MLB

Yankees fight back to win, Giants lock in playoff spot, Guerrero overtakes Ohtani

By Sports Desk September 14, 2021

The New York Yankees produced their biggest comeback of the season fueled by Aaron Judge's three-run homer as they eclipsed the Minnesota Twins 6-5 in extra innings in MLB on Monday.

The Yankees trailed 5-0 in the sixth before a rally capped by Judge crushing a game-tying home run, which was his 33rd homer of the season.

The win came with an ounce of luck in the eighth inning with Brett Gardner fortunate to be walked on a close call with two strikes, two outs and the Yankees 5-2 down before Judge stepped up to the plate.

In the 10th inning, Gary Sanchez ripped a single down the line to get Gleyber Torres home for the walk-off win.

Earlier, Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who led 4-0 after the first inning, while Max Kepler made a super catch on DJ LeMahieu in the sixth.

The win improves the Yankees to 80-64 and they are hanging on for the second Wild Card spot in the American League (AL) despite having lost eight of their last 10 games.

 

Giants book playoff spot, Guerrero tops charts

The San Francisco Giants locked in their first playoff spot since 2016 with an impressive 9-1 win over the San Diego Padres, set up after a five-run opening inning.

Home runs by Evan Longoria, Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Belt highlighted the Giants win as Yu Darvish struggled again on the mound for the Padres, conceding eight earned runs, three walks and six hits in four innings.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr leapfrogged Shohei Ohtani into top spot on the MLB home run charts as the in-form Toronto Blue Jays won 8-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Guerrero laced his 45th homer of the season with a liner into the left-field corner as the Jays won their 12th game from their past 13 in their battle for a Wild Card spot in the American League.

Clayton Kershaw returned to the hill for the first time since July 3 due to forearm tightness, tossing down five strikeouts in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 5-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mitch Haniger hit a home run for the third consecutive game to help the Seattle Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 and keep alive their Wild Card aspirations.

 

Rangers hammered as Siri makes history

It has been a tough season for the Texas Rangers and a 15-1 hammering from the Houston Astros added to that as Jose Siri made history in his first start with five RBIs and two homers. The Rangers allowed 16 hits, trailing 9-0 after three innings. Spencer Howard surrendered six hits and six runs early, while AJ Alexy conceded four walks, four hits and six earned runs.

 

Wainwright proves age no barrier

Adam Wainwright may be 40 years old but the St Louis Cardinals right-hander is not slowing up, pitching six shutout innings in their 7-0 win over the New York Mets. The veteran only allowed four hits while recording four strikeouts, helping the Cardinals stay firmly in the National League Wild Card race. Wainwright improved to 16-7 and lowered his ERA to 2.88.

 

Monday's results 

New York Yankees 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Miami Marlins 3-0 Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays 8-1 Tampa Bay Rays
St Louis Cardinals 7-0 New York Mets
Houston Astros 15-1 Texas Rangers
San Francisco Giants 9-1 San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle Mariners 5-4 Boston Red Sox

 

Rays at Blue Jays

The in-form Blue Jays (81-63) have piled on 42 runs in their past four games and take on the Rays (89-55) for the second time in their three-game series in a crunch AL East clash.

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  • NFL Talking Point: Which matchups will decide Week 4's biggest games? NFL Talking Point: Which matchups will decide Week 4's biggest games?

    Week 4 of the NFL season could well have a substantial bearing on how the playoff race shakes out.

    Through three weeks, the 2022 campaign has delivered excitement at almost every turn, and there are plenty of high-stakes matchups to whet the appetite this weekend.

    There are conference championship and Super Bowl rematches on the docket, as well as extremely intriguing matchups between some of the season's early pacesetters.

    But which of the games on the schedule are likely to deliver the best contests? Stats Perform can provide some insight in that regard, using its SmartRatings as a guide.

    SmartRatings is an AI-based platform that provides excitement ratings for sporting events, teams and players. The excitement scale, ranging from 0-100, is powered by complex algorithms that are predicated upon six primary variables: pace, parity, novelty, momentum, context and social buzz.

    The weight of each variable is dynamic and adapts as a season progresses. The excitement scale translates to the following general sub-ranges: 0-39 (Dull Game), 40-64 (OK Game), 65-84 (Good Game), 85-100 (Great Game).

    So, let's take a look at the three games rated among the most exciting on the Week 4 slate and break down the key matchups that could decide them.

    Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens

    SmartRating: 67

    Win probability: Buffalo Bills (55.3%)

    Key Matchup: Lamar Jackson vs. Bills linebackers

    The Bills only need to look to their AFC East rivals the New England Patriots for a reminder of what can happen when a defense fails to defend 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson effectively.

    Last week, Jackson threw for 218 yards and four touchdowns with one interception while rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. He became the first player in Ravens history to throw at least three touchdown passes in each of the team's first three games of a season.

    Limiting his efficiency on the ground will be critical for the Bills' hopes of outscoring a potent Ravens offense. On designed runs, Jackson is averaging a remarkable 13.47 yards per carry, with his threat as a runner naturally helping fuel the Ravens' play-action game. Baltimore's average of 10.85 yards per play on play-action is well above the league average of 9.15.

    In Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, the Bills possess two athletic and intelligent linebackers. They will need to display their physical gifts and their awareness to help limit Jackson's impact with ball in hand and ensure they do not bite too hard against play-action and open large throwing windows for him to attack. An evenly matched clash between two AFC heavyweights promises to be a classic, and Milano and Edmunds may have a crucial say in it tilting in the favour of Buffalo.

    Kansas City Chiefs @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    SmartRating: 75

    Win Probability: Kansas City Chiefs (54.7%)

    Key Matchup: Travis Kelce vs. Antoine Winfield Jr.

    The Chiefs are unlikely to find much joy targeting the Buccaneers outside corners, Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis, who have each enjoyed excellent starts to the season as they look to gain a measure of revenge for their blowout loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV.

    Instead, Patrick Mahomes will probably look to his most trusted weapon, All-Pro tight end Kelce, to help him get the Chiefs back on track following their shock loss to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.

    Kelce has run 24 routes from the slot this season compared to nine from his in-line tight end spot. Having consistently thrived in the 'power slot' role throughout his career, Kelce will hope to do significant damage from that position while going against one the premier young safeties in the league.

    Winfield has spent 63 percent of his snaps this season in the slot but has conceded a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, on seven of his 11 targets. He has given up a big play on four of those targets.

    With Kelce registering a burn on 18 of his 24 targets, the matchup looks to be in his favour. Winfield must find a way to ensure it isn't if the Bucs' defense is to provide yet more critical support to an offense that continues to struggle.

    Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers

    SmartRating: 85

    Win Probability: Los Angeles Rams 53.0%

    Key Matchup: Aaron Donald vs. 49ers' Offensive Line

    Even after losing their starting quarterback and All-Pro left tackle to injury, the 49ers are still only seen as slight underdogs in Monday's rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game.

    But it is how the 49ers perform up front in the absence of Trent Williams that will likely determine if the Niners can continue their regular-season hoodoo over the Rams.

    The Niners have won the last six regular-season meetings with Los Angeles, but the Rams – who finally knocked off their rivals in the game that mattered most – will be confident of ending that streak if Donald and Co. can take advantage of San Francisco sliding Colton McKivitz in at left tackle as Williams' replacement.

    Much of that confidence will be based on how Jimmy Garoppolo performs when he is pressured. Among quarterbacks with at least 10 throws under pressure, Garoppolo's well-thrown percentage of 54.5 is the second worst in the NFL.

    Donald has already racked up 13 pressures on 40 pass rush snaps and is known for his ability to create pressure from anywhere on the defensive line. McKivitz, right tackle Mike McGlinchey and an extremely inexperienced interior offensive line must deliver their best for San Francisco to avoid falling to 1-3.

  • 'World-class' Alexander-Arnold 'judged by the one thing he's not as world class in' – Klopp 'World-class' Alexander-Arnold 'judged by the one thing he's not as world class in' – Klopp

    Jurgen Klopp does not understand why anybody would focus only on Trent Alexander-Arnold's defending when he has "world-class talent" on the ball.

    Liverpool right-back Alexander-Arnold has been the subject of much debate this week after being left out of England's matchday squad to face Germany on Monday.

    Reece James started the match and Kyle Walker came off the bench, while Kieran Trippier was among the substitutes.

    James appears to be Gareth Southgate's preferred option in that position, but Walker has made 50 appearances under the Three Lions manager. Trippier has turned out 37 times for Southgate, starting in both the 2018 World Cup semi-final and Euro 2020 final.

    That leaves Alexander-Arnold – often outstanding for Liverpool – as fourth-choice and looking highly unlikely to feature at the World Cup, even if selected in the 26-man squad.

    Southgate handed Alexander-Arnold his international debut in 2018, but he has since earned just 17 caps for his country.

    While the 23-year-old's creative abilities are unquestioned – he leads the England quartet in chances created (2.4) and expected assists (0.32) per 90 minutes in the Premier League in 2022 – there are doubts around his defending.

    Klopp has accepted Alexander-Arnold has room for improvement, but ahead of Saturday's game against Brighton and Hove Albion, he also suggested "nobody mentions" when the Liverpool man defends well.

    "It's like you have a list, bad defending and good defending, and bad defending [is] massive, and the good defending [list] is like you can't even see," he said.

    "That's what I see, because I'm not dumb."

    Klopp was also keen to point out some of Alexander-Arnold's shortcomings are due to Liverpool's approach, as they are "extremely brave" in their pressing and "the pitch is too big to be everywhere".

    Yet even when Alexander-Arnold is directly at fault, his club manager believes there is too much focus on those shortcomings.

    "There are other situations where he was not aware of the situation, where they pass the ball through him, where it was a challenge he should've won – true," Klopp said. "Every player in the league has these challenges.

    "With him, you pick it out, analyse so easy. All the experts sitting there, 'in this situation, you see it's a weakness'.

    "Honestly, I just don't get it, I just don't get that part of it – that we just accept that a world-class talent gets judged by the one thing he's not as world-class as in other things."

    And Klopp added: "If he would not be a good defender, he wouldn't play."

  • Walk-off win to end drought 'better than you can even dream', say Mariners Walk-off win to end drought 'better than you can even dream', say Mariners

    Cal Raleigh made MLB history to end the Seattle Mariners' 21-year playoff drought in fitting fashion – circumstances scarcely believable to manager Scott Servais.

    The Mariners entered Friday knowing either defeat for the Baltimore Orioles or a victory of their own at home to the Oakland Athletics would clinch a Wild Card place.

    Seattle were enduring the longest active postseason absence in any of the four major American sports.

    And a surprise win for the Orioles at the New York Yankees kept Mariners fans waiting just a little longer, with their team very rarely doing things the easy way even in this hugely successful season.

    But Raleigh, pinch-hitting for Luis Torrens, homered on a 3-2 pitch from Domingo Acevedo at the bottom of the ninth to clinch a sensational 2-1 walk-off win and a playoff series next weekend.

    Raleigh became the first player in MLB history to secure a postseason berth with a pinch-hit, walk-off home run.

    After only two as a rookie in 2021, this was also Raleigh's 26th homer of the year – a new single-season record for Mariners catchers.

    That it happened at T-Mobile Park put the icing on the cake for Servais, who had already been talking up his team's World Series chances after beating the Texas Rangers the previous night. 

    "The fact that we're in our ballpark and there's 40,000 people here tonight, it's better than maybe what you can even dream it could be," Servais said.

    "We have a lot of baseball yet ahead of us. We did end the drought tonight, which is a very special feeling.

    "There's so many kids that grew up in the Pacific Northwest that don't know anything about the Mariners being in the playoffs, and now we get to show them."

    Servais is not alone in outlining title ambitions in Seattle, where the Mariners remain the only MLB team never to have been to a World Series, let alone won one.

    But president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto believes the adversity has only made the franchise stronger.

    "It wasn’t fluid. It wasn't a linear road for us," he said. "We stumbled, and we fell, and I think that made us stronger.

    "And along the way, we found stars, we found leaders, and we found we found a team that came together.

    "I think what you see out there right now is a group of guys who believe that they can beat anybody."

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