This Week in US Sports: Clippers one-up Lakers, Home Run Derby shocks world

By Sports Desk July 11, 2019

There is never a dull day in the NBA, but this past weekend may have been the craziest moment in league history.

We will get to that in a second, but we will also touch on the Home Run Derby and the Houston Texans who are looking like a train wreck once again.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. Clippers eclipse Lakers

This was as crazy of an NBA offseason as there has ever been. An MVP candidate (Anthony Davis) was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, two stars signed with the Brooklyn Nets (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving), the Boston Celtics reloaded with an All-NBA guard (Kemba Walker) and the New York Knicks are the Knicks.

But all of that news paled in comparison to what happened in the wee hours of Saturday morning when news broke the Los Angeles Clippers were going to get both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While the Leonard news broke first, what we came to find out was Leonard had convinced George to accept a trade to Los Angeles from the Oklahoma City Thunder. So, while he signed seemingly on his own with the Clippers, what actually went down was the George trade was agreed to which sealed Leonard's move to Los Angeles.

Now the Clippers and Lakers have even odds to win the NBA Finals next year, but the Clippers have much of the momentum and possibly the best defensive tandem in the NBA in George, Leonard and Patrick Beverley. The Western Conference is going to be fun next year.

 

2. Home Run Derby for the ages

For years the Home Run Derby has been stale. A few years ago, the MLB was forced to change the format from 10 outs to a timed round in which players could hit as many pitches as they want rather than being selective and taking pitch after pitch. Some rounds would seem to creep into the 30-minute range and fans were losing interest.

Absolutely no interest was lost on Monday though in a Home Run Derby for the ages. This derby featured a man (Joc Pederson) who hit 39 home runs in a round and lost (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit 40) and an event where a rookie bashed 91 balls over the fence and did not win (Guerrero).

There were 321 total homers in the event and the final between two rookies (Guerrero and Alonso) took three overtimes to decide. The Home Run Derby was not boring this year, it was what a Derby was always supposed to be.

 

3. Drama in Houston

The Houston Texans have been one of the better organisations in the NFL over the last several years as they have made the playoffs three of the last four seasons while winning their division five times since 2011. But all that success seems to be in spite of themselves and this offseason is a perfect example as to why.

Houston selected Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick in 2014. He has 29 sacks and 67 quarterback hits in his career and has been named to three Pro Bowls while missing a total of six games over the last four years. And yet, the Texans do not want to sign him to a long-term deal. In fact, they likely will not be signing him to a long-term deal at all this offseason, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

Even more damning may be the team's ineptitude in the front office. General manager Rick Smith left last year to take care of his sick wife, but it was reported he did so because of a rift with Bill O'Brien. Then the man hired to replace Smith was fired after one year with the team, but after the Draft. Finally, the team decided on Thursday they were not going to hire a replacement GM and will run the team as a committee next season. The Texans are lucky to be in one of the worst divisions in the NFL, otherwise they may be getting more flak for their actions.

 

4. Chad Mendes retires

A former WEC title contender has retired. Chad Mendes, who accumulated an 18-5 record and had Conor McGregor beaten and bloodied on short notice, has decided to end his long and illustrious career in the WEC and UFC.

"I just want to say THANK YOU to all my fans and everyone that tuned in to watch me battle!" Mendes wrote on Instagram. "With 29 years of competing and 11 year in the Mma game, I feel it's time for the next chapter in my life! It's been an incredible journey with so many life lesson along the way. I feel extremely blessed to be living this life I live and can't wait to see what the next chapter has in store for me!"

 

5. Astros' Marisnick suspended two games

Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick has been suspended for two games after running over Los Angeles Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a game on Sunday, MLB announced on Thursday.

Lucroy sustained a concussion and broken nose on the play and manager Brad Ausmus called for Marisnick's suspension after the game as did St Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

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  • Astros look set for playoffs but still desperately need a starter Astros look set for playoffs but still desperately need a starter

    The Houston Astros reminded everyone why they are the best team in the American League (AL) West, beating the Los Angeles Angels again in MLB.

    Houston dropped the Angels 6-2 on the road on Thursday to win their second straight game over Los Angeles, forcing a split in a four-game series.

    The Astros outscored LA 17-4 in those two games.

    The Astros got a much-needed win when the Oakland Athletics lost, stretching their lead to 5.5 games in the West. It also made a point both for the good and bad. The Astros are the best team in MLB when their top three pitchers (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley) are on the mound, but they also need desperate help at the back end of their rotation.

    Houston are 42-19 (.688 winning percentage) when those three are on the bump this year (Miley got the win on Thursday). That would be the best winning percentage in MLB. Without them, however, they are 19-19. That could be good enough to earn a wildcard spot in the National League (NL), but in the AL, it absolutely is not. So, Houston's top priority will be going after a pitcher at the deadline.

    Who have the Astros been linked to? Just about everyone from Noah Syndergaard to Robbie Ray to Matthew Boyd to Madison Bumgarner. They could also be eyeing some under-the-radar players like Caleb Smith of the Miami Marlins.

    The Astros have to add and the past 20 games are a perfect example why. Houston are 11-2 with their top three on the mound and 2-5 in the others. In that time, the Athletics have cut significantly into Houston's lead atop the division. In this series against the Angels, the Astros went 0-2 with all other pitchers and 2-0 with Cole and Miley.

     

    Splendid Strasburg

    Stephen Strasburg was good on the mound in the Washington Nationals' 13-4 win over the Atlanta Braves as he tossed 5.1 innings while allowing three earned runs. He also went three for three at the plate with a three-run homer and five RBIs.

    Chris Sale struck out 12 in six scoreless innings while allowing two hits in a 5-0 Boston Red Sox win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

     

    Goldschmidt goes hitless

    Paul Goldschmidt went 0 for four with four strikeouts but the St Louis Cardinals did come away with a 7-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

     

    Cain's catch

    Lorenzo Cain made a difficult catch look remarkably easy.

    Thursday's results

    Miami Marlins 4-3 San Diego Padres
    Philadelphia Phillies 7-6 Los Angeles Dodgers
    Boston Red Sox 5-0 Toronto Blue Jays
    Kansas City Royals 6-5 Chicago White Sox
    New York Yankees 6-2 Tampa Bay Rays
    New York Yankees 5-1 Tampa Bay Rays
    St Louis Cardinals 7-4 Cincinnati Reds
    Cleveland Indians 6-3 Detroit Tigers
    Washington Nationals 13-4 Atlanta Braves
    Minnesota Twins 6-3 Oakland Athletics
    Houston Astros 6-2 Los Angeles Angels
    Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
    San Francisco Giants 3-2 New York Mets

     

    Athletics at Twins

    This is an important game for several reasons. The Indians are charging hard at the Twins in the AL Central and the Athletics are not only trying to keep pace with the Astros, but they are also in the middle of a heated wildcard race. Every single game matters from here on out.

  • Smith doesn't want to be traded by Mets Smith doesn't want to be traded by Mets

    Dominic Smith does not want to leave the New York Mets.

    The 24-year-old's name has begun to surface in trade rumours because he is behind star Pete Alonso at first base on the Mets' depth chart.

    But, Smith said he hopes he is not moved.

    "I don't pay too much attention to stuff I can't control," Smith told reporters. "I know baseball is a business at the end of the day. It's just how the game is. I love New York. I only want to play for the Mets. This is all I know.

    "This is home for me and my family. I love it here and I'm just trying to establish myself and just get better every day."

    Smith is having a breakout season for New York as he is slashing .294/.376/.536 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs in 81 games. The team have even started to play him in left field in order to get him more at-bats.

    Mets manager Mickey Callaway praised Smith when he spoke with reporters after a 14-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.

    "Offensively, we knew he was capable of this," Callaway said, via Newsday. "You could see the sweet swing, the plate discipline, his ability to go the other way, his ability to pull the ball. I think his ability to move around and play multiple positions and do it pretty well is the surprising part and the thing that we're kind of proud of right now."

    The Mets are expected to be sellers before the July 31 trade deadline and they are reportedly exploring moving Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas and Todd Frazier, among others.

    New York, however, entered play on Thursday on a four-game winning streak and just five games out of the second wildcard spot with a 44-51 record.

  • Flacco ready for opportunity with Broncos Flacco ready for opportunity with Broncos

    Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco is ready for a fresh start.

    The 34-year-old, who was sent from the Baltimore Ravens to the Broncos in a trade this offseason, participated in his first training camp practice with his new team on Thursday.

    "There is an energy about coming here and an excitement that I feel about coming to this new team and getting another chance to be a starting quarterback in this league," Flacco said.

    "I don't think you can ever take for granted how awesome it is to get to do what I’m doing and what we are all doing, so I'm definitely excited about it and ready to go. I feel like a little kid."

    The Ravens originally selected Flacco out of Delaware with the number 18 pick in the 2008 draft and he led the team to a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

    But, he was replaced by then-rookie Lamar Jackson as Baltimore's starter last season.

    "I feel like I've got a lot left in the tank," Flacco said. "I feel like I can do a lot more than what I've shown over the course of my 11-year career, so I'm excited that I'm going to have the opportunity here to do that."

    The Broncos picked Drew Lock in the second round and also have Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien on their roster.

    Denver president of football operations John Elway, however, said there will not be a quarterback competition.

    "[Quarterback] is a hard position to fill," Elway told ESPN earlier this week. "We tried to shake all these trees around here the last four years and the quarterbacks didn't fall out. So, it's difficult. We've taken a lot of shots, we've tried a lot of different situations ... Hopefully with Joe we've got it solidified with Drew [Lock] working under him.

    "When the football team has confidence with the guy at that position, it makes your football team better. Joe proved, he showed everybody on our football team he's that guy. Our team responded to him well ... He's ready to take that spot over."

    The Broncos finished 2018 with a 6-10 record and missed the playoffs for a third straight season. They fired Vance Joseph in late December and hired Vic Fangio to replace him.

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