Friday, August 12, 2022

Mets make statement with Subway Series sweep and Yankees react with big trade

Happy Thursday, all. Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE NEW YORK METS…

For the first time ever, the Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees featured both teams leading their respective divisions outright, giving both teams a chance to deliver a statement. The Mets were the ones who took advantage.

Behind a sterling start by ace Max Scherzer on his 38th birthday and a walk-off hit from Starling Marte, the Mets won 3-2 to sweep the Bronx Bombers in Queens.

  • Scherzer pitched seven scoreless innings to lower his career ERA on his birthday to 0.82, best in MLB history (min. five starts). He departed with his team up 2-0.
  • The Yankees took immediate advantage when the Mets went to their bullpen, with Anthony Rizzo walking and Gleyber Torres then rocking a two-run home run in the eighth inning.
  • The Yankees’ momentum was short-lived. Eduardo Escobar led off the bottom of the ninth with a double, and Marte singled him home shortly thereafter. It’s Marte’s 11th career walkoff hit. Since Marte entered the league in 2012, only Josh Donaldson has more.

The top of the Mets’ lineup powered the sweep, notes our MLB scribe Mike Axisa.

  • Axisa: “The Citi Field crowd brought postseason intensity and also brought the best out of Pete Alonso, who went 3 for 3 with a double and a walk Tuesday, then opened the scoring with a solo homer Wednesday. … The Mets’ 1-2-3-4 hitters — Brandon Nimmo, Marte, Francisco Lindor, and Alonso — went a combined 12 for 28 (.429) with three doubles and two homers in the two games. The rest of the Mets went 7 for 38 (.184) with two doubles and a homer.”

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO ANDREW BENINTENDI

MLB: JUL 04 Royals at Astros

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The bright side for the Yankees is that they wasted no time improving their team following the sweep. Andrew Benintendi is headed to the Bronx to provide a boost to what’s already the league’s highest-scoring offense. This season, Benintendi has…

  • 111 hits (second in AL)
  • A .320 batting average (third in AL)
  • A .387 OBP (sixth in AL)
  • Appeared in his first All-Star Game

The Yankees are sending minor-league pitchers Beck Way, Chandler Champlain and T.J. Sikkema to the Royals in exchange for Benintendi.

Despite their league-leading 66 wins, the Yankees needed to make a move like this. Their left-handed batters are hitting just .214 — 26th in the majors. Benintendi is hitting a scorching-hot .340 off righties and a very respectable .274 off lefties, making him a guy you won’t need to take out of games for matchup purposes. He’s also a terrific defender, having won a Gold Glove last year.

One more thing: The Yankees had reconsidered their pursuit of Benintendi a few weeks ago when it was revealed he was unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore not eligible to play in Toronto. Benintendi has since indicated he will get vaccinated, per reports. The Yankees have just one more series at the Blue Jays in the regular season but could potentially face them in the postseason.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

MLB: JUL 22 Angels at Braves

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MIKE TROUT AND THE LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Mike Trout hasn’t played baseball in over two weeks, and it might be a while until we see him again. The Angels superstar, originally diagnosed with back spasms and then placed on the IL July 18 due to rib cage inflammation, has been diagnosed with a rare condition called “costovertebral dysfunction at T5.”

  • Trout received a cortisone shot last week, and the Angels are evaluating how he responds. Angels head trainer Mike Frostad said that it’s a condition that will likely have to be monitored for the rest of his career.

  • Trout downplayed the diagnosis, saying that his career is not in doubt and that he even plans to return this season.
  • The Angels have not shut Trout down for the season.

Trout, who turns 31 next month, has played in just 79 contests this season after just 36 appearances last year due to a calf injury. Factor in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and he hasn’t reached 100 games since 2019, the year he signed a record 12-year, $430-million contract extension.

It’s just one more tough blow for the Angels, who are enduring another season going nowhere despite Trout’s presence and Shohei Ohtani having another potential MVP season. After a strong start, the Angels are just 15-33 since June 1, worst in MLB, and they’ve fallen well out of playoff contention. They have made the postseason just once during Trout’s career.

Not so honorable mention

U.S. government offering prisoner swap for Brittney Griner 🏀

RUSSIA-US-DIPLOMACY-BASKET-COURT

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According to reports, the United States has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker, with Russia for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and corporate security director Paul Whelan.

  • Griner has been detained since Feb. 17 on drug charges after the Russian Federal Customs Service claimed to have found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in Griner’s luggage. She pleaded guilty in early July even though she said she had “no intent” of breaking the law. Her guilty plea was simply seen as a key step toward a potential prisoner swap.
  • Griner made her first testimony yesterday.
  • Whelan was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison for espionage in 2020.
  • Bout is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Though the Department of Justice is generally against prisoner swaps, President Joe Biden supports it in this instance, per reports. While the WNBA has been supportive of Griner, this represents the most significant development toward ending her detainment yet. 

You can read all the details of Griner’s situation here.

Mayfield, Darnold to split first-team reps for Panthers; Mariota named Falcons’ starter 🏈

NFL: Carolina Panthers Training Camp

USATSI

We entered training camp with five true starting quarterback battles. One already has a winner after the first day of practice, while another looks like it will go on for a while.

Marcus Mariota was named the Falcons’ starter yesterday, “beating out” second-round rookie Desmond Ridder. The No. 2 overall pick in 2015, Mariota spent the last two seasons with the Raiders without registering a start. He’s thrown 30 passes in the last two seasons combined. The expectations in Atlanta aren’t particularly high — Caesars Sportsbook has set its over/under for wins this season at 5.0, ahead of only the Texans — but it’s a nice development for Mariota to get another chance.

The other quarterback battle in the NFC South won’t be nearly as straightforward. Sam Darnold got first-team reps yesterday as the Panthers opened training camp, but he and Baker Mayfield will alternate days with the starting unit.

  • Head coach Matt Rhule implied the battle won’t be decided any time soon, and said the team’s players will ultimately decide who wins it.
  • Darnold — the No. 3 pick in 2018 — came to Carolina last offseason but struggled last year, posting the worst touchdown-to-interception rate in the league.
  • Mayfield — the No. 1 pick in 2018 — came to Carolina earlier this month and is still learning the playbook. He’s coming off a difficult season with the Browns in which he played through a shoulder injury.

I’ve often subscribed to the belief that if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one — without a clear starter, it’s hard to rally behind the guy at the game’s most important position. But both Darnold and Mayfield need a confidence boost. Perhaps winning the starting job will provide just that.

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

🏀 Storm at Sun, 7 p.m. on NBA TV

🏀 Mystics at Wings, 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network

🏀 Sparks at Mercury, 10 p.m. on CBS Sports Network

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