MLB

Bichette matches career high and Ray fans 13 for Jays, Giants streak snapped

By Sports Desk September 16, 2021

Bo Bichette and Robbie Ray led the way as the playoff-chasing Toronto Blue Jays took down the American League (AL) East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 in MLB.

Bichette homered and matched his career high with five RBIs, becoming the second Blue Jays shortstop to hit 25-plus home runs in a season after Tony Batista in 1999 on Wednesday.

Blue Jays ace Ray struck out 13 batters over seven innings in a dominant display to claim the strike-out lead in MLB.

Ray allowed one run and four hits for his fourth successive decision – the starting pitcher is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 91 strikeouts since July 21.

He is also just the second Blue Jays pitcher to have double-digit 10-plus strike-out games in a season after Roger Clemens in 1997 and 1998.

Ray leads AL starters in ERA (2.64), strikeouts (223), innings (177.2) and quality starts (22).

The Blue Jays (82-64) – who have won six straight series, New York Yankees (82-64) and Boston Red Sox (83-65) are in a three-team tie in the AL Wild Card race.

 

Yankees win… again

The Yankees topped the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 to clinch their 29th consecutive winning season – the second longest streak in MLB history, behind their own 39-year run from 1926-64.

Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds became the first rookie in MLB history with at least 20 homers, 20 hits by pitch and 10 stolen bases in a season, according to Stats Perform. The Reds lost 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Kansas City Royals lost a wild clash with the Oakland Athletics 12-10, but it was a memorable outing for Andrew Benintendi. Over his last seven games, Benintendi has 19 hits and 17 RBI. According to Stats Perform, he is the first MLB player to reach both of those numbers over a seven-game span since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr in 1950.

 

Megill struggles in Mets sweep

It was a rough outing for rookie Tylor Megill as his New York Mets were crushed 11-4 by the St Louis Cardinals in a series sweep. In three innings, Megill gave up six runs, a homer and two walks on nine hits.

The Minnesota Twins suffered a 12-3 defeat to the Cleveland Indians as Jovani Moran allowed four hits and four runs in just 1.2 innings of work. Twins team-mate Andrew Albers gave up three runs, two homers and two walks on three hits in 2.2 innings. It came after starter Griffin Jax pitched 4.2 innings, which included seven hits, five runs, a home run and a walk.

The high-flying San Francisco Giants had their nine-game winning streak snapped following a 9-6 defeat to Wild Card hopefuls the San Diego Padres.

 

Perez extends homer rally in milestone appearance

While the Royals lost, star Salvador Perez hit his 44th home run of the season in the fifth inning, moving into a tie with Shohei Ohtani and within one of MLB leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Perez's 196th career home run came in his 1,000th start behind the plate.

 

Wednesday's results 

Miami Marlins 8-6 Washington Nationals
Detroit Tigers 4-1 Milwaukee Brewers
Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox 9-4 Seattle Mariners
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 Cincinnati Reds
Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees 4-3 Baltimore Orioles
St Louis Cardinals 11-4 New York Mets
Colorado Rockies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Cleveland Indians 12-3 Minnesota Twins
Houston Astros 7-2 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Chicago White Sox
Oakland Athletics 12-10 Kansas City Royals
San Diego Padres 9-6 San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Yankees at Orioles

The Yankees (82-64) will be out to extend their winning streak when they lock horns against with the Orioles (46-99) on Thursday. Jordan Montgomery is set to start for the Yankees, while the Orioles counter with Chris Ellis.

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  • LeBron relaxed about breaking Kareem's points record: 'I'm going to do it, it's not heavy' LeBron relaxed about breaking Kareem's points record: 'I'm going to do it, it's not heavy'

    LeBron James is completely relaxed about breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record NBA points total after moving another step closer during the Los Angeles Lakers' 129-123 win over the New York Knicks.

    James played a starring role on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, becoming the first 38-year-old to ever record a 20-point triple-double as he finished with 28 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

    Those 10 assists saw him overtake Steve Nash on the all-time leaderboard for NBA assists, with James now fourth on 10,336.

    He remains 908 behind still-active Chris Paul in third, but the record that all eyes are on is overall points.

    James' 28 here leaves him 88 off Abdul-Jabbar's record (38,387), meaning he is likely to surpass to his fellow Lakers great either on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans, or three days later against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Some athletes might get nervous when approaching such a milestone, but James is utterly at ease with the situation due to it essentially being a formality.

    "It's not getting heavier," James said.

    "I'm going to do it. I mean, it's just a matter of time when I'm going to do it.

    "It's not heavy. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be in this league for at least a few more years.

    "I'm going to do it. It's not heavy at all."

    There is also an element of anticipation from James' team-mates, with it set to be a momentous moment for everyone associated with the Lakers when he does break the record.

    That is not lost on Anthony Davis.

    "The team is very excited," he added. "It's probably going to be a surreal moment for all of us, but probably more so him... Obviously, whatever game it is, we want to be able to win the game."

    But much of the focus around James on Tuesday related to his assists and overtaking Nash.

    "It's amazing because that's just what I love to do and get my guys involved," James continued.

    "Anytime you link with some of the greats – Mark Jackson played here, was drafted here by the Knicks, so it's a super cool thing. And obviously, we know when Nash was [in the league]; I played against him for many, many years. His ability to pass the ball was very uncanny."

    Lakers coach Darvin Ham also paid tribute to James, saluting him for ignoring criticism about his game over the years and continuing to play true to himself.

    "He's just a kid who's grown before our eyes. The last 20 years at this level, has done nothing but play the right way and make the play that's in front of him," Ham said.

    "Regardless of how much he's been criticised for a while for not taking the last shots and the overpassing, he's just making the right plays. You saw that again tonight."

  • NBA Game of the Week: Tatum and the Celtics seek 10th consecutive win over Irving's Nets NBA Game of the Week: Tatum and the Celtics seek 10th consecutive win over Irving's Nets

    Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets will travel to Boston on Wednesday to take on the Celtics in a tantalising clash between Eastern Conference contenders.

    The Celtics, at 36-15, currently boast the best record in the NBA, while the 31-19 Nets occupy the fourth seed. 

    Fresh off a trip to the NBA Finals, Boston have looked like genuine contenders since the opening day, building an elite, championship-level statistical profile.

    Almost without fail, the eventual champion will show signs of elite play on at least one side of the ball throughout the regular season. Last year's champions, the Golden State Warriors built their identity on a top-two defense; the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks had a top-five offense and top-10 defense; the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers owned the third-best defense.

    This year's Celtics side are currently in the rare air of sitting top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, guided by two no-brainer All-Stars on the wing with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and fellow All-Defensive selection Robert Williams III.

    While games and series can often be decided by which team has the singular best player, the Celtics have been buoyed by the continued ascent of Tatum, who is now a legitimate MVP candidate.

    This season the 24-year-old is averaging career-highs in points (31.1 per game), rebounds (8.7), assists (4.4), field goal makes (10.1) and attempts (21.8), three-point makes (3.3) and attempts (9.3), free throw makes (7.6) and attempts (8.8) – all while shooting his best field goal percentage (46.5) since his rookie season and a career-best 86.9 per cent from the free throw line.

    The Celtics' elite record, profile and talent, combined with the fact they will be playing in front of their home fans will have them as favourites on Wednesday – but Irving and the Nets present a frisky opposition.

    It is without question that the Nets have entered a mini tailspin since Kevin Durant suffered a knee injury against the Miami Heat on January 8. Brooklyn were 27-13 at the time but have won only four of their 10 games since.

    Their ranks as the fifth-best offense and 10th-best defense for the season are both tumbling due to this past stretch, where both units have been the definition of mediocre, ranking 19th on offense and 18th defensively.

    That is no fault of former Celtic Irving, who is enjoying a tremendous run of personal form. He has posted seven consecutive outings of at least 26 points and six assists, and after the Nets dropped their first four games of Durant's absence, they responded with four wins from their next six.

    Also playing into Brooklyn's favour is the fact they are the NBA's second-best team away from home this season, while their 16-11 mark on the road is only bettered by the Celtics at 17-9.

    Unfortunately for the Nets, Boston have also had little trouble at home. They own the fifth-best home record (19-6), and their overtime defeat against the New York Knicks on Thursday was their first loss at TD Garden since December 21.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Boston Celtics – Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White

    Simply put, with Durant out of action, the Nets only have one superstar on the offensive end, and the Celtics have the perfect player to make Irving's life miserable. Or at least they normally would.

    Smart became the first guard to win Defensive Player of the Year since 'The Glove' Gary Payton back in the 1995-96 season, and his impact on Irving has been evident in recent matchups – but he will miss this fixture as he recovers from an ankle injury.

    Malcolm Brogdon – one of the favourites for Sixth Man of the Year – will take his place as the top defensive guard in the line-up, with help from Derrick White, and together they will aim to pick up where Smart left off.

    In his past four games against the Celtics, Irving has only reached 20 points once, finishing with the following shooting performances: four-of-19, eight-of-18, seven-of-21 and nine-of-24.

    Brooklyn Nets – Bench shooters

    While Irving is the obvious focal point and the engine that will make the Nets run, they will likely need one of their shooters off the bench to get hot.

    In their win against the Lakers on Monday, second-year spark plug Cam Thomas and veteran Patty Mills scored 21 points each while combining to shoot eight-of-11 from long range. The previous game, a rivalry victory against the New York Knicks, the trio of Thomas, Edmond Sumner and Yuta Watanabe combined to hit six-of-six three-pointers.

    Watanabe in particular could be a game-changer, as he is shooting 49 per cent from deep – the best figure in the league among players averaging at least one attempt per game.

    KEY BATTLE – How will Brooklyn slow down the Boston wings?

    As previously discussed, the Nets have been a top-10 defense this season, but they will definitely be without the seven-foot Durant, and will likely also be missing six-foot-10 former Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Ben Simmons and six-foot-eight T.J. Warren.

    It leaves them woefully undermanned when it comes to defending the All-Star duo of Tatum and Brown, and while Tatum is the exact kind of matchup Brooklyn had in mind when they traded a first-round pick to Utah for Royce O'Neale, they will likely be stuck with Joe Harris on Brown.

    Watanabe, at six-foot-eight, and perhaps even six-foot-nine veteran Markieff Morris will get a chance off the bench, but the rest of Brooklyn's perimeter options are simply too small.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD

    Since the beginning of February 2022, the Celtics are undefeated in nine meetings against the Nets, including a clean 4-0 sweep in the first round of last season's playoffs.

    Boston have won both head-to-head matchups this campaign by 11 points – one with Durant playing, and one with him out.

  • LeBron becomes oldest player to record 20-point triple-double, Kawhi shines for the Clippers LeBron becomes oldest player to record 20-point triple-double, Kawhi shines for the Clippers

    LeBron James collected another pair of milestones as he made history in the Los Angeles Lakers' 129-123 overtime victory against the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

    Playing on the road in Madison Square Garden, James became the first 38-year-old to ever record a 20-point triple-double, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-25 shooting, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

    He also came into the contest eight assists away from overtaking Steve Nash for fourth-place on the all-time assist leaderboard, with James dishing assist number 10,336 early in the fourth period. 

    James is 908 assists behind the still-active Chris Paul (11,246) – which would take him another 124 games to reach at his current career average of 7.3 per game – while he is 240 games at that pace away from the second-placed Jason Kidd (12,091).

    Against the Knicks, the Lakers had to pull themselves off the canvas after their six-point lead with under two minutes left evaporated, as Jalen Brunson tied the game at 114-114 with 24 seconds on the clock.

    But the Lakers had the answer this time, holding the Knicks scoreless for a near three-minute stretch in the five-minute extra period to pull away.

    There were extremely encouraging signs for Los Angeles in the first game sporting their new-look starting five, with Anthony Davis making his first start since December 16, and his first alongside new trade acquisition Rui Hachimura.

    Davis looked back to his best with 27 points (nine-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds and two steals, while Hachimura put together an efficient 19 points (eight-of-12) with nine rebounds and strong defense on Julius Randle.

    With the win, the Lakers improved their record to 24-28, and sit just three games out of the Western Conference's six seed.

    Kawhi dominates the Bulls on both ends

    Any concerns about Kawhi Leonard's prime passing him by have been quashed after the latest standout performance from the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

    Leonard was clearly the best player on the court in the Los Angeles Clippers' 108-103 road win against the Chicago Bulls, scoring a game-high 33 points (11-of-24) while also snatching a season-high five steals with two blocks.

    It was the kind of performance that has earned the 31-year-old three First Team All-NBA and three NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, and it cancelled out one of the more well-rounded games of Zach LaVine's career.

    LaVine grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds for the Bulls to go with 18 points (six-of-14) and eight assists, also adding a steal and a block.

    Giannis overpowers the Hornets

    Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo continued to build a convincing case for his third MVP during his side's 124-115 home win against the Charlotte Hornets.

    Antetokounmpo led both teams with 34 points and 18 rebounds, shooting a terrific 14-of-24 from the field and a more than respectable five-of-six from the free throw line.

    Despite being on the losing side, Hornets franchise player LaMelo Ball produced a head-turning stat line with 27 points (10-of-26), 11 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.

    The Bucks own the third-best record in the league at 34-17.

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