New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole starred in the team's 1-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays in MLB action on Wednesday.

Cole put on a show in St Petersburg, where the Yankees pitcher struck out 12 batters over eight innings against the team's American League (AL) East rivals midweek.

The three-time All-Star surpassed 1,500 career strikeouts as a result of his performance for the streaking Yankees, who have won four successive games.

Cole (212 games) is the second fastest pitcher to reach the mark, behind Randy Johnson (206 games).

It was Cole's fifth game this season with 10-plus strikeouts and 0 walks, already the most in a single season in Yankees history, per Stats Perform. The most by any player in a season in the modern era is seven by Cole in 2019.

 

White Sox roll on, Cabrera makes history

World Series hopefuls the Chicago White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 13-8 for their fifth straight victory. Jose Abreu drove in three runs as he became the sixth Cuban-born player to have 200-plus home runs and 700-plus RBI. White Sox rookie Andrew Vaughn hit the first home run of his career.

Miguel Cabrera became the Venezuelan hit king after the Detroit Tigers defeated the slumping Kansas City Royals 4-2. Cabrera drove in two runs as he surpassed Omar Vizquel for the most major league hits by a Venezuelan player.

The Los Angeles Angels were routed 9-1 by the Houston Astros but it was a memorable day for two-way star Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese sensation became the first player to start as a pitcher and then hit leadoff the following game since 1916.

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers eased past the Seattle Mariners 7-1. Max Muncy homered for the second straight game, while Julio Urias retired Seattle's first 13 batters and gave up only two singles and a walk as he struck out six.

 

Kansas City's woes continue

The Royals cannot buy a win at the moment. Kansas City are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak – the franchise's longest skid since dropping 10 in succession in 2019.

 

Contreras clubs Ryu

William Contreras hit a moon shot, a 463-foot home run of Toronto Blue Jays ace Ryu Hyun-jin in the fifth inning. The Atlanta Braves still lost 4-1.

 

Wednesday's results

New York Mets 7-1 Baltimore Orioles
Cincinnati Reds 5-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians 2-1 Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres 5-3 Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies 3-2 San Diego Padres
Philadelphia Phillies 5-2 Washington Nationals
Detroit Tigers 4-2 Kansas City Royals
New York Yankees 1-0 Tampa Bay Rays
Oakland Athletics 4-1 Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Atlanta Braves
Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 St Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros 9-1 Los Angeles Angels
Chicago White Sox 13-8 Minnesota Twins
Miami Marlins 3-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 Seattle Mariners

 

Yankees at Rays

The in-form Yankees (20-16) can claim a series sweep of the Rays (19-19) on Thursday. Jameson Taillon starts for the Yankees, while the Rays counter with Rich Hill on the mound.

The Houston Astros brought home four at the bottom of the eighth to claim a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels in MLB on Tuesday.

Shohei Ohtani had 10 strikeouts from seven innings but he was not on the mound, instead at right-field, as the Astros did the damage after Taylor Ward leveled the match up with a home-run at the top of the eighth.

Jose Altuve raced home for the go-ahead knock from Michael Brantley's hit and two batters later with two-on Yuli Gurriel hit his sixth home-run of the season.

Aaron Judge hit his eighth homer for the 2021 season early in the New York Yankees' 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

At 2-0 down, Mike Zunino hit the biggest Rays home run, at 472 feet, since tracking began in 2008.

Catcher Gary Sanchez spectacularly threw out Austin Meadows on second after an error, while Aroldis Chapman sent down some heat in the ninth to clinch the win. Gerrit Cole should return Wednesday.

 

Red Sox overcome Means, Bieber ripper

John Means, coming off a no-hitter with 14 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, was excellent again for the Baltimore Orioles but they lost 3-2 to the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles took the lead and held it into the eighth when Albert Almora ran at full speed at center field face first into the wall trying to make a catch, although he got up and walked off. Baltimore plated a subsequent run to go 2-0 up from a Freddy Galvis.

But the Mets found a way back after Kevin Pillar was a foot away from a home run. Pillar eventually slid into home base from Patrick Mazeika's hit to complete a come-from-behind win. Mazeika celebrated his walk-off with his team-mates ripping his shirt off.

Chris Bassitt had 10 strikeouts across seven innings as the Oakland Athletics won 3-2 over the Boston Red Sox.

The As scored two runs in the seventh, with first baseman Matt Olson hitting the plate before he made the decisive catch with runners on two bases in the ninth to seal the win.

Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber pulled off an instinctual catch from Joc Pederson's hit which traveled with an 111 mph exit velocity in their 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Bieber made eight strikeouts but it was Jose Ramirez in the fourth who hit a crucial home-run, his 10th of the season.

In a National League Central match-up between two in-form sides, the St. Louis Cardinals got past the Milwaukee Brewers 6-1 with five runs in the 11th including a Tyler O'Neill homerun.

The Detroit Tigers led 7-0 before an almighty comeback from the Kansas City Royals who eventually went down 8-7 with Niko Goodrum getting home at the bottom of the ninth.

Mitch Haniger hit two home-runs, taking his season tally to 10, as the Seattle Mariners blew a 4-1 lead to go down 6-4 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

Ward and Trout clash in outfield

It was not a good night for the Angels, especially when outfielders Ward and Mike Trout had a collision where the former somehow held on to a catch and both avoided injury, walking away with bruised egos.

 

Number 11 for Acuna Jr

Ronald Acuna Jr took the outright lead for most home runs this season, his 11th of 2021 in MLB, but it was not enough for the Atlanta Braves who lost 5-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

Tuesday's results

San Francisco Giants 4-2 Texas Rangers
Cleveland Indians 3-2 Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2 Cincinnati Reds
Philadelphia Phillies - Washington Nationals
New York Mets 3-2 Baltimore Orioles
Oakland Athletics 3-2 Boston Red Sox 
New York Yankees 3-1 Tampa Bay Rays
Detroit Tigers 8-7 Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Atlanta Braves 
St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago White Sox 9-3 Minnesota Twins
Houston Astros 5-1 Los Angeles Angels
San Diego Padres 8-1 Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks 11-3 Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 Seattle Mariners

 

Yankees at Rays

Last season's runners-up, the Tampa Bay Rays, continue their American League East series against the New York Yankees.

A.J. Green has agreed to join the Arizona Cardinals, ending a 10-year stay with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Wide receiver Green, 32, has made it to seven Pro Bowls since the Bengals selected him at number four overall in 2011. 

According to widespread reports, he is poised to join the Cardinals on a one-year deal worth up to $8.5million. 

Green has been one of the NFL's top wide receivers over the course of his career and is second in Bengals history for catches (649), receiving yards (9,430) and receiving touchdowns (65), behind only Chad Johnson in all categories. 

His threat has diminished somewhat of late, though, with his last Pro Bowl appearance coming in 2017.

Green had 47 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns in 2020, playing in every game after missing the entire 2019 campaign through a serious ankle injury. 

The Cardinals are hoping some key veteran additions to join promising young quarterback Kyler Murray can power them to a Super Bowl run. 

Green joins a receiving corps that contains five-time All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins and, if he opts to continue playing, Larry Fitzgerald. 

They also signed three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt on a two-year, $28m pact following his Houston Texans departure. 

After a promising start, the Cardinals slowed to finish last season at 8-8 and have not had a winning record at the end of a campaign since reaching the NFC Championship Game in 2015. 

It didn't take long for the Arizona Cardinals to make their first big offseason splash.

For the second year running, the Cardinals took advantage of the dysfunction enveloping the Houston Texans to land a star player whom they hope will push them towards the playoffs.

J.J. Watt has linked up with former Texans team-mate DeAndre Hopkins, signing a two-year deal to provide a significant boost to the Cardinals' defense.

While Watt should unquestionably improve the Cardinals' odds of stopping opposing attacks, Arizona will need to take several other steps this offseason to have a chance of emerging from a hyper-competitive NFC West and progressing to the playoffs.

The Cardinals looked ready to make such a leap in 2020 in the second year of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experience.

But an ugly finish to an 8-8 season suggested this is still a team some way from true championship contention.

Using Stats Perform data, we look at what was learned from that campaign and what the Cardinals must do in 2021 to ensure they have a winning record and are playing postseason football next season.

Offense

The Arizona offense was in the top half of the NFL in terms of yards per play, their average of 5.68 putting them 14th.

However, the lack of progression from the passing game, even after the addition of Hopkins, held the Cardinals back from becoming one of the league's elite offenses.

Arizona finished the year 18th in pass yards per play (6.48) but were ninth in rushing average (4.67).

The Cardinals' underperformance in the passing game was not for lack of effort on Murray's part.

Indeed, his completion percentage jumped from 64.4 in 2019 to 67.2, his passing yardage improved from 3,722 to 3,971 and he threw 26 touchdowns compared to 20 a year earlier.

Yet his yards per attempt average of 7.12 was still only good enough for 22nd in the NFL, while his interception percentage of 2.2 was the third-most among quarterbacks to have started all 16 games.

Given Kingsbury's expertise in the Air Raid offense, a system renowned for its reliance on downfield passing concepts, Murray's tally of 44 completions of 20 yards or more - tied for 15th in the NFL - was disappointing.

But the Cardinals should continue to be excited about the offense's potential when they fully harness Murray's upside as a deep-ball thrower. Among the quarterbacks with at least 25 attempts of 21 or more air yards, his passer rating of 127.4 on such throws was the third-best.

One of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, Murray again added significant value as a runner, rushing for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. With 419 of those yards on scrambles, Murray continues to be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league when the pocket breaks down.

Hopkins enjoyed a monster first season in Arizona - his 1,407 receiving yards were the third-most in the NFL - but the numbers suggest he could use more help.

Deep threat Christian Kirk had six touchdowns but esteemed veteran Larry Fitzgerald's yards per catch average of 7.6 was the lowest of his remarkable career, indicating he may be reaching the limits of his longevity and that a more dynamic third option is required.

Defense

Watt joins a defense that performed at a high level in 2020.

The Cardinals allowed 5.34 yards per play, the eighth-least in the NFL, while their average of 5.86 yards per pass play allowed ranked sixth in the league.

Their success in that regard came despite losing star edge rusher Chandler Jones to a torn bicep, the three-time Pro Bowler denied the chance to maintain his streak of having double-digit sacks in every season of his Cardinals career.

Stepping up in Jones' absence was Haason Reddick, who posted a career-high 12.5 sacks - including five in one game against the New York Giants - and 15 tackles for loss along with 16 quarterback hits.

His contributions down the stretch helped the Cardinals produce 109 negative plays from their opponents for a total of minus 477 yards, the fourth-best mark in the league.

Taking that into account, their takeaway tally of 21 may be seen as disappointing, though it was in line with the league average.

Arizona's inability to trouble the upper echelon in terms of takeaways could be partially attributed to the play of veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Peterson had a burn percentage of 64.1 in 2020. A burn occurs when a receiver is open for a number of yards that take up a certain percentage of yards to go for a first down, depending on the down. The yardage is attributed to the defender regardless of whether the receiver catches the pass.

He gave up 590 burn yards and had six burns for touchdowns, both team highs.

The Cardinals have added a veteran presence to the front seven in Watt but, as with Fitzgerald in the receiving corps, a more youthful talent may be required to take on Peterson's role and help Arizona make key improvements in the secondary.

Offseason

Fitzgerald and Peterson make up two of Arizona's 23 unrestricted free agents this offseason, though if the former is not back it will likely be because he has decided to hang up the cleats.

Peterson appears set to play his football elsewhere, with the Cardinals lacking the resources and perhaps the appetite to re-sign him based on his 2020 performance.

The Cardinals are projected to have a little over $17.5million in cap space, assuming a salary cap of $185m, just above the league average.

Arizona's addition of Watt to bolster the pass rush may mean Reddick and Markus Golden, who also helped fill the void in Jones' 2020 absence, are allowed to walk in free agency. Running back Kenyan Drake appears another likely departure.

The draft is the likely avenue on which the Cardinals will focus most of their attention as they attempt to further supplement a roster that fell just shy of the postseason.

Picking 16th in the first round, Arizona will be in a decent spot to address the cornerback position and find a replacement for Peterson who can help them better defend three NFC West rivals who all possess explosive offenses when at their best.

Watt's arrival should improve their odds of keeping their division rivals in check but, after a strong showing on defense last year, this Cardinals offseason is one that will also be defined by what they do in terms of making life easier for Murray.

Stronger depth at receiver and more dynamism at tight end, something which the Cardinals have long since lacked, should be on Arizona's wishlist.

If they can check off those items and put a support system around Murray that allows him to have a breakout year three, the Cardinals will be in a good spot to celebrate a first playoff berth since the 2015 season. Should they fail, Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim's jobs may come under severe scrutiny.

J.J. Watt said all signs kept pointing towards the Arizona Cardinals after joining the NFL franchise in free agency.

Watt signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals following his release by the Houston Texans in February.

The three-time Pro Bowler, who was drafted by the Texans in 2011, was linked with the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers.

But Watt opted to make the move to Arizona, where the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will reportedly earn $31million.

"I give them credit; they attacked from all angles," Watt told reporters during his introductory news conference on Tuesday.

"There was, I think, [general manager] Steve [Keim] and [owner] Michael [Bidwill] and everybody did a great job of, I mean, there were players, there were coaches, there were non-football people whatsoever that reached out and were in my ear and trying to convince me to come down here and tell me all the great things about it, and not only on the field but sending me pictures of Paradise Valley and everything off the field as well.

"So, their recruiting pitch was strong and heavy, but, at the end of the day, I told my wife, you know all signs just kind of kept pointing back down here to Arizona, and in my short time here on the ground, I can tell you that I'm absolutely pleased and couldn't be happier with my decision."

Watt is Houston's all-time leader for sacks (101), including posting 20.5 in the 2012 season as he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the first time. 

The 31-year-old went on to win the honour in both 2014 and 2015, while he has also been named first-team All-Pro on five occasions, most recently in 2018. 

Watt has endured injury issues in his career, though he played in all 16 games this past season, logging 52 tackles, five sacks and one interception. 

He will now team up with star Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who guided Arizona to an 8-8 record in the NFC West last season.

"It's pretty wild now to be on the same team," Watt said. "But, yeah, I've obviously seen his career. He's had an unbelievable career. He's an incredible athlete, and what he's been able to accomplish, he's been a winner at every stage of his life, and that's not a coincidence.

"You're a winner because of the way that you work and because of the aura that you give off and because of the talent that you have, and I think that he has all those things and he's going to continue to win and continue to have success."

J.J. Watt has revealed he is joining the Cardinals, reuniting him with former Houston Texans team-mate DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona.

Defensive end Watt became a free agent after his request to be released by the Texans - the team who drafted him in the first round back in 2011 - was granted in February.

Speculation over his next destination had been rife since his departure from Houston, but the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has now confirmed his new home for the 2021 season.

Posting a picture while working out in a Cardinals shirt, Watt simply wrote: "Source: me."

According to sources, Watt will sign a two-year, $31million contract with the Cardinals. It is reported that the deal includes $23m in guaranteed money.

Watt, who turns 32 this month, has only previously played in the NFL for the Texans, who selected him with the 11th pick a decade ago. 

He is the franchise's all-time leader for sacks (101), including posting 20.5 in the 2012 season as he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the first time. 

Watt went on to win the honour in both 2014 and 2015, while he has also been named first-team All-Pro on five occasions, most recently in 2018. 

The former Wisconsin Badger has endured injury issues in his career, though he played in all 16 games this past season, logging 52 tackles, five sacks and one interception. 

Despite having one year remaining on his deal, Watt and the Texans came to an agreement to mutually part ways as the franchise appears set to go through a rebuilding process. 

Watt will be back on the same roster as Hopkins, the wide receiver having been part of a blockbuster trade between Houston and Arizona almost a year ago. 

Hopkins had 115 receptions for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns as the Cardinals posted an 8-8 record in the highly competitive NFC West, not enough to seal a return to the postseason for the first time in five years.

J.J. Watt has revealed he is joining the Cardinals, reuniting him with former Houston Texans team-mate DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona.

Defensive end Watt became a free agent after his request to be released by the Texans - the team who drafted him in the first round back in 2011 - was granted in February.

Speculation over his next destination had been rife since his departure from Houston, but the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has now confirmed his new home for the 2021 season.

Posting a picture while working out in a Cardinals shirt, Watt simply wrote: "Source: me."

According to sources, Watt will sign a two-year, $31million contract with the Cardinals. It is reported that the deal includes $23m in guaranteed money.

Watt, who turns 32 this month, has only previously played in the NFL for the Texans, who selected him with the 11th pick a decade ago. 

He is the franchise's all-time leader for sacks (101), including posting 20.5 in the 2012 season as he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the first time. 

Watt went on to win the honour in both 2014 and 2015, while he has also been named first-team All-Pro on five occasions, most recently in 2018. 

The former Wisconsin Badger has endured injury issues in his career, though he played in all 16 games this past season, logging 52 tackles, five sacks and one interception. 

Despite having one year remaining on his deal, Watt and the Texans came to an agreement to mutually part ways as the franchise appears set to go through a rebuilding process. 

Watt will be back on the same roster as Hopkins, the wide receiver having been part of a blockbuster trade between Houston and Arizona almost a year ago. 

Hopkins had 115 receptions for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns as the Cardinals posted an 8-8 record in the highly competitive NFC West, not enough to seal a return to the postseason for the first time in five years.

The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC's top seed on Sunday, while Derrick Henry led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC South title.

Aaron Rodgers again powered the Packers, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Despite their loss, the Bears clinched a playoff spot, as did the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Henry made history as the Titans won the AFC South, while the Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East.

 

RODGERS DOMINATES AGAIN AS PACKERS CLINCH TOP SEED

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four TDs in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Davante Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 TD passes. Alongside Peyton Manning, they are the only players in NFL history with 45-plus TD passes in multiple seasons, according to NFL Research. They won the NFL MVP in each of the previous three instances.

While Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record, the 8-8 Bears also reached the playoffs.

 

HISTORY FOR HENRY AS TITANS WIN AFC SOUTH

The Titans claimed the AFC South for the first time since 2008 after a thrilling 41-38 win over the Houston Texans.

Henry became the eighth player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season.

He had 250 rushing yards and two TDs against the Texans. Of the eight players to achieve the feat, Henry was the only one who needed 200-plus yards in his last game to get there, according to Stats Perform.

A.J. Brown had 151 receiving yards, but the Titans needed Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Texans.

The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game.

 

WASHINGTON WIN NFC EAST AS COLTS, RAMS REACH PLAYOFFS

The Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East thanks to a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions as Washington (7-9) claimed the division.

The Colts (11-5) reached the playoffs thanks to a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) are also into the postseason after beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7.

 

Week 17 scores:

Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts 28-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams 18-7 Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Chargers 38-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks 26-23 San Francisco 49ers
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles

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