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Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
--The NBA has had its share of playoff blowouts, not great for the sport, including Game 7 in Phoenix Sunday night after I posted.
I was watching the Rangers’ Game 7 against Pittsburgh and just following Mavericks-Suns online and I gave one of those Charlie Brown Christmas tree looks when I saw the halftime score…57-27. What? Is that real?
Sure was, Dallas on its way to a 123-90 demolition, Chris Paul once again coming up small when it mattered most, 10 points, 4 assists, while Devin Booker had but 11.
Instead, Luka Doncic and Scott Dinwiddie, the latter coming off the bench, combined for 48 of the 57 Mavs first-half points, Doncic ending up with 35, Dinwiddie 30. Jalen Brunson chipped in with 24.
So, Wednesday, Game 1, Mavs at Warriors.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul is still without a title. Does the 37-year-old just wear down in the playoffs? Sure looks like it. He guided Phoenix to a franchise-record and league-high 64 wins and they can’t make the conference finals. They lost the final two games to the Mavs by 60 points combined.
It’s also the second straight year the Suns have lost a playoff series after having a 2-0 lead. They won the first two games against the Bucks in the NBA Finals last season before losing four straight games.
--Tuesday, we had Game 1 of Boston at Miami, the Celtics having torched defending champ Milwaukee in their Game 7 Sunday, 109-81.
But Boston was playing without Marcus Smart, out with a sprained foot, and Al Horford, who entered Covid-19 protocols.
The Celts, however, were up 62-54 at the half, only to see the Heat start out the third quarter with a 22-2 run and Boston finished the quarter 2 for 15 with eight turnovers in Q3, going on to lose to Miami 118-107.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 41 points and 9 rebounds. No word on the status of Smart and Horford for Game 2.
--In the NBA Draft Lottery, it’s 1. Orlando…2. Oklahoma City…3. Houston…11. Knicks.
The consensus top three picks are big men Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero.
--In the transfer portal, Iowa State nabbed two of St. Bonaventure’s senior class…center Osun Osunniyi and swingman Jaren Holmes. Big coup for the Cyclones.
Bonnies point guard Kyle Lofton, one of the best in the nation, committed to Florida.
While the NBA playoffs, and its Game 7s, have been filled with blowouts…the opposite was true in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, best exemplified by Rangers’ 4-3 OT triumph over the Penguins, completing a stirring comeback from down 3 games to 1.
And then Calgary advanced with a Game 7 on a Johnny Gaudreau (the pride of Boston College) winner late in overtime of its game against the Dallas Stars. So Calgary hosts Edmonton in their Western Conference semi.
It was the second time in NHL playoff history there were two Game 7 overtimes on the same day.
The Rangers’ win Sunday night was one for the ages, with Artemi Panarin somehow firing one past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry at 4:46 of OT, the kind of goal fans remember forever.
New York also became the first team in Stanley Cup history to record three consecutive comeback wins in elimination games within the same series; the Rangers down 2-1 and 3-2 in Game 7 before a late goal by Mika Zibanejad sent the game into overtime.
Last night, Tampa Bay whipped Florida 4-1, while Colorado bested St. Louis in overtime, 3-2, Josh Manson with the winner at 8:02 of OT for the Avalanche.
--The Yankees beat the Orioles Monday in Baltimore, 6-2, Luis Severino with six strong, as New York moved to 26-9. Only the 1939 and 1928 Yankees had better records after 35 games, 28-7, in franchise history.
And then the Yanks made it 27-9, beating the Orioles 5-4, as Aaron Judge slammed home runs No. 13 and 14. Judge went 4-for-5, his batting average up to .315, OPS 1.076.
[The ‘controversy’ concerning Yankees starter Nestor Cortes and 10-year-old tweets is a non-story.]
--The Mets are 24-14 after a doubleheader split against the Cards (20-16) yesterday, winning the opener 3-1, before falling 4-3 in the nightcap.
Prior to play, the Mets announced Jacob deGrom’s latest MRI revealed “continued healing” of a stress reaction, but he clearly isn’t returning anytime soon, and for Mets fans that sucks. I think we’d all be happy if we knew he’d be available Aug. 1, with no issues the rest of the way.
Back to the play last night, the Cards’ Tyler O’Neill struck out a franchise-record six times in the two games and as Johnny Mac reminded me, Hall of Famer Joe Sewell had five full seasons when he didn’t whiff as much as O’Neill did.
--The Angels fell to 24-15, losing to the Rangers in Arlington, 7-4, Monday, as Noah Syndergaard (3-2, 3.60) was shelled, lasting just 2/3, 4 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, and then L.A. fell 10-5 last night.
--Boston is off to a 14-22 start and the Red Sox faithful aren’t happy. So imagine their displeasure when last night at Fenway Park, starter Nathan Eovaldi became the third pitcher in major league history to allow five home runs in one inning in a 13-4 loss to Houston (24-13).
Eovaldi pitched a one-two-three first inning and then Gurriel, Brantley, Pena, Tucker and Alvarez all went deep in the second amid the boos.
--Matt Harvey, who is on a minor league contract with the Orioles, was handed a 60-game suspension on Tuesday for distributing a prohibited “drug of abuse” and thus violating MLB’s drug program. The suspension is retroactive to April 29 and is the result of a negotiated settlement that will allow minor league games to count toward the punishment.
The suspension is tied to Harvey’s testimony in the February trial of former Angels’ communications director Eric Kay, who faces a minimum 20-year prison sentence related to the sudden death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Harvey acknowledged while under immunity from criminal conviction to being a cocaine and oxycodone user and occasionally providing Skaggs with oxycodone pills when he played for the Angels in 2019.
--Tiger Woods said he is physically stronger than he was at Augusta, a good sign not just for this weekend at Southern Hills and the PGA Championship, but also for the other majors left on the schedule this year. Tiger told the press his leg will continue to improve, but he’ll never have the mobility he once had and his leg will ache, but on a limited basis, he can deal with that.
I see it’s forecast to be chilly on Saturday, so he if makes the cut, that can impact his back, as it definitely did at Augusta. [A potential issue at St. Andrews, if we get one of those classic rainy weeks at The Open Championship.]
--At Southern Hills, Phil Mickelson’s absence remains a big story.
John Feinstein / Washington Post
“There are many ways to look at the Phil Mickelson debacle. You can say he’s getting what he deserves, being so ostracized that he can’t even bring himself to show up at the PGA Championship, a year after his miracle victory in the event.
“You can say the huge gambling debts he ran up, according to Alan Shipnuck’s new book, ‘Phil: the Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,’ are a result of arrogance and lack of discipline.
“You can say all this has happened – including his flirtation with an upstart golf circuit funded by Saudi money – because he’s always believed he’s the smartest guy in the room.
“You would be right on all counts. But as someone who has known Mickelson for almost 30 years, one word comes to mind following all that’s happened in recent months: sad.
“The whole thing is sad, because Mickelson has been a truly great player: six major championships; 45 victories on the PGA Tour, a Hall of Famer when he was 42. He played on 12 straight Ryder Cup teams and, until a couple of months ago, was a lock to captain the U.S. team at Bethpage Black in 2025.
“The numbers are tremendous, but they don’t begin to tell Mickelson’s complicated story. Put simply, the guy has been great for golf….
“(The) only golfer in history who has come close to signing as many autographs as Mickelson is Palmer. Every day at the golf course, regardless of how he played, Mickelson blocked off 45 minutes to sign autographs. I often watched him interact with fans as he did so – listening, laughing, responding, making them feel as if they mattered.
“ ‘He just signs [autographs] to help his image and his marketing,’ was an argument I heard countless times.
“My answer was always the same: ‘Maybe so, but do you think the 10-year-old kid going home with his autograph cares why he signed?’”
But then Feinstein rehashes the Saudi/Khashoggi/Norman issues, and his “apology” that only made things worse, and saying that his comments to Alan Shipnuck were off the record and that he’d been quoted out of context, and we are where we are.
“And now, he won’t be at Southern Hills this week to play in the PGA Championship, an event he won a year ago, becoming the oldest man in history to win a major championship. His triumphant march up the 18th fairway at Kiawah Island with thousands screaming for him was one of those moments that gives you chills and reminds you why sports are worth our time and passion.
“Now, he’s absent and no one knows when he’ll come back or what it will be like for him when he returns. Thousands will still cheer him – the way they cheered Tiger Woods when he came back after the scandals that ended his marriage – because sports fans forgive their heroes just about anything.
“But Mickelson’s legacy will never be the same. And that’s very sad.”
Neither Feinstein, nor an extensive piece on ESPN.com by Mack Schlabach and Kevin Van Valkenburg, Monday, mention what I did last Sunday, that being the Amy Mickelson and Bones Mackay angles are no doubt more significant in this whole saga than most seem to think.
I also mentioned the looming book by gambler Billy Walters as being a reason for Phil to continue to lay low.
Here is what Schlabach and Van Valkenburg have to say about this topic.
“As damaging as the excerpts of (Alan) Shipnuck’s book were to Mickelson’s reputation – there were additional allegations that he lost more than $40 million gambling from 2010 to 2014 – people close to Mickelson say he’s more concerned about another upcoming book. Walters’ memoir which is being co-authored by journalist Armen Keteyian, will be released sometime next year. In 2017, Walters was convicted of 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. Federal prosecutors alleged Walters illegally made $40 million while trading Dean Foods stock from 2008 to 2015. He was released from prison in April 2020 and was granted clemency by former U.S. President Donald Trump in January 2021.
“In 2018, Walters told ESPN that Mickelson might have helped his defense if he had agreed to testify during his criminal trial.
“ ‘Here is a guy [Mickelson] that all he had to do was come forward and tell the truth,’ Walters said. ‘That was all he had to do. The guy wouldn’t do that because he was concerned about his image. He was concerned about his endorsements.’
“Now, nearly all of Mickelson’s endorsements have dried up. Longtime sponsors Amstel Light, KPMG and Workday ended their relationships with him. Callaway, which in 2017 signed Mickelson to a contract through the end of his playing career, paused its relationship with him.
“If Walters’ book is as explosive as anticipated, the damage might not be over. A source told ESPN, ‘Billy Walters is not a man to be trifled with.’”
--When asked to comment on Mickelson, Tiger said: “I have not reached out to him; I have not spoken to him….
“We miss him being out here. I mean, he’s a big draw for the game of golf. He’s just taking his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back.”
But as for Phil and the LIV issue, Tiger said:
“I’ve been playing out here for a couple of years over decades, and I think there’s a legacy to it. I still think that the tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity. …I understand different viewpoints, but I believe in legacies; I believe in major championships; I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. There’s plenty of money out here. The tour is growing. But it’s just like any other sport. It’s like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. …It’s just not guaranteed up front.”
--Jack Nicklaus told the Fire Pit Collective he turned down two offers to lead the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments.
“I was offered something in excess of $100 million by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg (Norman) is doing,” said Nicklaus. “I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, ‘Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA tour.”
Tuesday was the deadline by which players must request waivers to compete in the second Saudi event, scheduled for July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon.
PGA Tour policy does not permit releases to be granted for events played against its own schedule in North America, so no applications for that tournament were expected to be granted.
--After I posted last time, Steve Stricker took the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., his fourth PGA Tour Champions major title and eighth victory on the 50-and-over tour.
It was an emotional ending for Stricker, as this was just his third tournament back from a six-month absence for health reasons.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I hate crying, but where I was last November and even a couple of months ago – to come full-circle here, it means a lot.
Padraig Harrington finished second.
Stricker spent nearly two weeks in the hospital during his health crisis and lost 25 pounds. Doctors still don’t know the cause.
--Did you see the prices for beer at the PGA this week? $18 for a Michelob Ultra, $19 for Stella Artois.
However, the beer comes in 25 oz. cans, or $9 per 12.5 ounces.
--In a shocking development, Arsenal lost at Newcastle on Monday, 2-0, meaning that out of nowhere, Tottenham, which looked dead about two months ago, now just needs a draw at relegated Norwich City on Sunday to grab the last Champions League slot, while Arsenal takes on Everton.
[All 20 Premier League teams play their final game simultaneously Sunday.]
The Gunners have lost their last two, including last week’s showdown with the Spurs, when they held their destiny in their own hands.
Now Tottenham just needs to stay focused.
--In the battle for the title, Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1, Tuesday, to retain a fighting chance.
--On the relegation front, Thursday, Everton takes on Crystal Palace, while Burnley goes up against Aston Villa.
--Standings going into final weekend….Played – Points…final opponent
1. Man City…37 – 90 …Aston Villa
2. Liverpool…37 – 89 …Wolves
3. Chelsea…36 – 70
4. Tottenham…37 – 68 …Norwich
5. Arsenal…37 – 66 …Everton
16. Everton…36 – 36 …Arsenal
17. Leeds…37 – 35 …Brentford
18. Burnley…36 – 34 …Newcastle
--Only three horses from the Kentucky Derby are running in Saturday’s Preakness, including favored Epicenter, which finished second to Rich Strike. [The other two horses are Simplification and Happy Jack.]
With Rich Strike being held out to focus on the Belmont Stakes, a lot of the attention will go to Secret Oath, who is a filly for 86-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas and coming off a decisive win in the Kentucky Oaks. Female horses have won the Preakness six times.
--I posted before Kurt Bush Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Kansas City, Mo., the second win for upstart team 23XI Racing team owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. Bubba Wallace won the team’s first race last year at Talladega. For Busch it was career win No. 34.
--According to the New York Post, Drew Brees is done with NBC after just one season, seemingly because Brees wants to announce games over doing a studio show, but NBC already has Cris Collinsworth for Sunday Night Football and NBC doesn’t do many other games.
So in response, Brees tweeted out the following: “Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided. I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I’ll let you know.”
Well, a few folks took the line about playing football again seriously, but this seems highly unlikely, as he just underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder on May 2. And he’s 43.
Next Bar Chat, Sun. p.m.
[Posted early Sun. p.m., prior to Rangers-Penguins; Mavs-Suns]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
NBA Quiz: Denver’s Nikola Jokic won the MVP Award a second consecutive season, after Giannis Antetokounmpo won the prior two. Name the other 11 in NBA history to win the MVP Award back-to-back. Three won it three straight seasons. Answer below.
--Going back to Wednesday, Milwaukee stunned Boston in Beantown, 110-107, to take a 3-2 series lead.
Trailing by six points with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Bucks secured the victory when Pat Connaughton made two free throws with 5.9 seconds left.
Bobby Portis’ offensive rebound and putback off a missed free throw by Giannis with 11.4 seconds left in the fourth gave Milwaukee a 108-107 lead.
And then Bucks guard Jrue Holiday came up with the defensive plays of the playoffs thus far, blocking a Marcus Smart shot with 6.6 seconds remaining and stealing the ball from Smart with one second left – before Boston could attempt a potential game-tying shot.
So then in Milwaukee on Friday, the Celtics rode the spectacular play of Jason Tatum who had 46 points, including 7 threes, as Boston evened things up at 3-3, 108-95.
Giannis had 44 points and 20 rebounds, but had zero help, while Tatum’s running mates, Smart and Jaylen Brown, contributed 21 and 22 points, respectively.
So that set up Game 7 in Boston this afternoon, must-see TV.
Actually, as I explain below, I watched little of it, and Boston romped, 109-81! The Celtics led 48-43 at the half and then rolled. Grant Williams had the game of his life, 27 points, and Giannis (25 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists) once again had zero support.
Boston-Miami…should be good.
--The Mavericks evened their series with the Suns at 3-3 Thursday in Dallas, 113-86, as Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavs, 33 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals, setting up Game 7 in Phoenix tonight, after I go to post.
--Memphis cut Golden State’s series lead to 3-2 on Wednesday in a true rout, 134-95, and without star Ja Morant (bone bruise). At one point the Grizzlies were up 55 points (119-64), and the 39-point winning margin was the third-largest victory when facing elimination in NBA postseason history.
The Grizzlies, 21-6 this season when playing without Morant, thought they could then take the series to a Game 7 in Memphis.
Alas, they couldn’t, the Warriors taking care of business Friday night in San Francisco to wrap things up, 4-2, with a 110-96 win. Golden State started a bigger lineup, with Kevon Looney at center and he responded with 22 rebounds, 11 off the offensive boards, as he then kicked it out to Klay Thompson (30 points) and Steph Curry (29).
So Golden State awaited the Phoenix-Dallas winner for the Western Conference finals.
--Thursday, Miami wrapped up its series with Philadelphia, 4-2, defeating the Sixers in Philly, 99-90, behind Jimmy Butler’s 32. Philadelphia fans were reminded they could have had Butler a few seasons back but they didn’t want to pay him.
Joel Embiid was held in check, dealing with his thumb injury, just 7-of-24 from the field, while James Harden was invisible and came up very small, zero points in the second half. Post-game, Harden was the story. As in, what to do with him?
Jeff Zillgitt / USA TODAY
“There will be lots of discussion about James Harden.
“Washed. Deteriorating skills.
“No longer a Batman. Maybe not even a Robin.
“I’m not ready to go there yet.
“But this is a critical offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers All-Star guard and the franchise – an intricate scenario that involves Harden’s health, his future, his relationships with key figures in the Sixers organization and his ability to coexist with MVP-caliber center Joel Embiid.
“The Miami Heat on Thursday eliminated the Sixers 99-90, ending Philadelphia’s season well short of its stated goal: an NBA championship. It is the fifth consecutive season making the playoffs – and second with coach Doc Rivers – that the Sixers failed to reach at least the conference finals….
“The Sixers went for it at the trade deadline, acquiring Harden and Paul Millsap from Brooklyn in the deal that sent Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks to the Nets. Philadelphia wanted Harden to be the player it needed to compete for a title and came up short.
“Harden, 32, wasn’t that player, at least not frequently enough in the playoffs….
“Before joining the Sixers, Harden was bothered by a hamstring issue and did not play in his final four games with the Nets. After the trade, he missed his first four games with Philadelphia and sat out the All-Star Game. It was about a three-week shutdown.
“There is belief in some NBA circles that Harden was not 100% in the playoffs either. If that’s the case, Harden needs to borrow a page from Chris Paul’s playbook. In 2018, Paul struggled with a hamstring problem and was written off in the same way Harden is now.
“But Paul worked on his body, and while results weren’t overnight, Paul had several great seasons left, helping the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals last season and the league’s best record this season. He remains an elite point guard.
“ ‘I know that work that I put in day in and day out – summer, season, whatever it is,’ Paul said during last season’s Finals. ‘I don’t think about being 36 when I step out on the court. I’m grateful for the team that I have around me, whether it’s a chef, body work, trainers, all this different type stuff. It’s a lot of commitment, a lot of days and stuff to make sure you get your body ready for the game. But when you’re a competitor, it’s nothing. It’s just part of the routine.’
“It’s on Harden to put in that work….
“Regardless of Harden’s health, he and the Sixers have decisions to make. Harden has one year and $47.36 million left on his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2022-23 season. He can also decline the player option on next season’s deal and become a free agent this summer….
“After Thursday’s game, Harden said, ‘I’ll be here.’ Maybe he will, but that’s also convenient to say in that moment.”
Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said Doc Rivers will return next season for a third year with the franchise.
“I just think he’s a great coach,” Morey said during Friday’s exit interviews. “I love working with him. I feel like I’m learning from him.”
The 76ers haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs – where they’ve now lost four times in five years – since reaching the NBA Finals in 2001. Philadelphia hasn’t won an NBA championship since 1983.
Friday, Morey said the Sixers are going to spend the offseason finding ways to “unlock” Harden.
Joel Embiid spoke out after Game 6, as Harden had just 11 points and none in the second half. “Obviously, since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden, but that’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a playmaker.”
Not exactly a compliment.
--With Denver’s Nikola Jokic winning his second consecutive NBA MVP Award, it’s the first time international players have won four consecutive seasons, Giannis taking the prior two.
Jokic had 65 first-place votes from the panel of writers and broadcasters, while Embiid had 26 and Giannis nine.
Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists on a team that was missing Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., yet won 48 games. He was the first NBA player with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season.
--We had three Game 7s on Saturday, and the Toronto Maple Leafs did it again…choke mightily. Granted, they were going up against the 2-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, but they lost down in Tampa on Thursday, 4-3 in overtime, Brayden Point scoring on a rebound in OT.
And then Saturday night, they lost the deciding game at home, 2-1.
Toronto has now been eliminated in the first round in each of the past six seasons and have lost nine consecutive potential close-out games. They haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the 1966-67 season.
--Carolina took its Game 7 in Raleigh against Boston, 3-2. Great atmosphere in Raleigh.
--Edmonton won its Game 7 against the Kings at home, 2-0, behind Connor McDavid’s goal and an assist; McDavid the 4-time NHL season points leader, including for 2021-22.
--Friday, Florida took out the Capitals in Washington, 4-3 in overtime on a Carter Verhaeghe score, so the Panthers win the series 4-2.
Wednesday, Florida escaped a three-goal deficit to beat the Caps 5-3.
So now it’s Tampa Bay-Florida in what will be a stirring conference semifinal.
--Which brings me to my Rangers, who trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 after two devastating losses in Pittsburgh.
New York, backs up against the wall, then prevailed 5-3 at the Garden on Wednesday, as goalie Igor Shesterkin, torched for 10 goals over three periods in the previous two games, played strong.
And Shesterkin then did it again in Pittsburgh on Friday, the Rangers forcing a Game 7 tonight back in New York after another 5-3 win.
The Rangers’ big guns stepped up…Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider with two goals apiece, New York coming from down 2-0 after the first period, Shesterkin solid.
But Pittsburgh was without stud Sidney Crosby, who was hurt Wednesday, and it was going to be a game-time decision for Game 7.
--The Yankees played four against the White Sox in Chicago this weekend, and took the first two, Thursday and Friday, 15-7 and 10-4, New York’s streak at 17 of 19, 24-8 overall, as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge put on their best Roger Maris / Mickey Mantle, circa 1961, act.
Stanton hit two home runs and drove in a career-high 6 runs, while Judge had a homer and 4 ribbies, Thursday, and then they each homered Friday, giving Judge an MLB-leading 12 and Stanton 10.
But closer Aroldis Chapman didn’t get the job done on Saturday, giving up a run to the White Sox in the ninth, Chicago breaking the Yankees streak, at least temporarily, 3-2.
The Yanks, though, came back Sunday to win a game, 5-1, where they had two hits! Chicago starter Michael Kopech gave up two bases-loaded walks and a wild pitch in a 3-run second for New York, and then Joey Gallo hit a 2-run homer in the top of the ninth.
Nestor Cortes went 8 innings and is now 2-1, 1.35 ERA. Pretty strong.
So Yankees fans are kind of pumped…25-9!
--Mets fans, on the other hand, are a bit pissed off this afternoon. We’ve been spoiled. Hadn’t lost a series all year, 6-0 in rubber games, which we faced against Seattle at Citi Field today, and in a back-and-forth game, had second and third in the bottom of the ninth, one out, rallying back to trail 8-7, only to see Starling Marte and Pete Alonso strike out on bad pitches, Seattle having walked Francisco Lindor in between to load the bases so righty Diego Castillo could face Alonso.
Anyway, watched the whole game over golf and Celtics-Bucks because Mets fans become invested in their team, regardless of how well we’re doing, and it takes about 8-10 years off our lives.
But we are still 23-13, which ain’t bad, but we also learned starter Tylor Megill was put on the injured list. It’s a long, long season.
--The Reds and Pirates played quite a game in Pittsburgh this afternoon. Cincinnati’s prime prospect, pitcher Hunter Greene, was taken out after 7 1/3 of hitless ball, because he had thrown 118 pitches, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts, and the Pirates, despite not getting a hit, won it 1-0 on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the eighth, 1-0…which means the Reds don’t get credit for a no-hitter despite not allowing a hit.
--The Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw to sacroiliitis, or inflammation of the SI joint, as they formally called it. It doesn’t seem too serious and he’ll miss no more than two starts as of today.
But this was a bad omen, the Dodgers then losers of 4 straight, 5 of 6, to drop to 20-12. This weekend, the Phillies swept the first three games of a 4-game series in L.A., 9-7, 12-10, and 8-3, as Bryce Harper has gone wild, 4 doubles, 3 home runs and 8 RBIs in the three wins.
Harper, who is limited to DH-ing the next 3 weeks or so due to a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his elbow, now has 9 homers, 27 RBIs, a .305 BA, and a .994 OPS, as Philadelphia is back to .500, 17-17.
--The Angels are 23-13 after a doubleheader split in Oakland, losing the first 4-3, but then beating the A’s 9-1 in the nightcap, as Shohei Ohtani clubbed his 100th career home run, his seventh of the year, while Taylor Ward, who is off to a fabulous start, a breakout one at that, had his second grand slam of the season.
--The Brewers lost to the Reds 14-11 on Wednesday, but the game was notable for Christian Yelich’s third career cycle, just the fifth player in MLB history to have three, the others being Trea Turner, Bob Meusel, Babe Herman and Adrian Beltre.
--The Padres signed Robinson Cano, after the Mets released the 39-year-old. San Diego is hoping he can produce as a DH.
--Former pitcher David West, who pitched for the Mets, Twins and Phillies (and briefly Boston) from 1988-98, died of brain cancer at the age of 57, the Phillies announced Saturday.
West was a top prospect for the Mets, where he spent two seasons, before going to Minnesota and becoming part of the 1991 World Series champions. He then spent four seasons in Philadelphia, before pitching in six games for the Red Sox at the end of his career.
West was 31-38, 4.66, a spot starter/reliever.
But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, West is the sixth former Phillies player to die of brain cancer since 2003, following Ken Brett (2003), Tug McGraw (2004), Johnny Oates (2004), John Vukovich (2007), and Darren Daulton (2017).
--Entering today’s final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, we had….
Sebastian Munoz -21
Jordan Spieth -20
Joaquinn Niemann -19
James Hahn -18
Justin Thomas -18
Spieth is back for sure, a winner of the recent RBC Heritage after missing the cut at The Masters. Colombia’s Munoz was looking for his second win on tour, Chile’s Niemann his third.
But defending champion K.H. Lee of South Korea won it again with a 9-under 63, -26.
Spieth finished alone a stroke back at -25.
On to next week’s PGA Championship, Tiger in the field, but not Phil. Will Scottie Scheffler continue his magical performance? Scheffler finished T15 today, only his second tournament since his Masters triumph.
--Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post
“Phil Mickelson’s exile, not only from professional golf, but also from public life, will continue through the PGA Championship next week. That’s not only a shame for the sport, but a stain on the second major championship of the year.
“The 51-year-old Mickelson won’t defend his historic 2021 PGA Championship title next week at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. A year ago, Mickelson became the oldest major champion in the history of the sport when he captured the PGA at age 50 with a virtuoso performance on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course in South Carolina.
“Next week, he’ll be conspicuous by his absence.
“ ‘We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,’ read a statement released by the PGA of America on Friday afternoon. ‘Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to be a PGA Life Member and we would have welcomed him to participate. We wish Phil and [wife] Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf.’
“Mickelson hasn’t played competitively in more than three months. He has withdrawn from public life since explosive and controversial comments he made about the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed league fronted by Greg Norman were published – and which Mickelson claimed were part of a private conversation with a golf writer.
“Nevertheless, the backlash has been whiplash-like, leaving Mickelson reeling away from public view….
“To be clear: Mickelson made some serious mistakes. Even by his own admission, calling out the PGA Tour for ‘obnoxious greed’ in an interview with Golf Digest’s John Huggan was not a good look.
“What followed, calling out the Saudis as ‘scary motherf—kers’ for the human rights atrocities that take place there and admitting he was using the LIV Golf Invitational Series that nation backs as leverage against the PGA Tour, was a mistake considering he made an assumption he was speaking off the record with the reporter without stating the conversation was off the record before speaking.
“But when is enough, enough?
“Mickelson broke no laws. Other players have made more egregious errors in the court of public opinion. Think Tiger Woods on more than one occasion (wrecking his family with rampant infidelity and multiple dangerous motor vehicle incidents). And yet Woods remains a deified figure in the sport.
“ ‘[Mickelson] will be back,’ Jim Nantz, CBS’ lead golf broadcaster, said this week. ‘Sometimes, we get caught up in the cyclone of the story, and we think it’s forever. It won’t be forever. He’ll be back, he’ll play, he’s got a ton of fans out there. This is a forgiving nation, and there’s a million examples of people finding their way back to being on top again, and I fully expect he will one day.’….
“ ‘I think he’s trying to figure out when the right time is for him,’ Waugh said. ‘I think the game is trying to figure out the right time for him, too. How long is enough?’
“Now is ‘enough.’
“News of Mickelson’s withdrawal was bad for the 104th PGA Championship and, more importantly, bad for golf.”
But Cannizzaro says nothing about some very big news that could easily be the major reason why Mickelson doesn’t want to face the press, and crowds, just yet.
Alan Shipnuck’s looming book on Lefty talks about his $40 million in gambling losses and details the insider-trading case he was involved in with gambler Billy Walters, who is writing his own book. Plus, Shipnuck claims Phil owes (owed) former long-time caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay a lot of money for Mackay’s services, which was the cause of their split, two huge topics Cannizzaro didn’t address, and to me, it leads back to wife Amy.
I’m just a longtime observer, but Amy has obviously forgiven a lot of Phil’s outside stuff because she’s been allowed to lead a helluva life, and when she had her cancer situation, she was able to get the very best care available thanks to Phil.
BUT…did she really know Phil had racked up such massive debts? Did she believe him when he told her ‘it was nothing’? [I’m just making normal assumptions in how the two interacted in their relationship.] Did she know the details between her husband’s relationship with Mackay, the two families being extremely close…like as in Amy and Phil introduced Bones to his wife, Jen, and Jen and Amy are best friends.
There is a lot more here…and there always is with Phil. He’s one of the more complex, and fascinating, individuals in all of sports in our lifetimes. Shipnuck picked a helluva topic for what no doubt will be the definitive bio of Mickelson. [I just read a review in Bloomberg Business Week and they said it is terrific.]
And no doubt, when it comes to the excessive gambling, Billy Walters will be looking to tell his story, potentially at Phil’s expense.
For all we know, Phil and Amy could be nearing splitsville, and that would be a massive monetary deal.
Now I know I have just jumped to a lot of conclusions, and I’m normally the ‘wait 24 hours’ guy, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m throwing out a lot of legitimate reasons why Phil isn’t ‘ready’ to face the music.
--And then there is Greg Norman, who continued his spectacular fall from grace, not that anyone ever really gave a damn about the guy, when he spoke to reporters in London on Wednesday to promote the Saudi-backed LIV league and the first event outside London.
When questions arose about the Saudi government’s murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, among other atrocities, Norman said the following:
“Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”
Khashoggi was hacked into little pieces with a bonesaw. Just a little mistake, like failing to notify the driver behind you that you are about to change lanes.
Norman’s full statement: “Everybody has owned up to it, right? It has been spoken about, from what I’ve read, going on what you guys reported. Take ownership, no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”
Just a reminder on the facts. Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Oct. 2018, with a U.S. report last year saying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the operation, and which Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said had been ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
The fiancée of Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz, said that it is “hurtful” that his killing is “brushed off as a ‘mistake’ and that we should just move on,” Cengiz said in a statement to Reuters through her lawyer.
--So regarding the PGA Tour’s denying conflicting-event releases to players seeking a spot in the LIV Golf series opener in London, some were surprised by the strict adherence to the rules by Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, having assumed, wrongly, that the tour would only block the petitions when the event in question was held in the United States.
But Justin Thomas said in response: “I think Jay’s made it very clear from the start of what would happen or, you know, I think a lot of people are probably like, I can’t believe you did this or, Wow, you went through with t. But I mean this is what he said was going to happen all along,” Thomas said Wednesday. “It’s one of those things where he just doesn’t want the competing tour, the back and forth.”
But, to those that are going to jump, solely for the money, Thomas does have one ask.
“You know, it’s like, ‘Look, if you want to go, go,’ I mean there’s been plenty of guys that have been advocates of it and have just talked it up all the time and they have been guys behind the scenes that are saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this.’ And like my whole thing is, like just go then….
“Like if I wanted to go play that tour I could go play that tour. But I’m loyal to the PGA Tour and I’ve said that and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for me to, I mean, break records, make history, do a lot of things on the PGA Tour I want to do.”
Will Zalatoris echoed JT’s comments.
“I’m on the Player Advisory Council so we’ve had a lot of talks behind closed doors about it. And I think it’s great. I mean, look, if you want to do it, no one’s stopping you, but what we have here is pretty good too, considering every week we’re playing for a pretty great purse on pretty great golf courses and considering the benefits that we have off the golf course on top of that it’s pretty tough to beat.
“And purses are only going up here, but on top of that, like I said, no one’s stopping anyone from doing it, but I think everyone agrees that the decision that came out yesterday is the best for the tour.”
--The Men’s NCAA Division I Golf Championship gets going Monday with regional play, the top five teams in each region advancing to the NCAA Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz., May 27-June 1.
Wake Forest is a 3-seed in New Haven, Conn.
The Women’s Championship field is set, 24 teams competing at the same Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale days before the men, May 20-25.
TCU is the top seed. The Lady Deacs are in the field and have a shot.
It’s crunch time, the battle for the PL title, the fourth spot in the Champions League, and avoiding relegation.
But first, Saturday, Liverpool kept alive its hopes for an unprecedented four titles in the same season (the “quadruple”), having already won the Carabao Cup, when it defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, 0-0, 6-5 on penalty kicks. It was the third straight year Chelsea had lost the FA Cup final. Just crushing for the Blues.
Sunday, Manchester City sought to stay comfortably atop the PL as they took on West Ham, and for a while, City looked like they would suffer a huge defeat and give Liverpool even more life, but they salvaged a 2-2 draw, after being down 2-0 at the intermission.
So City just needs a victory over Aston Villa on the final day for the championship.
Tottenham, which had defeated Arsenal on Thursday in a titanic contest, 3-0, as Harry Kane scored two, Son Heung-min the other, then barely took care of business Sunday, 1-0 over Burnley, Kane the lone goal.
Leeds picked up a huge point with a 1-1 draw with Brighton to move back into the 17-slot, ahead of Burnley, but Leeds has just one game remaining, and Burnley two, the latter with a hefty lead in goal differential.
And then in today’s nightcap, Everton was looking to secure its top-flight status for 2022-23 with a win at home against solid Brentford, but they fell a man down with a red card at 18’ and then gave up two goals to Brentford within 90 seconds in the second half, the Toffees falling 3-2 in another disheartening performance for the fans.
Everton must now win at home Thursday against Crystal Palace, because their finale, when all the teams play at once next Sunday, is at Arsenal.
The standings with just a precious few remaining…Played (of 38) – Points
1. Man City…37 – 90
2. Liverpool…36 – 86
3. Chelsea…36 – 70
4. Tottenham…37 – 68
5. Arsenal…36 – 66
16. Everton…36 – 36
17. Leeds…37 - 35
18. Burnley…36 – 34
19. Watford…37 – 23
20. Norwich…37 – 21
Monday, Arsenal goes on the road for its crucial match with Newcastle, knowing it must get a ‘W’.
Tuesday, Liverpool travels to Southampton to keep its title hopes alive.
By the way, Fulham and Bournemouth are going to be promoted to the Premier League from the Championship League (not to be confused with the Champions League), while there is a 4-team playoff for the third spot.
--Well, horse racing fans got some bad news…Rich Strike, the Kentucky Derby winner, is being held out of next weekend’s Preakness, owner Rick Dawson announced on Thursday.
Instead of racing in Baltimore, trainer Rick Reed and Dawson are pointing towards the Belmont Stakes on June 11. They just decided its best to give their horse 5-6 weeks rest between races.
We’ll find out if Rich Strike is for real at the Belmont, and if so, there are some lucrative summer races, such as Monmouth Park’s (N.J.) Haskell Stakes (July 23), and then Saratoga’s Travers (Aug. 27), before you think about the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Nov. 5), as your editor plans out Rich Strike’s year.
This is I’m sure the right thing to do for the colt, and it does bring up the matter of adding a week between the Derby and Preakness, which only makes sense, but then there is the history of the Triple Crown. It’s supposed to be a test of greatness.
But the sport needs horses winning the first two legs to generate juice.
--We note the passing of Gino Cappelletti, 89, an original member of the Boston Patriots in 1960 and the AFL’s MVP in 1964.
Cappelletti was one of only three players to play in every game in the AFL’s 10-year history, along with Jim Otto and George Blanda.
Cappelletti was both a placekicker and wide receiver, who with 42 career touchdown receptions, had some big point seasons, including the top two scoring seasons in AFL history with 155 points in 1964 and 147 in 1961. He still holds the Patriots single-game record for points in a game with 28.
Bazooka Joe says: “Gino played his college ball at Minnesota!”
He was one of my first football cards. Gino was a radio analyst for the Pats from 1988-2011, as well as the special teams coach for a spell.
--I get a kick out of all the handwringing after fans see their team’s schedule for the NFL season. It’s all rather stupid. So much can happen between now and each of the games, namely injuries, and in the case of the Jets, we have no freakin’ clue whether or not quarterback Zach Wilson is going to take a step up this season. If he does, just play the games. If he doesn’t, well then you start thinking, where are we going to get 4 or 5 wins?
More importantly, will Up With People be the Super Bowl Halftime Act? I mean I want Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic, but Up With People puts on a wholesome, family-friendly show.
--A U.S. Army soldier died the other day at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendort-Richardson after being attacked by a bear. The soldier and two fellow soldiers were laying out a course for navigation training near a regional landfill when it appears they encountered a brown bear sow who was protecting her two cubs. A second soldier was knocked down and later hospitalized, and released, with minor injuries.
--The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is in charge of the area’s airports, did an investigation into the staggering prices for beer at same, and the PA’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed that some customers were being charged $23 to $27 for a “seasonal beer,” or twice the price of a large can of premium beer sold at Yankee Stadium.
So the Port Authority is going to routinely monitor vendors and officials are encouraging travelers to report out of line prices to the agency.
I think I’ll just riot.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/13/78: #1 “If I Can’t Have You” (Yvonne Elliman) #2 “The Closer I Get To You” (Roberta Flack with Donny Hathaway) #3 “With A Little Luck” (Wings)…and…#4 “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” (Johnny Mathis/Deniece Williams) #5 “Night Fever” (Bee Gees) #6 “You’re The One That I Want” (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John) #7 “Can’t Smile Without You” (Barry Manilow) #8 “Count On Me” (Jefferson Starship) #9 “Dust In The Wind” (Kansas) #10 “Imaginary Lover” (Atlanta Rhythm Section…C+ week…after a disastrous sophomore year at Wake, albeit lots of fun, I headed out to Oklahoma and Kansas to sell books door-to-door…another disaster…would I be allowed back on campus come the fall? It’s 50/50…)
I was listening to Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM this weekend, and reminded of a tune Willie Nelson first wrote for the great Ray Price, circa 1963…
When the evening sun goes down
You will find me hanging round
The night life, ain’t no good life
But it’s my life
NBA Quiz Answer: Back-to-back MVP Award winners.
Jokic, Giannis, Stephen Curry, LeBron James (twice), Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, and Kareem (twice). Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell each won the award in three straight seasons.
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.