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Justin Thomas Wins His Second Major!
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
Note: I totally lost interest in doing this column yesterday after the news out of Uvalde broke. I felt like Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who last night before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals in Dallas, said:
“I’m not going to talk about basketball…any basketball questions don’t matter. Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed*, 400 miles from here. And a teacher. And in the last 10 days we’ve had elderly Black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California and now we have children murdered at school.”
*Kerr didn’t know at the time that the death toll would rise to 19 children, two adults.
Kerr’s eyes watered. He pounded his palm on a table a few times. His words became a scream.
“When are we going to do something?”
As Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote:
“Stick to sports? You can stick that ‘Stick to sports.’
“Shut up and dribble? How about you shut up and listen?....
“Sports may be trivial, but people pay attention to those who play and coach sports.
“Sports might be a silly game, but people notice when suddenly the leader of the most popular team in one of this country’s most popular leagues refuses to talk about that game….
“It mattered because he knows what he’s talking about, his father having been murdered in a terrorist attack in Beirut in 1984.
“It mattered because he veered from the lane usually occupied by coaches who are supposed to be the bastions of calm, who aren’t supposed to bang their palm on a table for anything other than to protest a bad call….
“ ‘I’m tired,’ he said. ‘I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. …I’m sorry, I’m tired of the moments of silence, enough!’”
--MLB suspended Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson for one game for “inappropriate comments” made to White Sox superstar Tim Anderson on Saturday.
A statement from MLB’s senior vice president for on-field operations, Michael Hill, read: “MLB has completed the process of speaking to the individuals involved in this incident. There is no dispute over what was said on the field. Regardless of Mr. Donaldson’s intent, the comment he directed toward Mr. Anderson was disrespectful and in poor judgment, particularly when viewed in the context of their prior interactions. In addition, Mr. Donaldson’s remark was a contributing factor in a bench-clearing incident between the teams, and warrants discipline.”
The White Sox don’t think the penalty is enough, while I don’t think the penalty was necessary. The guy is a primo jerk, but I’m not sure this is the kind of thing you suspend a player over.
That said, I was floored how all the New York sports radio guys on WFAN Monday were defending Donaldson (before news of the suspension came out).
Donaldson was race-baiting, clear and simple, with his use of the term “Jackie,” which Anderson used back in 2019 in a Sports Illustrated interview. Donaldson has clearly been messing with Anderson ever since.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Sunday that he did not think Donaldson should have made the comment.
Aaron Judge criticized Donaldson. “It’s a tough one,” Judge said after Monday’s 6-4 loss to Baltimore, New York’s third in a row.
“Joke or not, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do there,” Judge said. “Given the history, especially the series in Chicago and the little bit of a beef between Anderson and [Donaldson]. Anderson is one of the best shortstops in the game and is a big part of MLB and how we can grow the game. [Donaldson] getting a one-game suspension…I don’t know. He made a mistake, owned up to it and we’ve got to move on.”
“I don’t believe there was any malicious intent in that regard,” Boone told reporters. “But you know, this is, just in my opinion, somewhere he should not be going.”
Back to Monday’s loss to the Orioles, Gerrit Cole entered the game having thrown to a 6.35 ERA his first three starts of the season, then 1.67 his next five.
Monday, it was a decidedly mixed bag. He went eight innings, struck out 11, didn’t walk a batter, but yielded 5 runs on 7 hits, his record now 4-1, 3.31.
Donaldson and left fielder Joey Gallo, as well as catcher Kyle Higashioka, were all out...Covid injured list. [Donaldson is appealing his suspension.]
Meanwhile, Aaron Judge turned down a seven-year, $230 million deal in the offseason and I thought he was nuts. I’ll say that for the next 2-3 seasons. He turned 30 in April.
So he’s backing up his talk with a spectacular start, 17 home runs, 34 RBIs, batting .325 (prior to an 0-for-5 last night), 35 runs scored, 1.113 OPS after Monday, and he’s convinced someone is going to give him a seven-year, $280 million deal in the offseason, or more.
Only one team will do that…maybe the Mets, whose owner Steve Cohen desperately wants to be the top sports story in New York, not the Yankees.
But Judge remains a guy who missed big chunks of 2018-20. I maintain the Yanks’ offer was eminently fair. The team, though, can do something that would send Judge a nice thank you. His contract for 2022 is currently heading toward arbitration next month. The Yankees offered $17 million, Judge’s side countered at $21 million. The Yanks should just give him the $21 million.
--The Mets (29-16) have had their hitting shoes on the last two nights in San Francisco, but despite scoring 13 runs in each contest, they split with the Giants (23-19), taking Monday night’s game 13-3, but losing 13-12 last night.
The Mets trailed San Fran by 8-2 in the seventh before launching another terrific comeback, and actually led 12-11 heading to the bottom of the ninth, only to see closer Edwin Diaz blow it.
The Giants’ Joc Pederson, in a 4 for 46 funk, hit three home runs and drove in 8!
The Mets’ Francisco Lindor had six RBIs.
--The Cardinals were 24-18 after a 7-3 win a 10-inning affair with Toronto (22-20) Monday night; St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt with a walk-off grand slam.
The 34-year-old is having a helluva season…7 home runs, 33 RBIs, 16 doubles, .338 BA, .977 OPS.
I’ve mentioned Goldschmidt before in terms of the Hall of Fame, and when the Mets and Cards were playing recently, the Met announcers were doing the same. I mean the guy has five, top 6 MVP seasons, multiple Gold Gloves, and he’ll be over 2,000 hits, 1,200 RBIs, easily, before his career is over, barring injury.
If he isn’t voted into the Hall in his 10 years of eligibility, he’s a definite via the Veterans Committee.
I mean I really can’t believe Scott Rolen is on his way to the Hall, having received 63% in his fifth season of eligibility last January. Rolen has one year where he was top 6 in the MVP vote.
--Washington is having a miserable season, 14-29 thru Monday, and Juan Soto isn’t doing well either, .245 BA, just 13 RBIs, and OPS of .833, well below his career mark of .968.
But while he doesn’t turn 24 until October (which is hard to believe) and isn’t a free agent until 2025, some are beginning to think the unthinkable…that the Nationals could trade him, if not this season, in the offseason.
Washington should commit to him now…give him a creative $35-$40 million a year a deal thru age 30. If Nats ownership isn’t willing to do that, yes, then trade him.
--It’s hardly been scintillating in either conference final. Boston evened things up with its second rout 102-82 Monday night in Beantown. Miami’s two wins were by 118-107 and 109-103.
In Game 4, the Heat’s starting lineup was invisible, missing 15 of its first 16 shots, the Celts jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising the rest of the way. In Game 2, Boston led 70-45 at the half.
Jason Tatum led the way in Monday’s yawner with 31 points, even as Marcus Smart was out for the Celts with a sprained right ankle suffered in the second half of Game 3.
Miami’s starting five finished up 7 of 36 shooting as they all sat out the fourth quarter.
Game 5 down in Miami.
--In the Warriors-Mavericks series, Golden State beat Dallas 109-100 Sunday night to go up 3-0. Steph Curry had 31 points, but Andrew Wiggins stole the show with a playoff career-high 27 points that included a dunk for the ages, along with 11 rebounds.
And with no team ever coming back from down 3-0 in the NBA playoffs, it was over.
But the Mavs did cut it to 3-1 with a 119-109 win last night, though no one at the game, played in Dallas, really cared.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--The Rangers have done it…evened up their series with the Hurricanes at 2-2, beating Carolina 4-1 at the Garden.
--Monday, the Lightning wrapped things up against the Panthers, 2-0, sweeping the Presidents Trophy winners in four. Florida scored three goals in the series.
Colorado took a commanding 3-1 lead in its series with St. Louis, winning 6-3 on Monday behind Nazem Kadri’s hat trick.
The PGA Championship…a final look.
--Justin Thomas matched the largest comeback in PGA history; John Mahaffey was seven shots back entering the final round before winning the 1978 PGA in a playoff against Tom Watson.
With his win, Thomas joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson as the only players since World War II to win at least 15 PGA Tour titles and two majors before turning 30. I wrote Sunday when it was over that this career validation for Thomas, desperately wanting the second major that has eluded some pretty big names, including the likes of Lanny Wadkins, if you want to go way back. Fred Couples only won one major, both in the Hall of Fame.
In today’s game the likes of Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Jason Day all have double-figures in wins on the PGA Tour, but just one major.
So with good reason, an emotional, and relieved, Thomas said after, “I definitely crossed one off my list.”
And he no doubt has caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay to thank for keeping Thomas in the moment.
“I hate to use a cliché, but he was as cool as a cucumber out there,” Mackay said. “All day,” even when he shanked his drive on No. 6.
It was after a crappy 74 in the third round that left Thomas 7 off the lead, that a despondent JT went to the range, and it as a pep talk then by Mackay that brought him back into a better place.
“Bones had a great talk with him,” said father Mike Thomas, who serves as Justin’s swing coach. “He said some things that I probably wanted to say, but as a father, if I’d have said them, he’d have been like ‘You’re stroking my ego.’ But when Bones said them, it hit home.”
After Mackay and Phil Mickelson quit, Bones wasn’t interested in caddying again, but when he heard Thomas’ bag might be available, he jumped at the opportunity.
“If I was ever going to caddie again, this was the time and, without question, this was the player,” Mackay said. “My wife will tell you, the person I said from the get-go that I would leave [TV] for if the opportunity arose was Justin Thomas. I really like him. I caddied for him before, but I think he has more shots than anybody on tour. In his arsenal, he’s got more than anyone I’ve seen. High, low, soft hands around the green. The guy is really, really good. I wanted to be around it.”
--Runner-up Will Zalatoris has five top-10s in his first eight major starts, a feat not accomplished since Ernie Els. ‘Yeah, I love it,” Zalatoris said of the pressure inherent in majors. “If I didn’t like it, I would probably need to find a new career, right. It’s the same thing, when people say, man, what’s it like to play in front of the crowds and the joke I tell people is, don’t forget about the 10 million at home.”
But the putter keeps letting him down in key moments and he needs to find an answer.
--Poor Mito Pereira, who was trying to become the first from Chile to win a major and the first PGA Tour rookie to win the PGA since Keegan Bradley in 2011.
Pereira took a one-shot lead into No. 18, and having parred 15-17, looked to be in control, until that fateful drive. Heck, I forgot there was water where his tee shot ended up. Turns out he had too. And then he put his third on the par-4 off to the left of the green, needing an up-and-down to force a playoff, and it took him three shots to get in for his killer double-bogey.
It all happened so quickly. Nick Faldo had been wondering throughout the final few holes why Pereira seemed to be in such a rush. I mean I know the airlines are still struggling to get back to pre-pandemic capacity when it comes to flights, but, geez.
Ever the gentleman, though, Pereira answered the music at the end.
“On 18, I wasn’t even thinking about the water. I just wanted to put it in play, and I guess I aimed too far right. I just hit it in the water. It’s not how I wanted to end up this week, but really good result.
“Today I was really nervous. I tried to handle it a little bit but it’s really tough. I thought I was going to win on 18, but it is what it is. I thought I was nervous the first day. Then I thought I was nervous the second day. Then I thought I was nervous on the third day but the fourth day was terrible. I mean, this morning was tough. I just played it through, and actually had a one-shot lead on 18 and that was pretty good and sad to hit it in the water. I wish I could do it again.”
--JT, a former star at Alabama and big Bama football fan, couldn’t help but weigh in on the Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher feud after he won on Sunday.
Thomas was asked if he would follow Saban’s 24-hour celebration rule.
“Yeah, I got a 24-hour rule,” Thomas told Sirius XM. “I’m not sure what Jimbo Fisher’s rule is, but I guess he’s gotta win something first before he figures out his rules.”
To be fair, Fisher did win a national championship at Florida State, back in 2013, but Saban has six national titles.
--Novak Djokovic is off and running after a 7 ½-month absence. He opened his French Open title defense with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka…known to his friends as “Yo.”
Djokovic is looking for this third title in Paris and 21st Grand Slam trophy overall, to tie him with Rafael Nadal; Nadal cruising in his first-round match, giving Rafa a 106-3 record at Roland Garros. It was also Nadal’s 299th win in Grand Slams, a total beaten only by Roger Federer and Djokovic.
[Both Djokovic and Nadal are playing their second-round matches after I go to post.]
On the women’s side, Naomi Osaka headed home after a 7-5, 6-4 loss in the first round to 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who also beat Osaka in the Australian Open. Osaka was dealing with a troublesome left Achilles tendon and it clearly affected her play.
Defending champ Barbora Krejcikova was ousted in the first round, with Iga Swiatek now a decided favorite.
Anna Kournikova isn’t in the tournament.
--It appears Harry Kane will be back with Tottenham, but there would be no lingering issues if manager Antonio Conte would commit to returning. The Spurs’ stars want Conte back, but he has dropped hints he wants to move on, which would really suck.
--Scott Dixon grabbed his fifth pole for the 106th Indianapolis 500 this Sunday, Dixon’s qualifying four-lap average the second fastest in race history at 234.046 mph.
Along with Alex Palou (233.499) and Rinus VeeKay (233.395), it’s the fastest front row in Indy 500 history.
Jimmie Johnson will start 12th, the fourth row.
Among the veterans in the race are Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, JR Hildebrand, Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti.
Andretti is always my favorite, but this year it’s about Johnson.
--As you watch the Indy 500, know that this is the 50th anniversary of Mark Donohue’s win. I’ve talked about this numerous times over the years, but for new readers, Donohue grew up in my hometown of Summit, N.J., and is literally buried less than a mile from where I live.
Donohue died in a practice run at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix.
I drive by the cemetery (St. Teresa’s) every day, at least once, and think of him all the time, and visit his gravesite a few times a year. And I will do so as I always do Memorial Day weekend ahead of the race.
My mother and Mark’s mother were friends, all of us belonging to the same church in Summit, and I went to his funeral, Aug. 1975. It was a huge deal…racing royalty was there. You can easily look up all the details. I mean we’re talking Mario Andretti, Brian Redman (a big European racer), Bobby Allison, Gary Bettenhausen…Tony Hulman, president of Indianapolis Speedway way back…
My brother and I also remember the likes of Chris Economaki (a huge broadcasting star in those days) and Howard Cosell, many others.
But in terms of this weekend, Donohue’s car owner at the time of his death was none other than Roger Penske, who was one of the pallbearers (and also at Donohue’s bedside when he died in an Austrian hospital). 50 years ago. And Roger Penske is still going strong…with multiple cars in this year’s 500, and in NASCAR.
One more…to my friend Dr. W., who grew up going to Talladega Superspeedway more than a few times.
Weeks before he died in Austria, Donohue set a closed-course world record in a Porsche 917-30 at Talladega at 221.160 mph. It stood as a world-record for four years, and as a United States record until 1986. And you can look it up.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to late NBA and MLB action.]
NCAA Men’s Golf Championship Quiz: Post-1950, name the seven schools that have won at least 3 titles. [One is very tough…and won its three 1950-52…actually, 4, 1949-52] Answer below.
--It was all about the luck of the draw for the first two rounds at Southern Hills CC, Tulsa, Oklahoma…the morning/afternoon pairings generally doing much better, with far less wind, then the afternoon/early morning groupings, and Wake Forest’s Will Zalatoris, looking for the breakthrough win, took advantage of it.
After two rounds…
Will Zalatoris -9
Mito Pereira -8
Justin Thomas -6
Bubba Watson -5…after a fantastic 63 Friday
Rory McIlroy -4…the first-round leader…65-71
Abraham Ancer -4
Davis Riley -4
Saturday, after the weather front came through that dumped snow on Denver, Friday, the temperature at Southern Hills was in the 50s with a gusty wind. Just miserable, and as I wrote the other day, having looked at the forecast, it hurt Tiger Woods.
Woods gutted it out Friday to make the cut, but it was a struggle with his leg, and then Saturday, under the severe weather conditions, Tiger shot a 79, his worst in 79 rounds at the PGA Championship, and hours later he withdrew, the first time he had done so as a professional at a major. [As an amateur in 1995, he had to exit the second round of the U.S. Open due to a wrist injury.]
Tiger felt good early in the week, but, like Augusta, Southern Hills is no easy walk. Here’s hoping he just rehabs for St. Andrews. He should skip the U.S. Open and focus on that.
So back to the action….later Saturday we had this…
Pereira -6 thru 12
Zalatoris -5 thru 12
Watson -5 thru 12
Thomas -4 thru 12
Matt Fitzpatrick -4 thru 14
And then Wake’s Cameron Young eagled 17 to go -5!
We finished up the third….
Seamus Power -3
None of the top four have a win on the tour, and Ancer has just one. It’s gonna be fun. Wake Forest fans are anxious to see how Demon Deacon teammates Zalatoris and Young fare, being paired together which can only be good. Plus, Wake’s Webb Simpson is among a huge group at -1 after a sterling 65 on Saturday.
So…after Zalatoris made a terrific bogey from way off the green at the par-3 6th, he then bogeyed 7 and we had this….
Pereira -8 thru 7
Zalatoris -6 thru 7
Young -6 thru 7
Zalatoris then had a terrific par from trouble on No. 8, but Young bogeyed it to go to -5.
Then Young birdied No. 9…back to -6.
Meanwhile, after his opening 65, which belied his history of poor opening rounds in majors in the last eight years since his last win in one came in 2014, Rory McIlroy struggled, 71-74, to enter the final round T17, nine off the lead.
But he birdied Nos. 2-4 to get to -3 to start his round today. However, despite hitting every green after and giving himself numerous terrific birdie chances, he stayed at -3, playing well ahead, thru No. 16, but solo fifth.
McIlroy then dropped back…but Justin Thomas birdied Nos. 9, 11 and 12 to get to -4…he’s in it. Pereira bogeyed 8. Now -7.
Pereira, after two straight bogeys, then had a terrific par at 9…so…
Pereira -7 thru 9
Zalatoris -6 thru 10
Young -6 thru 10
Fitzpatrick -5 thru 10
Thomas -4 thru 12
Moving on…Pereira bogeys 12, Zalatoris and Young barely miss birdies at 13…
Pereira -6 thru 12
Young -6 thru 13
Zalatoris -5 thru 13
Thomas -4 thru 14
Fitzpatrick -3 thru 12
Pereira birdies 13, then bogeys 14…
Pereira -6 thru 14
Young -5 thru 15
Zalatoris -5 thru 15
Thomas -4 thru 16
Fitzpatrick -3 thru 14
Tommie Fleetwood and Chris Kirk -3 after a sterling 67 and 68, respectively.
Rory finishes -2.
Fitzpatrick a spectacular birdie at 15 to get to -4. Pereira misses makeable birdie. Still -6.
Thomas birdies 17 to get to -5…one back! Holy [Toledo]! But he has the super tough finishing 18.
Young then double bogeys 16 and teammate Zalatoris bogeys it! Ugh!
Thomas drills his tee shot on 18. And hits his approach inside 10 feet!
Pereira clutch par putt on 16 to stay one ahead at -6.
Zalatoris birdies 17…JT just gets the par. Young birdies 17.
Pereira -6 thru 16
Zalatoris -5 thru 17
Fitzpatrick -4 thru 16
Young -4 thru 17
Pereira only pars short par-4 17th. And then puts it in the water with his drive on 18!
Zalatoris with a clutch par putt on 18 to stay at -5 with Thomas.
Pereira’s third is in the rough off 18. Needs up-and-down to join a playoff with JT and Will.
He doesn’t do it. It’s Thomas and Zalatoris…Young and Pereira tied for third at -4.
Both then birdie the first of three holes (this playoff being a 3-hole aggregate), the par-5 13th. On to the short par-4 17th.
Thomas birdies, Zalatoris pars….JT one up. Crap…though I hasten to add, I like JT.
On 18, both drives are good, JT in much better shape on their approaches at the par 4. Zalatoris can't get the birdie.
Thomas achieves career validation with his second major (both PGAs). Zalatoris in good shape. He will break through this year…maybe not until the fall segment, but that’s OK…ditto Cam Young.
And Bones Mackay is on the bag of JT. Good for him, too.
--Among those missing the cut were Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Cantlay.
DJ hasn’t won since his win in the November Masters of 2020.
Cantlay continues to suck in major championships. He now has just two top 10s in 18 starts in the four major events.
Bryson DeChambeau withdrew before the tournament started, saying his surgically repaired left wrist wasn’t ready yet. He was practicing in Tulsa and preparing to give it a go.
--ESPN’s Sage Steele had an unfortunate accident on Friday. After covering the PGA for “Sportscenter,” she was just walking amongst the gallery and standing underneath a tree off the par-4 third hole when Jon Rahm badly hooked his tee show and immediately screamed “Fore left!”. Rahm’s ball hit Steele in the face. Eyewitnesses saw Steele on the ground, holding her nose, mouth, chin area…hands covered in blood.
EMTs rushed her to a Tulsa hospital and she is back home in Connecticut, telling her fans she is doing fine, apparently needing some dental work, and was most appreciative of the care she received.
The impact had to be very painful because Rahm’s ball actually ended up back in the fairway.
--In Men’s College Golf, the field is set for next week’s NCAA championships and Wake Forest won its regional in New Haven, Conn., Yale Golf Club. A good sign after we won our first ACC Championship the week before. Senior Alex Fitzpatrick, Matt Fitzpatrick’s brother, led the way.
--In the Celtics-Heat matchup, Thursday, Boston blitzed Miami on the road in Game 2, taking a 70-45 halftime lead and cruising 127-102, as Jason Tatum (27 points), Jaylen Brown (24) and Marcus Smart (24 points, 9 rebounds, 12 assists), proved to be too much to handle for Jimmy Butler (29) and cast.
But then in Game 3, Saturday, up in Boston, Miami surprised the Celts 109-103, despite losing Butler at the half to right knee inflammation.
The Heat led 87-72 after three, but trailing 93-80, the Celtics scored 12 straight, 10 by Brown – to make it a one-point game with 2:40 left.
Miami then scored the next seven points and went on to victory. Tatum went down in pain with five minutes left in the fourth, though he returned. It was a neck issue.
But we’ll see about the health of Butler for Game 4 in Boston, Miami up 2-1.
--Tonight, the Warriors take on the Mavericks in Dallas, Golden State up 2-0.
In Game 2 Friday, Steph Curry scored 32 points, while center Kevon Looney had a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, as the Warriors rallied past the Mavs 126-117, despite Luka Doncic’s 42.
--Stan Van Gundy, doing the playoffs for TNT, has major doubts the Knicks can turn things around with their current roster.
“The Knicks right now – do you love their roster? Because I don’t. People always say we’ve got talent. Well, hell, it’s the NBA. Every team has talent. But relative to the other teams – do you really look at the Knicks roster this year compared to the teams that were in the playoffs and say, wow, our roster is more talented than theirs? I don’t. I don’t think that’s a very talented roster relative to everyone else.”
He's right. And so Knicks fan continue to sulk…drinking heavily…hoping Donovan Mitchell comes our way, for starters.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--Rangers fans weren’t necessarily surprised the team lost its first two games against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, but it was the lack of offense in both that is so frustrating.
New York lost the first 2-1 in overtime, giving up the tying goal late in regulation, and then Ian Cole won it early in OT.
But in the second game, a 2-0 loss, the Rangers’ stars just didn’t show up. Chris Kreider, zero shots on goal. Artemi Panarin, zero shots on goal. Mika Zibanejad, two shots on goal. Those three in particular have to shine for the Rangers to have a shot.
And the Rangers won today in Game 3 back at the Garden, 3-1, as Zibanejad and Kreider scored! Igor Shesterkin with 43 saves!
--In the early game this afternoon, Tampa Bay squared off against Florida, up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals after two wins on the road, including Thursday night’s 2-1 win in Game 2 on a Ross Colton goal with 3.8 seconds remaining.
And the two-time defending champion Lightning are up 3-0, after a 5-1 win over this year’s Presidents Trophy winner (for best regular-season record).
--The Colorado Avalanche, who many pick to win it all, took a 2-1 lead in their series with the Blues Saturday night, taking Game 3 in St. Louis, 5-2.
--Tonight, the Flames take on the Oilers in Edmonton, knotted at 1-1. Last Wednesday, in Game 1, Calgary won 9-6, as Matthew Tkachuk had his first career playoff hat trick.
The scoring started early…Calgary scoring two goals in the opening 51 seconds, the fastest two goals to start an NHL playoff game. It was the highest scoring postseason game since 1993, when Los Angeles beat Calgary by the same score.
Edmonton took Game 2, 5-2.
--The Mets received awful news on Thursday after an MRI revealed starter Max Scherzer, the $130 million man (over three years) had suffered a left oblique strain and will be out 6-8 weeks.
Coupled with Jacob deGrom being in the midst of a painfully slow rehab, and starter Tylor Megill being out, Mets fans are depressed, waiting for a collapse.
Scherzer took himself out of Wednesday’s 11-4 win over the Cardinals after his 87th pitch, telling the dugout “I’m done.”
In eight starts, Scherzer was doing exactly what the team wanted when owner Steve Cohen opened up his rather hefty wallet. 5-1, 2.54 ERA, and a force in the dugout and the clubhouse.
Well, the Metsies were snowed out Friday in Denver, forced to play a doubleheader Saturday against the Rockies, which they split, Mets winning the opener 5-1 behind Carlos Carasco (4-1, 3.50), and losing the nightcap 11-3. New York is 21-3 when scoring 4 or more runs.
And they won today, 2-0, behind seven shutout innings from Taijuan Walker, the save for Edwin Diaz, Mets 28-15, having lost just one series all season. Resilience is the word for today.
--After being rained out Friday, the Yankees took on the White Sox, Saturday, at the Stadium and the Yanks improved to 29-10 with a 7-5 win over the ChiSox (19-20).
But the story was the tension between the Yankees Josh Donaldson, a first-class jerk, and the White Sox’ Tim Anderson, who is very outspoken on various topics, as well as being a helluva ballplayer.
Benches cleared when things got ugly between the two, as Anderson claimed Donaldson made a racist comment directed towards Anderson.
Donaldson admitted after that he jokingly called Anderson “Jackie” – as he has in the past, he said – referring to a 2019 Sports Illustrated story in which Anderson described himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson.”
Though Donaldson insisted that the two had laughed about it before, Anderson, who is black, did not take it as a joke on Saturday. He said Donaldson asked him, “What’s up, Jackie?” multiple times.
“If something has changed from , my meaning of that is not any term of trying to be racist by any fact of the matter,” Donaldson said. “It was just off of an interview what he called himself. We’ve said that before, we’ve joked about it. He laughed, whatever.”
Anderson wasn’t laughing Saturday…and no doubt the heat (temps in the 90s) and high humidity had something to do with it.
But Donaldson’s an a-hole. I’m on Anderson’s side in this one.
[In the game, New York’s Nestor Cortes finally gave up some runs, 3 in 5 innings, but got the win, now 3-1, 1.80 ERA.]
And the Yanks lost today, 3-1, as Aroldis Chapman sucked wind. Great!
White Sox closer Liam Hendricks commented on Donaldson.
“Usually you have inside jokes with people you get along with, not people that don’t get along at all. So (Donaldson’s) statement right there was complete bullshit.”
Meanwhile, the Yankees suffered a blow when it was revealed pitching prospect Luis Gil will undergo Tommy John surgery. Gil was technically the Yanks sixth starter, making one spot start this year after pitching well for them last season, a 3.07 ERA in 29 1/3 innings in six starts.
So New York is hopeful it’s thus far sterling staff of Cortes, Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon stays healthy.
We also learned that Yankee outfield prospect Jake Sanford, who hit .285 with 16 home runs in Class A and High-A last season, was released, per reports from NJ.com, in part because he was stealing equipment from teammates and selling it, per multiple allegations. The story spread quickly on social media in the last few weeks, as some fans started to post messages saying they were scammed out of money in alleged memorabilia sales by Sanford.
Sanford is now playing for the Ottawa Titans of the Frontier League, according to the AP. This is an independent league with no affiliation to MLB. He was a third-round selection in 2019 out of Western Kentucky, hitting 22 homers in 56 games in his last year of college.
--Thursday night, Boston’s Trevor Story slammed 3 homers, had 4 hits, 7 RBIs and a stolen base in the Red Sox’ 12-6 win over Seattle at Fenway Park.
He became the first second baseman in MLB history to steal a base in a three-homer game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He also joined Jim Tabor as the only Red Sox players with 5 runs, 3 dingers and 7 RBIs since RBI became an official stat in 1920.
Going into the game, Story was batting .205 with 2 homers and 16 RBIs. He’s in the first season of a $140 million, six-year contract.
Story then hit a grand slam in Friday’s 7-3 win over the Mariners. A rather nice two games.
[Why the grand slam ball being caught by former Boston player Jonny Gomes was such a big story, I’ll never know.]
The Red Sox, 18-22, also beat Seattle (17-24) Saturday, 6-5, and are finally playing better.
--The Orioles’ pushing back the left-field wall at Camden Yards approximately 30 feet, and also raising it from 7 to 12 feet, has drastically altered the power stats there.
As of mid-week, just 1.8% of plate appearances at Camden Yards this season have ended in a home run, the fifth fewest of any stadium in MLB. Last season, 4.5% of plate appearances at Camden ended in a homer, the highest percentage in MLB.
No park allowed more home runs last season than Camden, the Orioles yielded 155 homers at home last season – the most in MLB and the third most by any team in a season.
Orioles’ pitchers have thrived, of course, with the new dimensions, an ERA of 2.74 through 19 home games, vs. a 5.99 ERA in 81 home games last season.
But players from both sides, opponents, and the Orioles batters, are upset.
What’s funny is that opposition managers have long criticized Yankee Stadium’s dimensions, and it calls to mind when the Mets built Citi Field, they had the Great Wall of Flushing in left that severely impacted the power production of then-Mets star David Wright, among others, so the fence was moved in to more normal dimensions.
--The great baseball writer Roger Angell died on Friday. He was 101.
Angell grew up in the halls of The New Yorker, where his mother, Katharine S. White, was the longtime fiction editor. His stepfather was E.B. White, the renowned essayist whose self-effacing prose became the hallmark of the magazine’s style and whose literary legacy included “Charlotte’s Web.”
Angell began contributing to the New Yorker in 1944, and he joined the staff in 1956 as an editor of fiction. Over the decades, he helped mold the stories of generations of writers, including John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov.
Among Angell’s most memorable stories in the New Yorker were his idiosyncratic first-person essays about baseball, which led to his enshrinement in the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
In his youth, Angell watched Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play at Yankee Stadium. He witnessed the rookie season of Joe DiMaggio in 1936 and vividly recalled, in a memoir written 70 years after the fact, the pitching motion of New York Giants lefthander Carl Hubbell, “gravely bowing twice from the waist before each delivery.”
His first essays on baseball appeared in 1962, during the debut season of the New York Mets. He used to chronicle the hapless team from the bleachers, rather than the lofty perch of the press box.
“Those exultant yells for the Mets were also yells for ourselves,” he wrote, “and came from a wry, half-understood recognition that there is more Met than Yankee in every one of us.”
Angell’s writing about baseball proved to be original and impossible to imitate. He collected his essays in a series of best-selling books, beginning in 1972 with “The Summer Game,” which those of us of a certain age devoured.
One of his acclaimed New Yorker stories, from 1975, examined the psychic struggles of pitcher Steve Blass, a onetime World Series hero of the Pittsburgh Pirates who suddenly lost his ability to throw strikes.
“[It] is a fact that a professional athlete – and most especially a baseball player – faces a much more difficult task in attempting to regain lost form than an ailing businessman, say, or even a troubled artist,” Angell wrote. “All that matters is his performance, which will be measured, with utter coldness, by the stats. This is one reason that athletes are paid so well, and one reason that fear of failure – the unspeakable ‘choking’ – is their deepest and most private anxiety.”
Among his other works is “A Pitcher’s Story” (2001), about David Cone in the twilight of his career.
--The final Sunday…all 20 teams playing at the same time, the Premier League title and final Champions League slot on the line, as well as the battle to avoid relegation. As a fan, you can’t ask for anything more.
But first, Everton secured their Premier League status on Thursday with an incredible comeback after being down two goals to Crystal Palace.
The hosts, who will continue their 68-year stay in the top flight, looked like they were they heading for defeat after Palace scored twice in the first half.
But Everton roared back for a 3-2 late win. The fans went nuts, and rightfully so.
--So Man City led Liverpool by one point for the title heading into today. Tottenham led Arsenal by 2 points for the fourth, and final, Champions League slot. And Burnley and Leeds were tied at 35 points in the battle to avoid relegation, though Burnley wins on goal differential.
None of these teams were playing each other.
And in the end…WOW…what final day…
For starters, Aston Villa took a startling 2-0 lead late into the second half vs. Man City at the Etihad.
Liverpool was at 1-1 at home to the Wolves. A draw would have given the title to City on goal differential.
But then City launched a comeback for the ages, 3 goals in 5 minutes (76’-81’), Ilkay Gundogan the hero with two of them, and Pep Guardiola and City have their sixth title, fourth in five years.
Liverpool scored twice at the end, win it 3-1, and finish a point down, the draw with Tottenham a few weeks ago the key.
Speaking of Tottenham, they got the job done, 5-0 over Norwich, to finish two points ahead of Arsenal, who beat Everton 5-1.
And in the relegation battle, Leeds survives! 2-1 winners on the road at Brentford, while Burnley lost at home to Newcastle, 2-1.
1. City 93 points
2. Liverpool 92
3. Chelsea 74
4. Tottenham 71
5. Arsenal 69
6. Man U 58
16. Everton 39
17. Leeds 38
18. Burnley 35
19. Watford 23
20. Norwich 22
The greatest season in a long time, with year-long drama at the top, and a terrific battle at the bottom.
Burnley fans are crushed. Just needed to take care of business at home to survive. Now they are demoted into the Championship League, where previously relegated clubs have been working their way back up.
As for Watford and Norwich, I’d be surprised if we see them back in two years.
And Spurs fans will be wondering, will Harry Kane now want to stay with Champions League play in the Spurs’ future? Liverpool and City have enough strikers. I don’t know why he’d want to leave. We’ll see.
But when you look up above, it’s another season of the Big Six finishing, err, in the top six. Not good for the sport. It’s already been six seasons since Leicester City shocked the football world, going from 14th to first.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Tottenham’s Son Heung-min tied for the Golden Boot…top scorers in the PL at 23 goals.
Saturday, one more…the Champions League Final…Liverpool vs. Real Madrid in Paris.
--The top receiver in college football is on his way to USC in a huge move.
Pitt’s Jordan Addison entered the transfer portal amid a cloud of controversy and has now given new coach Lincoln Riley a ready-made replacement for top receiver Drake London.
Addison chose USC over Texas, and there were reports Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi had multiple contentious phone calls with Riley, though there are as yet no charges of tampering.
What a blow for Pitt. Sucks.
--And there’s this heated situation between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher.
Saban apologized Thursday for his comments on Fisher’s recent recruiting class, which had triggered an explosive response from Fisher and ignited a simmering rivalry between two of college football’s highest-profile head coaches.
“I should’ve never really singled anyone out,” Saban said during an appearance on Sirius XM College. “That was a mistake. I really apologize for that part of it.”
At an event Wednesday evening in Birmingham, Alabama, Saban said “A&M bought every player on their team” using rule changes related to name, image and likeness allowing players to be compensated for the use of their name or celebrity.
“We were second in recruiting last year,” he said Wednesday. “A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy one player. But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it.”
In response, Fisher held a previously unscheduled news conference Thursday morning.
“It’s a shame that we have to do this,” he said. “You’re taking shots at 17-year-old kids and their families, that they broke state laws.”
Fisher labeled Saban’s comments “despicable,” called him a “narcissist” and, in one of the most remarkable broadsides between two high-profile coaches, suggested that “somebody should have slapped” Saban as a child. Fisher added that Saban is considered the best college football ever because “when you have all the advantages it’s easy.”
Fisher happily shared that Saban had attempted to call him, but he refused the call. “We’re done,” Fisher said.
Both coaches’ comments drew quick condemnation from the SEC.
Texas A&M is at Alabama on Oct. 8. This will be juicy.
--The NCAA Division I Council announced Wednesday that it will relax restrictions on college football’s conference championship games, allowing conferences to determine the teams that would participate in their respective title game. So now conferences can avoid having title-game matchups determined by division winners as well as possibly eliminating divisions altogether.
The Pac-12 immediately announced that starting in 2022, the conference’s title game would feature the teams with the two highest winning percentages.
That’s good. In the case of the Pac-12, it will clearly enhance their ability to optimize CFP invitations. The other conferences will no doubt follow.
Separately, the ACC is looking at moving to a 3-5-5 scheduling format: three permanent rivals for each team, and then rotating through the remaining 10 league teams – five one year, five the next.
--This was an All-Star racing weekend for NASCAR in Texas, races tonight, but I saw where in qualifying for next weekend’s Indy 500, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson had a shot at the pole in qualifying.
Saturday marked the first time he had tried to qualify for the 500, a dream of his. He ended up posting the sixth best average speed during the first day of qualifying, outpacing six former 500 champions, including four-time winner Helio Castroneves.
I’m already nervous. I’ll be a wreck watching Johnson next Sunday, but it is awesome for the sport.
--In Formula One, Max Verstappen won an exciting Spanish Grand Prix in which his championship rival, Charles Leclerc, retired. Red Bull then employed team orders to ease Verstappen’s path to victory, when teammate Sergio Perez was ordered to move over and let Verstappen pass for the lead. Perez, who finished second, called it “very unfair” over the team radio, but he still obeyed the order.
So Verstappen takes a six-point lead over Leclerc heading to the Monaco Grand Prix next weekend. Britain’s George Russell took third.
--Early Voting won the Preakness Stakes, holding off favorite Epicenter down the stretch, validating the decision to hold the horse out of the Kentucky Derby and aim for the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Early Voting, who went off at 5-1, and was ridden by Jose Ortiz, who won the Preakness for the first time, went into the lead around the final turn and finished 1 ¼ ahead of Epicenter, who was also runner-up at the Derby. It was the second Preakness win for trainer Chad Brown.
So now we could have a real good Belmont Stakes in three weeks. We know Derby winner Rich Strike will be there and we should assume Early Voting and Epicenter are as well.
But it probably won’t come to pass…the owner of Early Voting, ditto trainer Chad Brown, don’t think the horse is ready for a mile-and-a-half. To quote Charlie Brown, “Drat!”
--It was very humid in the New York area Saturday morning. I went out for some exercise around 11:00 a.m. and was sweating profusely after, wishing I had gone out a little earlier.
That morning, a 32-year-old runner collapsed at the Coney Island finish line of the Brooklyn Half-Marathon and died, with 15 other runners being hospitalized. The humidity at race time was 74%, the National Weather Service issued an air quality alert, temps were in the 70s, on the way to the 90s, and it was a volatile mixture for a distance race.
It was the second fatality at the event since 2014.
--An angler shattered a 16-year-old South Dakota state record with a recent catch of a 67-pound, 8-ounce flathead catfish! Goodness gracious!
According to South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, Ethan Evink’s catch shatters a record (63 pounds, 8 ounces) that had stood since 2006.
Evink was visiting from Iowa and caught the monster while he was fishing with cutbait (a cut piece of fish) at dawn on the Missouri River.
If you didn’t see a picture, it was 51.5 inches long with a girth of 32.5 inches.
The all-tackle world record for flathead catfish stands at 123 pounds, which occurred at Elk City Reservoir in Kansas in 1998.
Now I kind of a have a hankering for catfish. I used to eat it all the time. Don’t know why I stopped. I also need to resume my decades-long habit of Salmon Sunday.
--A woman who was attacked by a mountain lion in Northern California says her dog jumped to her defense and was badly wounded in protecting her.
“I don’t think I will ever be able to live up to how amazing and loyal she is to me,’ Erin Wilson told the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday.
Monday, Wilson, 24, drove to the Trinity River to take an afternoon stroll with Eva, her 2 ½-year-old Belgian Malinois.
Wilson was on a path with Eva a few yards ahead when a mountain lion lunged and swiped at her, scratching Wilson’s left shoulder through her jacket, she said.
“I yelled ‘Eva!’ and she came running,” Wilson said. “And she hit that cat really hard.”
The dog weighs 55 pounds and was outclassed by the cougar but battled fiercely.
They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying,” Wilson said.
The cougar bit the dog’s head and wouldn’t let go, even when Wilson attacked the animal with rocks, sticks and her fists, tried to choke it and gouge its eyes.
The cat tried to kick her off, scratching her with its back paws. Wilson ran to her pickup truck, grabbed a tire iron and flagged down a passing car.
That driver grabbed a pipe and pepper spray. Together, the women began beating the lion, which had dragged the dog off the trail.
The other driver, Sharon Houston, sprayed the animal with pepper spray and it fled.
Incredibly, Eva the dog is recovering at home after days in a veterinary hospital. She may have lost her sight in one eye. Her skull and jaw were fractured.
Suffice it to say, Eva is in the December file for “Animal of the Year” consideration.
--Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney are departing SNL.
--Paul McCartney played at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wake Forest’s stadium, as one of his 13 stops on his current tour last night. Pretty good catch for us and the area. Yes, he packed the place.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/26/79: #1 “Reunited” (Peaches & Herb) #2 “Hot Stuff” (Donna Summer) #3 “In The Navy” (Village People)…and…#4 “Love You Inside Out” (Bee Gees) #5 “Goodnight Tonight” (Wings) #6 “We Are Family” (Sister Sledge…the Pirates’ theme song for their 1979 World Series run…) #7 “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” (The Jackson 5) #8 “Just When I Needed You Most” (Randy Vanwarmer) #9 “Stumblin’ In” (Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman) #10 “Love Is The Answer” (England Dan & John Ford Coley…good tune…but can’t save this godawful week…’D+’…)
NCAA Men’s Golf Championship Quiz Answer: Most titles, post-1950: Houston, 16; Oklahoma State, 11; Stanford, 4; Florida, 4; Texas, 3; Wake Forest, 3; North Texas, 3 (the toughie).
I’ll have a little Add-on up top by noon, Wed.