backs to lead the NFL in rushing yards in consecutive seasons since Barry Sanders did it in 1996-97: Edgerrin James, 1999-2000, Indianapolis...his first two seasons in the league; LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006-07, San Diego.
1969 Mets, cont’d....
The Mets headed to Houston for three with the Astros, and you have to understand that while the hapless Mets lost 100+ games in five of their first seven seasons, the Astros didn’t lose 100 until 2011! When they’ve been bad, including in their first years, they’ve been bad, but not atrocious. Their position players in those early years were superior to the Mets’ and they had some respectable pitchers, which the Mets really didn’t have until the arrival of Seaver and Koosman (apologies to Al Jackson and Jack Fisher).
In fact, those first seven seasons, 1962-68, Houston was 77-44 against the Mets (45-17 at home), and boy that continued in 1969. To wit....
Houston had taken 7 of the first 9 the two teams played this year, and then they swept the Mets in the awful Astrodome.
Aug. 11: In the first game, Tom Griffin (8-5) threw eight scoreless, Fred Gladding pitched the ninth for the save, as the Astros shutout the Mets 3-0, Jim McAndrew taking the loss. Griffin was a rookie and would finish 11-10 in ’69, but was 3-0 against the Mets, 25 scoreless innings.
Aug. 12: Mets lose 8-7 as Jerry Koosman is rocked, 6 runs in 6 1/3 to fall to 9-8. Curt Blefary had four RBIs, including a 3-run homer, and Don Wilson (15-7) picked up the win.
Aug. 13: Houston completes the sweep 8-2, up 8-1 after just three as Gary Gentry was out after one and then Cal Koonce got lit up. Curt Blefary had another three RBIs (9 for the series...he had 67 all season), as Larry Dierker (14-9) went all the way for the complete game. This would end up being Dierker’s only 20-win season (20-13), as he tossed 20 complete games, 305 innings.
Dierker was 139-123 in his very solid career, but he was finished at 29, very Jim Maloney-like.
Back to Don Wilson, he would finish the season poorly, 16-12, and was also finished at age 29, 104-92, though as I noted the other day tossed two no-hitters (1967, 1969).
Wilson actually had a shot at a third, but after eight hitless innings in a game in 1974, he was losing 2-1 and was lifted for a pinch hitter by manager Preston Gomez; the same Preston Gomez who while managing the San Diego Padres in 1970, in a game against the Mets, lifted starter Clay Kirby after eight innings, Kirby in the midst of a no-no, for a pinch-hitter with the Padres’ down 1-0.
Tragically, Don Wilson committed suicide on January 5, 1975. His uniform No. 40 was then retired by the club.
As for the New York Metropolitans, they are now just 62-51 after all the prior merriment and a full 10 games back of the Cubs. It was fun while it lasted.
The Mets now head home to lick their wounds, facing San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. At least they will draw well against the latter two regardless of how far they are behind in the pennant race.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.