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It's Andreescu and Nadal!
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
College Football Quiz: Meant to do this one last week. One school was ranked in this year’s preseason AP Poll for the 31st consecutive season, the third best streak behind only X (34 years, 1968-2002) and Y (33 years, 1970-2002). Name the three. [The AP ‘preseason’ poll commenced in 1950.] Answer below.
--I watched the entire Bianca Andreescu final against Serena Williams and to say Serena was off her game is an understatement, Williams failing again to win the elusive record-tying 24th major, 6-3, 7-5. There was a glimmer of hope when Serena rallied from down 5-1 to tie it at 5-5 in the second, but then Andreescu regained her mojo and wrapped it up.
The 19-year-old became the first teenager to win a major since 2006 (Maria Sharapova at Flushing Meadow), and she is the first Canadian to win a tennis major. The 15-seed sure didn’t play like one, having taken huge strides forward throughout the season after being ranked 152 in the world coming into the year. Last year Andreescu couldn’t even make it through qualifying for the Open.
Serena had said when she first saw the draw for the tournament that she feared Andreescu most and now we see why she had reason to.
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“What became apparent, even as Williams fought with guttural screams not to go down by 6-1 in the second set, was that her comeback after a difficult childbirth over the past two years has been harder and more complicated than anyone realized, including her. In four Grand Slam finals now, Williams has gone down in eight straight sets against a variety of elastic-limbed younger opponents, unable to summon a crucial measure of voltage. Take nothing away from Andreescu, who is 8-0 against the top 10 this season, but the final was patently Williams’ worst performance of the tournament. ‘I can play better. That’s the only solace I can take,’ Williams said.
“A Grand Slam demands seven peak-condition matches over two weeks – and the U.S. Open demands something more. It requires dealing with flashing stage lights in a succession of late-night matches, and fending off the whine of jets, the jabber of baby moguls drinking their Grey Goose in the loges, and jeering of sirens, the constant ambient noise that leaches into the stadium and can wear out the nervous system....
“It was baffling – Williams had barely dropped her serve all tournament – but Saturday every service game was a siege. Furthermore, she made 33 unforced errors. ‘It’s inexcusable for me to play at that level,’ she said.
“With a 2-year-old on her hip, tweaky knees, a spasming back, and a 38th birthday coming up in a matter of weeks, Williams must now examine what she has to do to be better physically in a Grand Slam final. If there was something encouraging to take from this Open, it was that before the final she had looked her sharpest in nearly two years....
“Other mothers have won Grand Slams, of course: Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, and Kim Clijsters. But none of them did it just weeks shy of their 38th birthday. All were age 31 or younger.
“According to Christopher Minson, professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon, and a noted researcher on athletes and aging...
“ ‘Around the age of 40 we start seeing real reductions in strength,’ he says. ‘Fast twitch fibers tend to decrease in number and function, and that will affect things such as speed, getting to the ball, explosive power, and the quick stops and turns you have to make in tennis.’
“But perhaps the biggest telltale slippage in an older athlete – and this would seem to be huge in winning a two-week Grand Slam – is their need for longer recovery periods to get back to full strength and full speed. Minson says, ‘In these large tourneys the longer each game goes the more she will be broken down and her ability to recover will suffer.’”
And Minson says the biggest factor in recovery is “sleep.”
“The fact that Williams is still viable in Grand Slams is a marvel in and of itself. But that’s hardly satisfying for a player who is on the cusp of Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but who can’t seem to get her best self to show up in a final. ‘I’m like, so close, so close, so close,’ she said, ‘yet so far away.’”
Serena won 21 of her first 25 Grand Slam finals, but has now lost six of her last eight, including the last four, all since the birth of her daughter.
There was a side story that Ms. Jenkins didn’t bring up, that being some in Serena’s team were worried that Meghan Markle’s presence at the final could distract from the match. A source told the New York Post that tennis players are very superstitious and Serena’s good friend Meghan was there to watch her lose at Wimbledon.
But one more on Andreescu. She matched Monica Seles (1990) for the women’s record by winning her first major in only her fourth Grand Slam event. She also took home $3.85 million.
--As for the men’s final, I picked it up after the football in the third, Medvedev down 2-0 to Nadal, and then the Russian bad boy roared back to tie it after four, 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. The crowd was clearly turning towards Medvedev (out of nowhere, to me), as us guys were making judgments on who had the better-looking spouse/fiancée and entourage. Because that’s what you do at Grand Slam events. As Sally Jenkins hinted at, after a while you get tired of all the ‘beautiful people’ who almost always are some of the biggest assholes on the planet. But I digress.
It’s now 1-1 in the fifth, and I’m pulling, I don’t know why, for the Russkie. I also realize at 61 years of age, I’m too old to be a ball boy. Just can’t move that fast...let alone I have a herniated disc....but I digress.
I’m also wishing this would be over so I can post and move on with my life. I go for my box of Good Humor Toasted Almond bars that I had smartly purchased the other day. I might eat all six, seeing as I’m also running out of beer.
Looking back at yesterday, what was Bianca’s friend, sister, whatever, thinking in wearing that cargo pants outfit?
Nadal a huge winner to make it 3-2. And another big one to make it 4-2. I’m liking Medvedev’s wife, who is emotionless in a kind of classy way.
But now it’s 5-2. Looks like it’s over...Nadal’s 19th major, one shy of Federer, and fourth U.S. Open.
Nadal with a great point, truly, to make it 30-15. Just finished all my Good Humor Toasted Almond bars. Want to post and move onto Pats-Steelers.
Medvedev breaks...5-3. Don’t they know it’s a school night?!
Never been a Nadal fan. Actually, the only tennis player I have really cared about the last 20 years was Anna Kournikova. Anna!
Not sure whose ‘team’ the blond nymph they keep showing is on.
Medvedev keeps it alive at 5-4....Nadal with ‘new balls’ as Chris Fowler tells us.
Nadal great point to make it 15-15. Then hits a bad one...15-30. Mrs. Medvedev looks great.
40-40. 9:07 ET. Now Championship point. And Nadal wins it...as the camera pans down on his prone frame. I have great respect for Medvedev. Now a fan of his.
College Football Review
Note: As in the past, all the following comments are written prior to release of the new AP Poll.
--Here’s what we know after just two weeks. Clemson will be in the playoffs, the first to literally wrap up a berth, while we know that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will not win the Heisman Trophy after throwing three interceptions in the first two games.
Yesterday No. 1 Clemson cleared the biggest hurdle on its schedule, defeating No. 12 Texas A&M 24-10 in Death Valley. What makes it a certainty that Clemson is now going to run the table is 21 Syracuse’s shocking 63-20 loss at Maryland, the Orange supposedly the only team that could take out Clemson aside from the Aggies. A terrible loss for the ACC, as well, though one or two other teams will emerge over the course of the fall, potentially Boston College, or Virginia. And maybe Maryland is just much better than expected.
--No. 6 LSU impressed bigly in its 45-38 win at No. 9 Texas in Austin Saturday night. This isn’t your father’s LSU. Quarterback Joe Burrow & Co. lit it up on offense, Burrow a spectacular 31/39, 471, 4-1, with three receivers having 120+ yards, led by Justin Jefferson’s 9-163-3 performance.
For the Longhorns this is a big defeat, though if they beat Oklahoma* on Oct. 12, they could still find themselves on the edges of the playoff conversation.
*The No. 4 Sooners destroyed South Dakota 70-14, Jalen Hurts 14/18, 259, 3-0, in a little over a half of play.
Back to the Tigers, as ESPN.com’s David Hale pointed out, last year LSU won a few games when no was expecting it, “but it always felt more like smoke and mirrors and defense. These guys, though, this offense – Burrow....hasn’t happened since...ever. Guess Texas is not DBU after all....
“The last time LSU beat Alabama was a 9-6 slugfest in 2011 that was about as fun to watch as ‘Failure to Launch.’ In that game, the Tigers completed just nine passes for 91 yards. Since then, LSU is 0-8 vs. the Tide, getting shut out three times, never cracking 17 points and accounting for a grand total of four touchdown passes. Four. That’s what Burrow had on Saturday against Texas.
“Alabama has cruised to a 2-0 start against Duke and New Mexico State [Ed. 62-10, Tua 16/24, 227, 3-0], which tells us a big fat nothing about the Tide. But LSU, well this was a performance that matters, and the Tigers look like they might just be good enough to shake up the power structure in the SEC West.
--No. 3 Georgia beat Murray State 63-17.
--No. 7 Michigan should drop out of the top ten in the next AP poll after needing two overtimes to defeat Army in Ann Arbor, 24-21. The Black Knights had a great shot to win it as the clock expired in regulation, but kicker Cole Talley’s 50-yard field goal attempt sailed a bit to the right. It marked the second straight year Army nearly beat a top 10 team for the first time in more than a half-century (1963, No. 9 Penn State); having pushed No. 5 Oklahoma last year into overtime before losing 28-21.
Michigan continues to grossly underachieve under coach Jim Harbaugh.
--So much for my “trap game” of the week. No. 5 Ohio State manhandled Cincinnati 42-0, as Justin Fields had another strong effort at QB, 20/25, 224, 2-0, plus two TDs rushing.
--In another blow for the Pac-12 and any hopes of placing a team in the CFP, California upset 14 Washington 20-19 on a late field goal with eight seconds to play, though 13 Utah, 35-17 winners over Northern Illinois, could work its way into the conversation.
--And maybe USC has found something in freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis. Replacing promising J.T. Daniels, who is out for the season with a knee injury, Slovis, kind of out of nowhere though some in Los Angeles believed in the kid, was a spectacular 28/33, 377, 3-0 in the Trojans’ 45-20 win over 23 Stanford.
--Good thing USC might be exciting this fall, because once again, Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins won’t be, 23-14 losers to San Diego State, the Bruins 0-2 and 3-11 under Kelly in his first 14 games at the helm.
--The fans in Knoxville, Tenn., must be pulling their hair out as the Vols dropped to 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 1988. Last week it was the stunning upset at the hands of Georgia State. This week BYU pulled off an equally stunning 29-26 victory in front of 92,000+ at Neyland Stadium. The Vols led BYU by three points in the closing seconds when Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson found Micah Simon for a 64-yard gain to set up a game-tying field goal that forced overtime.
--Some Rutgers fans were all excited after their opener, a 48-21 win over UMass. Had the Scarlet Knights rediscovered their offense?
Ah, no, as it turned out. They were shutout 30-0 by No. 20 Iowa, the Hawkeyes outgaining the Scarlet Knights 438-125, as Rutgers ended up 9/26, 41, 0-2 thru the air. Yup, 41 yards.
--Finally, my Wake Forest Demon Deacons are 2-0 after whipping Rice on the road, 41-21, as quarterback Jamie Newman continued his superb play, going back to when he took over end of last season. Newman was 21/27, 312, 3-0. There is some cause for optimism, like maybe 7-5, not 6-6.
But an early-season biggie for the Deacs next weekend against Mack Brown’s 2-0 North Carolina Tar Heels, after their nice 28-25 win late against Miami. At least it’s in Winston-Salem. For once a sell-out, I imagine, though half the fans will be Tar Heel supporters as these things go down there.
And the New AP Poll....
1. Clemson (56)
2. Alabama (6)
6. Ohio State
7. Notre Dame
10. Michigan...huh...thought they’d be lower
13. Penn State
25. Virginia... ‘next up’ in ACC after Syracuse debacle
--As the season opened up there was only one topic of conversation, that being superstar receiver Antonio Brown’s release by the Oakland Raiders, and then hours later his signing by New England, one year, $15 million, $9 million signing bonus. All Americans, regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation know one thing....this sucks...and it stinks.
Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post
After the Raiders finally released the Diva Formerly Known as Antonio Brown on Saturday, the talented-but-troubled receiver became available to sign with any NFL team as a free agent at exactly 4:01 p.m. Saturday.
“Presumably, at 4:02 p.m., the NFL’s reigning reclamation project experts, the Patriots, called.
“Brown and the Patriots agreed to a one-year contract...just hours after the Raiders shockingly released the 31-year-old superstar...
“Brown (who wasn’t permitted to play in the Week 1 matchup against his former team, the Steelers), confirmed the signing by sharing a Photoshop illustration of him in a Patriots jersey.
“ ‘LFG (expletive) #GodsPlan,’ the tweet read.
“Shame on the Patriots. They should get what they deserve with Brown, which at the very least is a collective season-long migraine headache, but at the worst a team torn apart by the nonsensical distractions Browns brings with him.
“Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and his team, whose offseason and training camp were marred by one incident after another involving Brown (each more unbelievable and ridiculous than the other), should hope they parted ways in time to save their 2019 season.
“Brown – for all his greatness on the field...is not worth the trouble.
“Not even for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The world of sports is full of enablers. Count the Patriots as the kings of the enablers today.
“Haven’t teams seen enough of Brown’s act, which has included accidently freezing his feet in an offseason cryotherapy session, threatening to retire because he wanted to wear his old helmet that was outlawed by the league for lack of safety, missing practices and meetings, inciting a verbal altercation in the middle of practice with his new general manager, then the clincher, that bizarre video he put out Friday exposing private telephone conversations with Gruden?
“The NFL should be finished with Brown. The only endgame justice to this Brown story is that this all blows up on the Patriots.
“ ‘We just have exhausted everything,’ Gruden, who went out of his way to make it work, said Saturday. ‘We tried every way possible to make it work. I’m sorry it didn’t. I apologize, but I will tell you that I am very proud of what we did as an organization to try.’
“Gruden, who called Brown ‘the most misunderstood’ person he’s met, said, ‘I tell you, he’s a good guy. He’s misunderstood by a lot of people. He’s a good guy. He’s a great player and I hope he gets what he’s looking for.’
“Sorry, he doesn’t deserve it. Brown, who signed a contract with Oakland that gave him $30 million in guaranteed money and was to pay him $20 million per year, never played a game for the Raiders and threw that all away.
“Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, as soon as the news of Brown’s release broke, issued a statement that read: ‘Now that Antonio is a free agent, we are focused on the future and I will immediately work on signing him to a new team. Antonio is looking forward to a new beginning.’
“There should have been no new beginning in the NFL for Brown – especially after how hard Gruden tried to make it work, playing good cop in the saga while GM Mike Mayock played the bad cop.
“On that bizarre YouTube video Brown released Friday, you could hear Gruden pleading with Brown to stop the off-the-field nonsense and ‘just play football.’
“ ‘I’m more than just a football player, man.’ Brown answered. ‘I’m a real person. It ain’t about the football, I know I can do that. This is my life. Ain’t no more games.’
“That’s actually the first thing out of Brown’s mouth that made any sense. There should, indeed, have been no more games – off or on the field – for him.
“Shame on the Patriots.”
Brown had signed a three-year, $50.1 million contract with the Raiders in conjunction with a March trade with the Steelers. “The deal contained $30.1 million in guaranteed money, $1 million of which was tied to a bonus and the remaining $29.1 million of which is tied to his salaries of $14.625 million this season and $14.5 million for the 2020 season.
“The contract language gave the Raiders, they believe, the ability under NFL rules to void the guarantee of the remaining $29.1 million, making those salaries non-guaranteed, based on misconduct by Brown. The Raiders informed Brown that they were exercising that right.” [Mark Maske / Washington Post]
Brown had previously been notified he was being fined $54,000 for missing a walk-through and a day of training camp last month. He was also fined $215,000 for an incident Wednesday on the practice field with GM Mayock. According to reports, Brown threatened to punch Mayock over receiving the $54,000 fine. The Raiders then told Brown to stay home Thursday and he complied. Then they decided enough was enough.
--Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs rewarded their bad-boy star wide receiver Tyreek Hill with a three-year contract extension worth $54 million, $35 million of which is guaranteed.
The extension comes just months after Hill, 25, was being investigated by the Johnson County (Kansas) DA’s office regarding injuries to his son. The prosecutor announced in April that Hill would not be charged.
K.C. general manager Brett Beach said, “(Hill) understands our expectations of him as a member of this team and community. This extension is contingent upon the conditions Tyreek agreed to adhere to upon his return to the team in July.”
Two years before being drafted by the Chiefs in 2016, Hill had pleaded guilty two years earlier in Oklahoma to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend.
--So on to some games...and at halftime of my Jets hosting the Bills, the Jets were up only 6-0, despite four turnovers from the Bills, two interceptions and two fumbles from Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen. It was not a good omen when new Jets kicker Kaare Vedvik, the would-be heartwarming story from Norway, missed an extra point and a field goal in the first half.
It was even worse for New York when early in the second half, their leader on defense, C.J. Mosley, who had returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble, went out with a groin injury and we quickly learned how valuable he is to the team.
The Bills came all the way back, after the Jets increased the lead to 16-0 at the 7:00 minute mark of the third, to win 17-16. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was underwhelming, 27/40, 179, 1-0, 85.3, with the longest pass play being all of 19 yards. He missed a number of long balls that would have been TDs if he was on the mark. Disappointing for us fans. And I never saw more balls batted down in a game than in this one.
As for Le’Veon Bell, no complaints here. 17 carries, 60 yards (better than the average would tell you), and 6 receptions for 32 and a score. He played hard and well. It’s just all on the kicker, who we assume is cut Monday, and Darnold. I can’t complain about the coaching, this being Adam Gase’s debut, and the Bills have a legitimately tough ‘D’.
The Jets had an All-Pro kicker Jason Myers last season, they didn’t want to give him the big money he requested, and it has clearly cost us in Week One.
--Wow...the bubble burst in Cleveland. The Titans came into town and dispatched with Baker Mayfield & Co. 43-13, Mayfield throwing three interceptions, sacked five times, with Odell Beckham Jr. having a meek 71 yards on seven catches. The Browns committed 18 penalties for 182 yards!...a terrible reflection on first-year coach Freddie Kitchens.
Cleveland is now 1-19-1 in openers since 1999.
But is Tennessee really that good? Marcus Mariota was a cool cat with three touchdown passes, and Derrick Henry rushed for 84 yards and caught a screen pass he then took 75 yards for a score.
This is going to be one interesting story...to see how the Brownies respond. As the guys in the CBS studio said after, it is one volatile locker room with a rookie coach who can be rather mercurial himself.
--We all know the Miami Dolphins are tanking for Tua, and Baltimore destroyed them 59-10, Lamar Jackson with a perfect game...17/20, 324, 5-0, 158.3 (literally a perfect rating), the Ravens outgaining the Dolphins 643-200. Even RG III got some playing time for Baltimore and he was 6-of-6 with a TD pass. Good for him.
--Washington got off to a 17-0 lead in Philadelphia, but then it was basically all Eagles, Carson Wentz with three touchdown passes, two to DeSean Jackson of 51 and 53 yards.
--The Chiefs whipped the Jaguars in Jacksonville 40-26 as Patrick Mahomes hooked up with Sammy Watkins on three touchdown passes. Watkins, hard to believe, is in his sixth season but has essentially been healthy about two of them. When he is, he’s electric, and he was today, 9-198-3. New Chiefs addition LeSean McCoy was also terrific...10 carries for 81 yards.
But the big story was the Jags’ loss of quarterback Nick Foles, potentially for the season, with a broken clavicle. Just sucks. Rookie Gardner Minshew was solid, 22/25, 275, 2-1, but he isn’t Foles. I feel bad for Jags fans.
As for K.C., once again the offense will light it up all season, but come playoff time? Gotta have some ‘D’, boys and girls.
--The Rams and their mega-millionaire QB Jared Goff took care of the Panthers in Charlotte 30-27, despite the efforts of Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, who had 128 yards rushing on just 19 carries and two scores, plus 10 receptions for 81.
--One guy to feel real good for today is Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who had 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns as Minnesota easily handled Atlanta and Matt Ryan at home, 28-12. Cook, who I thought was going to be a star out of Florida State, has been hurt much of his first two seasons. If healthy, the sky’s the limit. This is a guy capable of 1,500+.
And get this. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins threw it all of 10 times, completing 8.
--Mike Vaccaro / New York Post, on the perhaps underappreciated stability Eli Manning has brought the Giants all these years.
“Fifteen years is a long time to be the face of anything. Joe Namath’s prime lasted three years or so – about the same time Y.A. Tittle had. Phil Simms had 10 solid years, though his rule was postponed by Scott Brunner and interrupted by Jeff Hostetler. Even at his best, Chuckin’ Charlie Conerly often had to share the job on his own team, first with Travis Tidwell, later with Don Heinrich, and George Shaw, later Tittle.
“Eli? It’s been his face, and his crown, since the first administration of George W. Bush. Think of how much the world has changed since then. And how little of it has changed in our corner of the football world. It’s been a hell of a run, an epic run. Who’s the next man up? We’ll find out soon enough. For now, amazingly, it’s still Eli. For now.”
So tonight the Giants lost to the Cowboys, 35-17, Dak Prescott joining Lamar Jackson in throwing a perfect game, 25/32, 405, 4-0, 158.3, while Eli was fine...30/44, 306, 1-0, 95.5. Saquon Barkley had 120 yards rushing on just 11 carries.
It’s just that the New York defense sucked, and the Giants lost, and Daniel Jones got his first real NFL action, fumbling it away at the end, but the point was made. Eventually Jones is taking control...and this season.
I should note former ESPN broadcaster Jason Witten’s return to the Cowboys resulted in a touchdown reception...the 69th of his now 16-year career.
--So I look up the Colts-Chargers game to see how Summit, New Jersey’s own, kicker Michael Badgley, has done, and I’m like ‘who is Ty Long?’ Why he’s the punter...and he can also kick. Badgley missed the game with a groin injury, and Long came through, hitting a 40-yard field goal and all three extra points, the Chargers pulling it out 30-24 in overtime.
For Indy, Andrew Luck’s replacement, Jacoby Brissett, was solid...21/27, 190, 2-0, 120.7...while running back Marlon Mack ran for 174 yards and a TD. Looks like the Colts will be just fine.
--That was a scintillating Thursday night opener in Chicago, the Packers defeating the Bears 10-3. I watched about two minutes of it. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers was adequate, 18/30, 203, 1-0, 91.4, but the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky sucked, 26/45, 228, 0-1, 62.1.
Neither team gained 50 yards on the ground.
--The Mets had a chance Saturday night to move to within 3 games of the second wild card, Chicago, but once again starter Marcos Stroman, supposedly a big-game pitcher when the Mets acquired him from Toronto, failed miserably, giving up four earned on 10 hits in four innings, and falling to 1-2, 5.05 ERA as a Met. He has just one quality start in seven for New York.
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ Drew Smyly, who entered with a 6.65 ERA, threw seven scoreless, the Mets losing 5-0. Just so typical.
Friday night, the Mets blew a 4-2 ninth-inning lead before pulling it out in the bottom of the ninth, 5-4, on Pete Alonso’s two-out, bases loaded walk.
But reliever Edwin Diaz gave up a tying two-run homer to J.T. Realmuto in the top of the inning, which represented No. 14 on the season for last season’s saves leader, tying Diaz for the record for most ninth-inning homers allowed in a season since 1900. 14 home runs in 52 innings after yielding 5 in 73 1/3 last year while he was saving 57 for the Mariners. Diaz’ ERA is an unsightly 5.88.
Well the Mets lost again today, 10-7, in the longest nine-inning game in franchise history, 4:29, one minute shy of the MLB record for nine. I kept looking in on it and just thinking, boy, this isn’t good for the sport. Young people are way too antsy to give a damn about something that takes this long.
Which is why everyone should gravitate to Premier League Football! Two hours. That’s it.
Anyway, another wasted opportunity, the Cubs losing their third straight to the Brewers, 8-5 today.
--N.L. Wild Card Standings....
Washington 79-63... +3
Chicago 76-66... ---
Arizona 75-68... 1.5
Milwaukee 74-68... 2
Philadelphia 74-68... 2
New York 72-70... 4
--A.L. Wild Card Standings....
Tampa Bay 86-59... +1.5
Oakland 83-59... ---
Cleveland 83-61... 1
--I do have to note that regarding the Yankees, who have been playing a totally meaningless series up in Fenway against the immensely disappointing defending champion Red Sox (save for the Yanks wanting home-field advantage against Houston), that in Saturday’s 5-1 victory, it was significant that starter J.A. Happ went 6 1/3 scoreless, making it 15 1/3 shutout innings over three outings; a strong bid by Happ to keep himself in the playoff rotation (and thus avoid the ‘opener’ scenario). Dude deserves some credit.
--In a big blow for the Twins and their postseason chances, pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended for 60 games Saturday for taking a diuretic, which Pineda claimed was given to him by an acquaintance to help manage his weight, but the diuretic can mask other substances.
Pineda apologized to the organization, teammates, family and fans for his “error in judgment.” He has gone 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA. Pineda will now also forfeit $989,000 of his $8 million salary. He is eligible for free agency after the season and would serve the rest of the suspension next year.
--Last night Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich put himself in an exclusive club, becoming the 10th player in MLB history with 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases, a feat that’s been accomplished 12 times overall, the last being teammate Ryan Braun in 2012. Yelich, who entered today’s play with 44 home runs, walked three times and then stole second each to extend his career-best steals total to 30. And then he had the winning walk-off two-out double in the bottom of the ninth for the 3-2 win over Chicago, that pulled the Brewers to within three of the Cubbies for the second wild card in the N.L.
Both managers were shaking their heads afterwards over Yelich’s all-around play. A true superstar, rapidly building up a Hall of Fame career at a mere 27 years of age. Plus he’s a good guy.
--In a big game for the Nationals, Max Scherzer had his best outing since returning from his back issue, six innings, one run, 9 Ks, as Washington beat Atlanta 9-4 today.
--Justin Verlander followed up his no-hitter with seven innings of one-run ball in Houston’s 2-1 win over Seattle last night, Verlander now with an MLB-leading 18 wins (18-5, 2.52).
And then today, Houston’s No. 2 starter, Gerrit Cole, threw eight innings of one-hit ball, a home run from Shed Long, as the ‘Stros annihilated the Mariners 21-1! Cole, who walked none and struck out 15, is 16-5, 2.73. I mean, seriously, the Yankees don’t have a chance against them if that is your ALCS match-up.
Phenom Yordan Alvarez had three doubles and six RBIs, giving him 70 in 70 games. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy Monday morning while reading the box scores, Nancy preparing some French toast and sausage, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--Clayton Kershaw has become a bit of a worry for the Dodgers. He opened the season with 23 consecutive starts in which he threw six innings or more, but has now thrown five and four innings, respectively, in his last two, both losses, including Friday’s 5-4 loss to San Francisco despite A.J. Pollock’s three home runs for the Dodgers.
--I have to go back to Wednesday night, after I last posted, to note the achievement of the Reds’ Michael Lorenzen, who became just the second player in baseball history to hit a home run, play center field and earn the win as a pitcher in the same game; Babe Ruth being the other, June 13, 1921. Very cool.
Lorenzen smacked his first homer of the season in the eighth inning of an 8-5 win over the Phillies, having entered with a one-run lead in the seventh inning, only to give it up. Cincy then took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Lorenzen pitched a scoreless eighth, then hit for himself with a runner on first base and two outs. He finished up by playing center field for the top of the ninth, Raisal Iglesias preserving Lorenzen’s win.
Lorenzen has pitched in 67 games in relief for the Reds this season, 1-4, six saves, and a solid 3.13 ERA.
But he hasn’t been to the plate as much as some of us thought he would, after going 9-for-31 last season with four home runs. This year he is 6-for-20, .300, with now the historic homer.
Nonetheless a great weapon to have. He needs to be on a contender.
--We note the passing of former Cardinals player Chris Duncan, who died after a battle with brain cancer at the age of 38.
Duncan was first diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2012. He is the son of pitching coach Dave Duncan and the brother of major leaguer Shelley Duncan.
Chris Duncan played with the Cardinals from 2005-2009, hitting 22 home runs in just 285 at-bats in 2006, and 21 (with 70 RBI) in 375 ABs in 2007. After retiring in 2010, he became a popular radio personality in the St. Louis area.
Kevin Harvick won today’s crash-marred Brickyard 400, beating Joey Logano and ending Jimmie Johnson’s perfect playoff run. Johnson crashed out late, having made the Chase since it was introduced in 2004.
Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman claimed the last two spots in the 16-driver field for the final 10 races, with Daniel Suarez, attempting to be the first Mexican-born driver to make the playoffs, falling short, 17th in the point standings.
--The current issue of Sports Illustrated had a report by Michael Rosenberg on the National Federation of State High School Associations annual report on participation rates in sports, and for the first time in 30 years, participation in sports overall declined – including drops in basketball (notably girls’), baseball and football, which saw a decrease for the fifth straight year. In the last decade, 11-player football participation is down 9.5%, even as the population has grown by 7.5%.
But Rosenberg says a look behind the numbers “tells a more nuanced – and more interesting – story.
“Football participation is up significantly in four states: Alabama (45%), Louisiana (56%), Oklahoma (15%) and Utah (9%). Those states all supported Donald Trump, by at least 18-point margins over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election....
“In fact, participation is down only 6.1% in states that were red in 2016; it is down 15.7% in blue states.”
Meanwhile, participation in soccer is up 14% over the past decade, and up 33.9% in lacrosse. Baseball/softball is down 1%.
--Golfweek Preseason Top 10 Men’s College Golf Rankings:
3. Arizona State
4. Georgia Tech
6. Wake Forest...Go Deacs!
Defending champion Stanford is just 19.
--From Horse Racing Nation:
“The Jockey Club board of stewards, concerned with the narrowing of the diversity of the Thoroughbred gene pool, on Friday announced its consideration of a rule to limit the annual breeding of individual stallions starting with the 2021 breeding season.
“The Jockey Club, established in 1894, is the keeper of the American Stud Book and maintains the Principal Rules and Requirements of the American Studbook in order to ensure the welfare of the Thoroughbred breed.
“As has been widely reported, the size of the North American foal crop has diminished significantly, from 37,499 in 2007 to the 20,500 estimated for 2020.
“In 2007, 37 stallions reported in excess of 140 mares bred each from a total of 3,865 stallions. By 2010, that number had declined to 24. Since then, the number has nearly doubled to 43 stallions reporting 140 or more mares bred from a population of stallions that now stands at less than one-half that of 2007.
“On the mare side, in 2007, 5,894 mares (9.5% of the total) were bred by stallions that covered more than 140 mares.”
I should have said the preceding was for Mature Audiences Only.
--A Minnesota woman was fatally mauled by a black bear after going to check on her dogs while at a cabin on a secluded Canadian island just north of Minnesota, police said.
When police were alerted by the victim’s mother, who was concerned when her daughter didn’t return, responding officials had trouble locating the victim, but found her body beneath the bear, which was estimated to be about 180 pounds. The bear was shot and killed, the woman already dead.
Remind me not to go to a secluded Canadian island at my advanced age.
Top 3 songs for the week 9/5/64: #1 “The House Of The Rising Sun” (The Animals) #2 “Where Did Our Love Go” (The Supremes) #3 “Everybody Loves Somebody” (Dean Martin...this single song is what made the 60s, post-British Invasion, great...that you could have a tune like this hit #1, as it did three weeks earlier...)...and...#4 “Because” (The Dave Clark Five) #5 “C’mon And Swim” (Bobby Freeman) #6 “Bread And Butter” (The Newbeats...awful tune...) #7 “Under The Boardwalk” (The Drifters...as opposed to this one...brilliant...) #8 “A Hard Day’s Night” (The Beatles...guys have promise...) #9 “How Do You Do It?” (Gerry and the Pacemakers) #10 “G.T.O.” (Ronny & The Daytonas...#6 prevents this from being an ‘A’ week, thus an ‘A-‘...)
College Football Quiz Answer: Ohio State was ranked in the AP preseason poll for a 31st consecutive season this year, the third-best streak behind only Penn State (34, 1968-2002) and Nebraska (33, 1970-2002).
The Buckeyes have been ranked in 66 of 70 preseason polls, most of any school. They were unranked in 1966, 1967, 1979 and 1988.
1969 Mets, cont’d....
The Mets returned home after their 10-game west coast swing where they went 6-4, still in the race, 5 back, and now they host the lowly Phillies for four, starting with a twi-night doubleheader on Friday.
Sept. 5: Tom Seaver becomes the Mets’ first 20-game winner (20-7), as well as the first in the National League this season, throwing a complete game in the Metropolitans’ 5-1 win.
Sept. 5: But the Mets fall in the nightcap, 4-2, as Philadelphia’s Rick Wise (12-11) tosses a complete game, 11 strikeouts, besting Jim McAndrew.
Sept. 6: Mets win 3-0, Don Cardwell throwing six scoreless to advance to 6-9, Tug McGraw with the 3-inning save as well as an RBI single.
Sept. 7: Mets win again, 9-3, Gary Gentry allowing 3 earned in six, but Nolan Ryan (5-1) picking up the win, the Metsies’ riding home runs by Tommie Agee (his 25th) and Art Shamsky.
So New York is 80-57, now just 2 ½ back of the Cubbies, as they come into town for two biggies. Buy your tickets now....even though school is back in session, these midweek games could be sellouts...just sayin’.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.