MLB

Baddoo's historic MLB show continues, Giolito-Bieber duel lives up to the hype

By Sports Desk April 14, 2021

Akil Baddoo's history-making MLB season continued after starring in the Detroit Tigers' 8-2 win over the Houston Astros.

Tigers rookie Baddoo – selected in the Rule five draft, which aims at preventing franchises from stockpiling too many young players on their minor league affiliate teams when other clubs would be willing to play them in the major leagues – has made a flying start to his career with the Tigers.

Baddoo, who was a Rule five pick in December having been originally drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 2016, is already the first player in modern MLB history to hit a grand slam, another home run and a walk-off hit in his first three career games.

The 22-year-old outfielder added to that on Tuesday after homering in the Tigers' comprehensive victory away to the Astros in Houston.

Through eight games, Baddoo has four homers, a double and a triple. According to Stats Perform, his 1.043 slugging percentage is the highest in American League (AL) history through eight career games.

Baddoo is also the first Tigers player to drive in a run in six or more of his first eight career games since Don Ross in 1931, while only four players in MLB history have had more than six such games – Jorge Soler most recently with seven in 2014.

 

Giolito and Bieber put on a show, Duvall makes history

The Shane Bieber-Lucas Giolito pitching duel did not disappoint as the Cleveland Indians edged the Chicago White Sox 2-0. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Bieber pitched three-hit ball over nine scoreless innings in a battle of the All-Star aces. Bieber also finished with 11 strikeouts. Bieber has 35 strikeouts this season. Through three appearances of a season since 1983, only Nolan Ryan (37 in 1973) and Gerrit Cole (36 in 2018) have only managed more. Giolito also impressed across seven scoreless innings, only giving up three hits with eight strikeouts.

Adam Duvall posted seven RBIs in the Miami Marlins' 14-8 success against the Atlanta Braves. In September last year, he had nine RBIs for the Braves against the Marlins. Duvall in the first player in history with a seven-plus RBI game for both sides of the same matchup, per Stats Perform. He also joined Alex Rodriguez as the only two players since 1954 to have multiple games with seven RBIs, two homers and four runs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates topped the San Diego Padres 8-4, despite walking 13 and hitting three batters. According to Stats Perform, the Pirates are the first team to issue at least 16 combined batters walked and batters hit in a nine-inning win since the Browns in 1948.

 

Strasburg struggles

Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals were put to the sword 14-3 by the St Louis Cardinals. World Series champion and MVP Strasburg gave up eight hits, eight runs – seven earned – and three homers on five walks across four tough innings. Strasburg was replaced after allowing all three batters to reach base in the fifth, leading to a nine-run inning for the Cardinals.

 

Betts back with a bang

Following a four-game absence due to a stiff lower back, Mookie Betts made a smashing return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' line-up. He hit a 394-foot home run as the World Series champions routed the Colorado Rockies 7-0.

 

Tuesday's results

Oakland Athletics 7-5 Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle Mariners 4-3 Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles 7-6 Seattle Mariners
New York Mets 4-3 Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets 4-0 Philadelphia Phillies
Boston Red Sox 4-2 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays 7-3 New York Mets
Texas Rangers 8-3 Tampa Bay Rays
Miami Marlins 14-8 Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs 3-2 Milwaukee Brewers
St Louis Cardinals 14-3 Washington Nationals
Kansas City Royals 3-2 Los Angeles Angels
Cleveland Indians 2-0 Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers 8-2 Houston Astros
San Francisco Giants 7-6 Cincinnati Reds
Los Angeles Dodgers 7-0 Colorado Rockies

 

Red Sox at Twins

American League (AL) East leaders the Red Sox (7-3) will put their seven-game winning streak on the line in a doubleheader against the Twins (5-5) on Wednesday.

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  • Guardiola thanks Liverpool boss Klopp for title text: He made me a better manager Guardiola thanks Liverpool boss Klopp for title text: He made me a better manager

    Pep Guardiola thanked Jurgen Klopp for his Premier League title text message after Manchester City succeeded Liverpool as champions, saying the Reds boss has pushed him to a new level.

    Klopp described rival Guardiola as "the best manager in the world" in a news conference on Wednesday, the day after City secured a third title in four seasons.

    The text from Klopp to Guardiola was not the only one sent from Merseyside, with Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti also sending his congratulations. 

    "I received a lot. He and Carlo Ancelotti have done it," said Guardiola.

    "I appreciate it a lot from both of them. I could not answer messages, not yet, but I will do it today."

    Speaking on Thursday, Guardiola offered a salute to the Liverpool and Everton bosses, both of whom have won Champions League and domestic titles in storied careers.

    The rise of Klopp has forced Guardiola to pull out all the stops to deliver success both at City and previously at Bayern Munich, when Klopp's Borussia Dortmund were such a force.

    "It was an inspiration for me. He has made me through his teams at Dortmund and Liverpool a better manager," Guardiola said.

    "I would say thank you so much, I appreciate it a lot from him and Carlo."

    Guardiola and City may have wrapped up the club's fifth title in 10 years, but they can still secure a host of achievements before turning their focus to the May 29 Champions League final against Chelsea.

    They head to Newcastle United on Friday evening in the Premier League, and a win at St James' Park would be a 12th successive away victory for City. That would break the all-time record for the top four tiers in English football. Chelsea achieved 11 in a row in 2008 and City did so in 2017 before repeating that on their current unbroken streak of away-day successes.

    City are also one short of matching the record for clean sheets achieved away from home across all competitions by a top-flight team in a single season. They have racked up 16 shut-outs so far, one short of the record jointly held by Liverpool (1975-76), Chelsea (2003-04) and Manchester United (2008-09).

    Their away form has been something remarkable, with City undefeated in their most recent 22 games on the road.

    That is already the longest such run by an English top-flight team, but City would also surpass the record for the top four tiers of the English game should they avoid defeat on Tyneside.

    Notts County also went 22 games unbeaten away from home between February and December 2012 while in League One.

  • Title game rematches & Brady's trip to La La Land – The most intriguing games of the 2021 NFL season Title game rematches & Brady's trip to La La Land – The most intriguing games of the 2021 NFL season

    The 2021 NFL season may still be months away, but fans can begin eagerly circling their calendars in anticipation of some truly mouth-watering fixtures after Wednesday's schedule release.

    There are some obvious standouts. The Week 4 meeting of Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bill Belichick's New England Patriots should capture the entire league's attention as Brady returns to Foxborough for the first time since saying a shock farewell to his home of 20 seasons last offseason, and then going on to win a seventh Super Bowl ring in his maiden season with the Bucs.

    A potential duel between Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 9 hinges on Rodgers blinking in his staring contest with the Packers' brass and returning for the season.

    Should he do so, it will pit the reigning MVP against the 2018 MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP in a matchup of two quarterbacks who have each recently finished in the top five in well-thrown ball percentage. Rodgers was third in the NFL with 82.4 per cent last season while Mahomes was fourth with 81.1 per cent in 2019 as he led the Chiefs to the Lombardi Trophy.

    But the games with the best narratives on the surface do not always produce the best matchups. Here, using Stats Perform data, we look at five other games on the schedule that are in the mix to be among the most exciting games of the 2021 campaign.

     

    Packers @ 49ers - Week 3

    The Packers trounced a 49ers team decimated by injuries last season, though that was probably hollow revenge for Green Bay's NFC Championship Game humbling at the hands of San Francisco in the 2019 season.

    Typically, when Rodgers has visited the team he idolised in his youth, things have gone poorly for the Packers. He has won two of his four regular-season meetings with the Niners in the Bay Area but has lost to San Francisco on each of the three occasions he has faced them in the playoffs, with two of those defeats on the road.

    Still, if Rodgers acquiesces in his stand-off with Packers management and plays for Green Bay in 2021, it promises to be a fascinating duel of NFC contenders, with the Niners potentially starting a rookie quarterback in dual-threat Trey Lance.

    Should Rodgers remain with the Packers, the key matchup in this one could well be the reigning MVP against a Niners defensive line that should get back edge rusher Nick Bosa after he missed most of the 2020 season with a torn ACL.

    Rodgers' well-thrown percentage under pressure was 71.0 per cent in 2020, the ninth-best in the NFL, and he will likely have to maintain that accuracy under duress if Bosa is back to his best. The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year had a pressure rate of 28.3 per cent in his first season in the league, trailing only Adrian Clayborn and elder brother Joey, and sacked Rodgers in the regular season and the NFC title game.

    Buccaneers @ Rams - Week 3

    Yes, Brady v Belichick is the game everybody in Tampa will be most excited for, and the season opener between the Super Bowl champions and the Dallas Cowboys will be a primetime ratings monster, but perhaps the best duel involving the only player with seven Super Bowl rings will take place when Tampa head west.

    The Rams edged the Buccaneers 27-24 in Tampa last season and should provide a stern test again at SoFi Stadium with Matthew Stafford set to be under center for Los Angeles.

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    Brady was phenomenal when it came to avoiding interceptable passes last season.

    He threw a pickable pass on just 13 of 590 pass attempts in 2020, a percentage of 2.20 that only Alex Smith (2.12) could better. When under pressure, it increased to 3.45 per cent, but that was still the fourth-lowest pickable pass rate in the NFL under duress.

    But no defender in the league strikes fear into the heart of quarterbacks quite like Donald, who led all defensive tackles in 2020 with a pressure rate of 27.7 per cent and an adjusted sack rate of 5.5 per cent.

    Donald can destroy the best-laid plans of any offense, and surviving the challenge he and the Rams will pose will be one of the biggest tests for Brady and the Bucs in their bid to repeat as champions

    Bills @ Chiefs - Week 5

    This is a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game in which the Bills did not produce an effort reflective of their outstanding 2020, and Buffalo look like the team best placed to challenge Kansas City again in the AFC in 2021.

    The headline act of this clash is the battle of the quarterbacks, with Mahomes and Josh Allen leading the revolution of athletic, cannon-armed quarterbacks who have taken the league by storm.

    But an underrated aspect of this game will be Stefon Diggs' performance against a Chiefs secondary that does not get the credit it deserves.

    Diggs was held to six catches for 77 yards in the playoff matchup but recently revealed he played through the postseason with an oblique tear.

    When healthy, Diggs has the ability to do significantly greater damage. He led the NFL with 1,535 receiving yards in his first season in Buffalo and trailed only Davante Adams (3.9) in burn yards per route as he averaged 3.6.

    However, the Chiefs' projected starting cornerbacks have the means to slow him down. L'Jarius Sneed was fifth among all corners in preventing big plays, allowing a play of 20 yards or more on just 14.5 per cent of his targets. 

    Meanwhile, Charvarius Ward was fourth among corners in burns allowed, giving up a burn on 32.7 per cent of his targets.

    Bears @ Seahawks - Week 16

    The Bears have rarely been high on the list of teams to look out for when it comes to intrigue in recent years, but that all changed when they traded up to draft Justin Fields 11th overall.

    Once Chicago ends the charade of committing to Andy Dalton as starting quarterback and goes with the high-upside rookie, the Bears have the potential to be an extremely interesting watch.

    That will certainly be the case if Fields is under center when they travel to Seattle's Lumen Field, with the Bears set to face the quarterback they reportedly pursued before picking Fields, Seahawks star Russell Wilson.

    A quarterback battle between Fields and Wilson has the potential to be an absorbing encounter featuring two signal-callers who each excel with their accuracy throwing the deep ball.

    Of quarterbacks with at least 25 throws of 25 or more air yards, only three players (Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Derek Carr) had a higher well-thrown percentage than Wilson's 63.0 per cent on those attempts last season.

    Fields was similarly proficient attacking downfield in his final year for Ohio State, posting a well-thrown percentage of 76.47 per cent on throws of 15 or more air yards that was superior to that of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones.

    If his success in that regard quickly translates to the NFL, the Bears' trip to the Pacific Northwest could turn into a scintillating showcase of the deep passing game. For the first time in a while, the Bears have the potential to be must-see TV.

    Ravens @ Browns - Week 14

    The balance of power in the AFC North is shifting towards the Ravens and Browns and their Monday Night game in Cleveland last year was among the most entertaining of the 2020 campaign.

    In the end, the Browns' inability to stop Lamar Jackson, even after his apparent 'comfort break', from making the big plays in Baltimore's thrilling comeback was the decisive factor in the Ravens' 47-42 triumph.

    Cleveland took steps to stop such a scenario from playing out again, using their first-round pick on a cornerback in Greg Newsome II who allowed a big play on just 4.2 per cent of his 36 targets in an abbreviated final season at Northwestern.

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    An underrated downfield thrower whose well-thrown percentage of 60.0 on throws of 25 or more air yards was seventh in the NFL last year, Jackson has another dynamic weapon to target in the form of first-round receiver Rashod Bateman.

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    Bateman excelled at creating separation two years ago while having an average depth of target of 16.2. With him and speedster Marquise Brown in the mix, Jackson does not lack big-play weapons, and Cleveland's ability to keep them under wraps could be critical in deciding an ultra-competitive division in 2021.

  • Upamecano: I rejected Man Utd move after Rangnick plotted great future Upamecano: I rejected Man Utd move after Rangnick plotted great future

    Dayot Upamecano has claimed he turned down an opportunity to join Manchester United as a teenager because Ralf Rangnick presented such a persuasive alternative.

    The defender, who will leave RB Leipzig to join Bayern Munich at the end of this season, was targeted by United as a teenage prospect when he was with French club Valenciennes.

    He elected to turn down United and move to Austrian club Salzburg, Upamecano says, after being wowed by Rangnick's precise vision for his career.

    At the time, Rangnick was sporting director for Salzburg and Leipzig, with both clubs part of the Red Bull empire, and talking Upamecano into a move proved one of many successes he achieved in that role.

    United had tempted the youngster, however, and Upamecano told The Athletic: "I was a young boy. I wanted to sign for them straight away. Manchester United! But then my parents took me aside and said: 'Let's think carefully about this'.

    "We thought about it for a long time and then decided that going 'etape par etape' [step by step] was the best option for me. Everything Ralf said came true."

    Upamecano was loaned out to Liefering before returning to make an impact with Salzburg while still in his teens, and at the age of 18, in January 2017, he was moved through the ranks to join Leipzig.

    Rangnick, who had already enjoyed one spell as head coach of Leipzig, returned for another in 2018, and Upamecano said: "Ralf was the most important coach for me. He's a professor, a scientist of football, and he also cares about everything. He's always there for you with advice on matters football and non-football, every single day."

    Before joining Bayern, Upamecano has the chance on Thursday to land a DFB-Pokal title with Leipzig as they head into the final in Berlin against Borussia Dortmund.

    Julian Nagelsmann, who succeeded Rangnick in 2019, has been another major influence on the career of Upamecano, who describes the 33-year-old as "an unbelievable manager".

    Like Upamecano, Nagelsmann will also move to Bayern at the season's end.

    "He really takes you to another level," Upamecano said. "For example, because of Julian, I have improved a lot in terms of opening the game from the defence with precise passes into the midfield, and he told me to use my dribbling abilities in order to create spaces going forward."

    That is borne out by data that shows Upamecano has progressed significantly while at Leipzig.

    Following his mid-season arrival in 2017, Upamecano had an overall passing accuracy of 78.6 per cent in the Bundesliga, while his accuracy with passes ending in the final third of the field was just 46.2 per cent.

    These numbers belong firmly in Upamecano's past, because his precision now shows a marked improvement.

    In 2017-18, he stepped up those percentages to 83.7 and 55 in the Bundesliga, while attempting 130 passes into the final third of the pitch.

    But in 2019-20, his overall accuracy stood at 89.1 per cent and his accuracy into the final third was a healthy 74 per cent, with Upamecano attempting 232 balls into that attacking area in league games. Each figure put him in the top 10 for Bundesliga defenders who played at least 20 games.

    This season has seen a minor step back, but an 88.5 per cent total accuracy and 70 per cent accuracy into the final third continues to reflect well on the French defender, a player United must sorely regret failing to recruit.

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