Matthews: Are The Yankees For Real?

posted by Bob Matthews -

“ARE THE YANKEES FOR REAL?” THEY SURE LOOK LIKE IT

Saturday at Batavia Downs, after watching the Kentucky Derby, a horse racing fan asked me, “Are the Yankees for real?”

Well, what do you think?

Here are three big reasons why I believe the Yankees will win the American League East over the Boston Red Sox and have a very good chance to win their 28th world championship:

1—They’re 15-1 in their last 16 games (outscoring opponents 98-37 in the process), including Sunday’s come-from-behind home victory over the stunned Cleveland Indians (from 4-0 entering the bottom of the eighth inning to a 7-4 win on a three-run game-ending HR in the ninth by Gleyber Torres). Remember when the Yankees were 6-7 and some of the team’s rabid fans were calling for manager Aaron Boone to be replaced because he was “in over his head”? Ooops. They’re 19-3 since.

2—The promotions of 21-year-old Torres and 23-year-old fellow rookie Miguel Andujar give the Yankees baseball’s most lethal top-to-bottom lineup. They replaced injured veterans Brandon Drury and Neil Walker. Torres and Andujar look like they belong. They’ll see more hittable pitches in the AL than they would’ve seen while being pitched around in Triple-A. The Yankees lead the majors in runs and rank in the top three in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And it probably isn’t a fluke.

3—Sonny Gray looks like he’s coming around and CC Sabathia is looking more like an ace than a suspect No. 5 starter. All Domingo German did Sunday was throw six no-hit innings in his first start for injured Jordan Montgomery. Luis Severino is emerging as the ace starter every championship-calibre team needs and Masahiro Tanaka is a solid No. 2.

The Yankees are not perfect. I am amazed that Gary Sanchez can hit a baseball so well but has so much trouble catching one. Brett Gardner might not have much left in left field (23-year old Clint “Red Thunder” Frazier has recovered from his concussion and is tuning up with the Scranton/Wilkes Barre), Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t seem fully at ease yet as a Yankee and I’m not sure Greg Bird and Tyler Austin can get the job done at first base. But the Yankees have fewer flaws than any other baseball team, with the possible exception of Boston.

The Red Sox visit the Yankees this week for a three-game series. This should be fun:

Tuesday – Luis Severino vs. Drew Pomeranz

Wednesday – Masahiro Tanaka vs. David Price

Thursday – CC Sabathia vs. Rick Porcello (you know the Yankees are going good when they avoid Chris Sale).

GREAT KENTUCKY DERBY FOR JUSTIFY AND TODD HAIGHT

Justify stamped himself as a threat to become the 13th Triple Crown champion by winning the 144th Kentucky Derby Saturday at Churchill Downs -- and Batavia Downs director of live racing Todd Haight added to his reputation as Western New York’s top horse-racing handicapper by picking the Trifecta (first three finishers) in exact order. A $2 ticket on 7-6-5 returned $282.80.

Justify, now 4-0, ended “Apollo’s Curse” by becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a two-year-old. Poor Apollo might never be noteworthy again.

Justify, a massive chestnut colt trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, broke alertly in the slop, stalked speedy pace-setter Promises Fulfilled (49-to-1 long shot), took the lead when asked and was never seriously threatened to win by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths over two-year-old champion Good Magic (9.70-to-1). Audible (7.00-to-1) closed gamely for third and long shot Instilled Regard (85-to-1) finished fourth to create a 7-6-5-15 Superfecta that returned $19,618.20 for a $1 wager.

Justify returned a generous $7.80 to win, $6 to place and $4.40 to show. Good Magic returned $9.20 to place and $6.60 to show and Audible paid $5.80 to show.

My Boy Jack, bet down to 7-to-1 from his 30-to-1 opening line, finished fifth and previously undefeated Magnum Moon (undefeated in four previous starts, including the Arkansas Derby) finished a troubled 19th.

Mendelssohn (6.80-to-1), a $3 million purchase coming off a ridiculously easy wire-to-wire 18-length romp in the rich UEA Derby in Dubai, was bumped at the start of the Derby, encountered early traffic problems and finished last in the 20-horse field, 73 ¼ lengths behind Justify. At least he performed better than Thunder Snow, the 2017 Dubai-invader, who left the starting gate like a bucking bronco and refused to run.

Mendelssohn will return to Ireland and trainer Aidan O’Brien said he expects to bring the colt back to Churchill Downs for the November 3 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

It will be interesting to see how many other Kentucky Derby also-rans will skip the Preakness Stakes May 19 at Pimlico in Maryland. The speedy Justify, who might never again go off at 5-to-2 odds, figures to be more vulnerable in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes. It would be his sixth race in four months and fatigue might become a factor. But if he romps in the Preakness, he could face a small field on June 9 if he’s gunning for the 13th Triple Crown.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS KEEP MARCHING ON

The best sports story so far in 2018 is – in my opinion – the unprecedented success of the NHL expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

They added another chapter to their improbable run with a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks to advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Winnipeg Jets or the Nashville Predators (the Jets lead their series 3-2 entering Game 6 Monday night).

The Golden Knights are 8-2 in this Stanley Cup tournament and have outscored opponents 29-17. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s stat line: 4 shutouts; 1.53 goals-against average; .951 save percentage.

The NHL playoffs so far (through 64 games): home teams are a mere 32-32 (including 16-25 in the last 41 games); 8 overtime games; 10 shutouts; 24 games decided by one goals, 13 decided by two goals and 14 decided by three goals.

WHY GOLDEN STATE SHOULD REPEAT AS NBA CHAMPIONS

The Golden State Warriors are building a case for being one of the NBA’s all-time best teams. A third championship in four years would further boost their credentials.

Entering Monday night, here’s how the four probable conference finalists ranked in these major categories so far in the playoffs:

Scoring – Golden State 110.0 per game...Houston 109.2...Boston 104.3...Cleveland 101.0

Scoring defense – Houston 99.9...Golden State 101.3...Boston 101.5...Cleveland 102.9

Field-goal percentage – Golden State .467...Cleveland .453...Boston .448...Houston .442

Three-point field percentage – Boston .362...Houston .342...Cleveland .342...Golden State .336 (minus injured Stephen Curry for six of the team’s nine games)

Free-throw percentage – Golden State .815...Houston .792...Boston .767...Cleveland .758

Opposing field-goal percentage – Golden State .427...Houston .459...Boston .472...Cleveland .480

Opposing 3-point FG percentage – Golden State .312...Boston .349...Cleveland .363...Houston .385.

ANOTHER SAD DAY FOR AREA BOWLERS

Terrace Gardens on Sunday became the latest long-time bowling center to shut down in Greater Rochester.

Rochester once was one of the great bowling cities in America.  There were more than 50 bowling  centers in Monroe County and Rochester led the nation in league bowlers per capita. Rochester hosted the prestigious (and profitable) American Bowling Congress national tournament in 1956 and 1966.  Rochester was a regular stop on the men’s and women’s professional tours. TV bowling shows were immensely popular. Bowling scores were published in the newspaper.

What happened? The ranks of league bowlers were thinned as major companies downsized or moved. Life became faster paced and people were less inclined to spend two-or-more hours bowling one or more days and/or nights per week. As participation declined, so did overall interest in the sport.

So Terrace Gardens on 1151 Ridgeway Avenue joins a lengthy list including North Park Bowl, Brighton Bowl, Maiden Lanes, Panorama, Olympic Bowl, Clover Lanes and fill in the blank.

Many thousands of us enjoyed bowling when we were younger. We wondered if the sport might someday make a comeback. I’m not optimistic and I think it is sad.

NYC TABLOIDS TRASH DEPARTED MATT HARVEY

The Big Apple tabloids not so surprisingly had a field day last week when the New York Mets designated hero-to-zero pitcher Matt Harvey for assignment. The headlines included:

New York Post – MIGHTY KNIGHT...Mets give Harvey the boot...Matt made own mess...He left Amazin’s no choice....SPLAT HARVEY...Dark Knight KO’d from Mets...an Amazin’ downfall.

New York Daily News – SEE YA BOY BLUNDER...Gotham can finally rest easy as Mets dump disastrous Dark Knight...Knight-mare finally Ends...ABOUT LAST KNIGHT!...How dreadful outings and troubling nightlife ended Harvey’s days in New York.

TIMELY PITCHING BOOSTS RED WINGS TO 12-13 RECORD

The Rochester Red Wings earned a timely Saturday-Sunday home sweep over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs thanks to solid efforts by starting pitchers Zack Littell and Stephen Gonsalves.

Littell’s pitching line in Saturday’s 8-0 victory: 6 innings; 2 hits allowed; 0 earned runs; 4 walks; 6 strikeouts. It was his first start for the Wings since being promoted from Chattanooga (Double-A Eastern League).

Gonsalve’s pitching line in Sunday’s 6-1 victory: 6 2/3 innings; 3 hits; 1 earned run; 1 walk; 9 strikeouts. It was his second start since being recalled from Chattanooga. He’s 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA.

Littell, Gonsalves and Aaron Slegers are top candidates for promotion to Minnesota if the starting pitchers for the Twins continue to struggle.

Slegers was 15-4 with Rochester last season and Littell was a combined 19-1 for three teams (Tampa, Trenton and Chattanooga) last season. He was acquired from the Yankees in a trade for Jaime Garcia last summer. Gonsalves was 13-5, 2.06 ERA in 2016 in A-AA.

SHORT SHOTS

Individual game tickets for the 2018 Buffalo Bills go on sale Tuesday.

I know Kim Pegula is very sharp, but I’m hoping the new President of the Bills/Sabres won’t be making a lot of player personnel decisions at this young stage of her front-office career.

The Rochester Knighthawks will play at the Georgia Swarm in the National Lacrosse League East Division title game. The K-hawks were 2-1 against the defending champions in the regular season.

The official attendance for last Saturday’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-1 United Soccer League victory over the “host” Toronto FC II at Marina Auto Stadium in downtown Rochester was 1,074.  Several people who were there said the crowd was in the 300-to-400 range.

Syracuse U.’s men’s lacrosse team got a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th straight year and will host Cornell Sunday, 7:15 p.m., at the Carrier Dome. The Big Red beat SU 13-8 in Ithaca April 10.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN Insider ranks Tyus Battle (Syracuse) 27th on his list of the Top 100 Prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft. The entire Duke team made the top 53 picks: Marvin Bagley III 4th...Wendell Carter Jr, 6th...Grayson Allen 31st...Trevan Duval 52nd and Gary Trent Jr., 53rd.

The Syracuse Crunch, after sweeping  the Rochester Americans 3-0 in the first round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs, trail the Toronto Marlies 3-0 and have been outscored 15-6. Game 4 in the best-of-seven series will be Tuesday night in Syracuse.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Buffalo Bisons on Friday extended their working agreement through 2020.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, May 7

Tyler Johnson (26)...Sydney Leroux (28)...Chad Ruhedel (28)...Keon Broxton (28)...Earl Thomas (29)...Drew Stanton (34)...Tim Connolly (37)...Democrat and Chronicle’s Jeff DiVeronica (39)...Shawn Marion (40)...former Red Wing outfielder Mark Smith (45)...John Holecek (46)...Reuben Davis (53)...Ronnie Harmon (54)...Leslie O’Neal (54)...Louis Orr (60)...Pat McInally (65).

Tuesday, May 8

Sam Dekker (24)...Kemba Walker (28)...Adrian Gonzalez (36)...Cindy Parlow (40)...Brad Culpepper (49)...Ronnie Lott (59)...Lovie Smith (60)...Bill Cowher (61)...Steve Freeman (65)...Peter McNab (66)...Mike D’Antoni (67)...Angel Cordero Jr. (76)...former Amerk Eddie Joyal (78)...former Amerk goalie Ed Chadwick (85).

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

May 7

101 years ago (1917), Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox pitched a 1-0 victory over the Washington’s Walter Johnson...63 years ago (1955), Bill Shoemaker rode Swaps to victory in the 81st Kentucky Derby...61 years ago (1957), Cleveland Indians star pitcher Herb Score was hit in the eye by a line drive off the bat of Yankees infielder Gil McDougald...59 years ago (1959), a Major League Baseball-record crowd of 93,103 in the Los Angeles Coliseum saw the Dodgers beat the Yankees 6-2 in a “Roy Campanella Night” exhibition game...46 years ago (1972), the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 4-1 for the NBA Championship...26 years ago (1992), jockey Angel Cordero Jr. retired with more than 7,000 racing victories.

May 8

51 years ago (1967), Muhammad Ali was indicted for refusing induction to the Army...34 years ago (1984), the USSR announced it would not participate in the Los Angeles Summer Olumpics...25 yars ago (1993), Lennox Lewis beat Tony Tucker in 12 rounds for the world heavyweight title.

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