MLB

Thompson helps Dodgers to Giants sweep, Judge homers again

By Sports Desk July 25, 2022

Trayce Thompson drove in two runs and helped break the game open for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who claimed a four-game series sweep with a 7-4 win against the rival San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

Scores were tied at 4-4 following Darin Ruf's two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw in the fifth inning, as the Giants looked to deny their first sweep at Dodger Stadium since 1995.

Kershaw was ultimately pulled in the fifth, giving up five hits and striking out six over 94 pitches, before Craig Kimbrel eventually came in for his 17th save and the Dodgers' eighth consecutive win.

Jake Lamb's double drove in the go-ahead run the game up for grabs in the seventh inning, before Thompson's drive deep to right-centre scored Max Muncy with his brother and Golden State Warriors star Klay in attendance.

The Dodgers maintained their six-game lead over the New York Mets atop the National League standings, extending their record to 64-30 with the victory.

Judge goes deep again in Yankees win

Aaron Judge hit his fourth home run from his past four games as he continues his outlier season, extending his league-leading home run tally to 37 in the New York Yankees' 6-0 away win against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

After starting the series against the Orioles with two home runs, and following it with four hits and two RBIs yesterday, Judge stayed hot as he connected on a 456-foot blast in the third inning. He now leads the MLB for home runs with 37, seven more than the next best in Kyle Schwarber.

On the mound, Nestor Cortes was at his best for the Yankees, giving up six hits and no walks in six scoreless innings, striking out seven. Clarke Schmidt then came in for the unconventional three-inning save.

Alcantara strikes out 10 for Marlins

Arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball this year, Sandy Alcantara struck out 10 batters as his Miami Marlins defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 in extra innings.

In his six innings of work, Alcantara gave up two earned runs from just two hits and three walks, earning his 15th quality start of the season, one off the MLB lead held by Houston's Framber Valdez and Toronto's Alek Manoah.

According to Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Alcantara has been the most valuable player in all of baseball this season, and he is the only pitcher in the top-five.

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  • Pirates: ‘Disappointing’ that Bryan Reynolds wants trade Pirates: ‘Disappointing’ that Bryan Reynolds wants trade

    With baseball’s winter meetings getting underway on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates could be a very busy team now that center fielder Bryan Reynolds has requested a trade.

    Reynolds hit .262 with 27 home runs and 62 RBIs in 145 games last season and as a young, controllable player would be a very attractive piece for teams should the Pirates choose to deal him.

    "While it is disappointing, this will have zero impact on our decision-making this offseason or in the future," the team said Saturday in a statement.

    "Our goal is to improve the Pirates for 2023 and beyond. With three years until he hits free agency, Bryan remains a key member of our team. We look forward to him having a great season for the Pirates."

    The 27-year-old switch-hitter is set to earn $6.75 million this season in the second year of a two-year, $13 million arbitration extension. He is then under club control for two more seasons via arbitration before becoming eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.

    Reynolds experienced a dip in production last season after he was an NL All-Star in 2021, when he batted .314 with 24 homers and 90 RBIs. He also had a career-best .390 on-base percentage and eight triples, tied for the major league high.

    Pittsburgh finished 62-100 last season and is 211-335 for a .386 winning percentage in Reynolds’ four years with the team. The Pirates’ lead the majors in losses since the start of the 2019 season.

    The Pirates acquired Ji-Man Choi in a trade with Tampa Bay on November 10 and signed fellow first baseman Carlos Santana to a one-year, $6.75 million contract.

    Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said on Tuesday at the news conference for Santana's contract that the team wants to be better in 2023.

    ''We think we've got a group of young players that has a chance to help us get better and continue to get better and we'll try to add to that group in the way that makes the most sense,'' he said.

  • Jacob deGrom signs five-year, $185million free agent deal with the Texas Rangers Jacob deGrom signs five-year, $185million free agent deal with the Texas Rangers

    The Texas Rangers have not been shy about spending money recently, and that continued Friday as they agreed to a five-year, $185million contract with two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.

    DeGrom, who has spent his entire nine-year career with the New York Mets, is perhaps the most dominant pitcher in baseball when healthy.

    His career 2.52 ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

    "We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger," executive vice president and general manager Chris Young said in a statement.

    "Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher, and he gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation. One of our primary goals this offseason is to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best."

    This blockbuster move comes just before baseball's winter meetings, which begin early next week in San Diego. The Rangers said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings.

    "It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need," Young said. "He's a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he's going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans."

    DeGrom, however, has been limited to 26 starts and 156-and-a-third innings over the past two seasons due to elbow, forearm and shoulder blade injuries. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

    "We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that," Young said. "And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob's caliber."

    The Rangers have spent nearly $761m in free agency over the past year, including massive contracts last offseason to shortstop Corey Seager ($325m, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175m, seven years). The moves didn’t pay off, though, as they finished 68-94 for their sixth consecutive losing season.

    Texas responded by hiring three-time World Series champion Bruce Bochy as their new manager in October.

    DeGrom didn’t make his season debut this past season until August, and went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 starts. After helping the Mets reach the playoffs, he passed up a $30.5m salary for 2023 and opted out his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

    DeGrom won consecutive Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019 and is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons.

  • NBA Game of the Week: Bulls hunting first win over the Warriors since 2017 NBA Game of the Week: Bulls hunting first win over the Warriors since 2017

    The Golden State Warriors (11-11) have a golden opportunity to climb back above .500 when they host the 9-12 Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

    Both teams entered the season with lofty expectations, but have sputtered out of the gates, struggling in areas they are meant to excel in.

    With four championships since 2015, the Warriors have been widely regarded as the greatest shooting team the game has ever seen, but the underlying factor of their greatest years has always been their defense.

    Boasting the league's best defensive efficiency in their 2014-15 championship season, second-best for their 2016-17 title, and 11th for their 2017-18 crown – the Warriors rediscovered their dominance on that end of the floor this past season to finish as the second-best defense en route to another ring.

    That has cratered this campaign, with Golden State currently allowing 113.4 points per 100 possessions for the 21st-ranked defense.

    What that means is that some of the Warriors' point totals from their eighth-ranked offense are going to waste, having scored over 110 points in seven of their 11 losses so far.

    Meanwhile, the Bulls have committed to offensively-minded scorers DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach Lavine as their core trio, but currently own the 22nd-best offense.

    In a clash between two sides struggling to establish an identity, the result could simply come down to which side's X-factor shows up – or more specifically, which one shoots the lights out.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Golden State Warriors - Klay Thompson

    Klay Thompson is a Warriors legend, a future Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest shooters in the history of the NBA – but he has never been less efficient than he is right now.

    However, when Thompson is feeling it this season, the Warriors win. Shooting 35.5 per cent from the field and 32.5 per cent from deep in losses, Thompson's numbers skyrocket to 43.7 per cent from the field and 44.7 per cent on three-pointers in the 10 wins he has played in.

    Only the Boston Celtics score a higher percentage of their points from three-pointers (41.7 per cent) than the Warriors (41.2 per cent), so it makes sense that when their secondary sharpshooter catches fire, good things happen.

    Chicago Bulls - Zach Lavine

    While the Warriors rely on a heavy dose of three-pointers to put up their points, the Bulls are the opposite, leading the league in their percentage of points that come from the mid-range (14.6 per cent).

    This is primarily due to DeRozan's affinity for the mid-range, and in turn, it leaves them 28th in the percentage of points that come from the three-point line (27.4 per cent).

    To outgun the Warriors, you need to score big, and the Bulls' best bet to get hot from deep is Zach Lavine.

    Making 2.8 threes per game, he is the only Bulls player averaging more than Coby White's 1.5, and his win/loss splits are eerily similar to Thompson's.

    He is hitting 3.6 threes at 43.9 per cent in wins, and 2.1 threes at 26.4 per cent in losses, indicating his outsized importance and responsibility for the interior-heavy Bulls offense.

    KEY BATTLE - Can the Bulls slow down the Warriors' ball movement?

    While the Bulls' offense has been disappointing, their defense has actually been a pleasant surprise, climbing from the 23rd-ranked unit last season up to the 11th-best this time around.

    Golden State's porous defense and second-highest pace in the league could provide a perfect environment for the Bulls to put up a big score, so it may come down to if they can force Stephen Curry to beat them by himself.

    While Curry has been spectacular, averaging 31.4 points, the Warriors lead the league in assists per game at 29.7, so if the Bulls can figure out how to force the Warriors into isolations and restrict their quick passing, they can force the reigning champions to play the game out of their comfort zone.

     

    HEAD-TO-HEAD

    This will be the first meeting between the Warriors and Bulls this campaign after two fixtures in the 2021-22 season – resulting in two convincing Golden State wins.

    The champions-in-waiting hammered the Bulls 119-93 last November, before following it up with a 138-96 thrashing in January, making it 10 consecutive victories against Chicago dating back to 2017.

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