Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m surprised it took me this long to lead the newsletter with my favorite team.
In today’s SI:AM:
☀️ CP3 takes over the fourth quarter
⚽ A miraculous Champions League comeback
⚾ Kelsie Whitmore makes more history
A familiar face atop the standings
The old saying goes that journalists root for stories, not teams. Well, last night I was rooting for the team and the story.
The Yankees, my favorite team since I was 5, had won 11 games in a row, and I had already decided to lead today’s newsletter with an update on their streak. It would be a better story (and better for me personally) if they won but alas, they lost to the Blue Jays, 2–1.
Still, the Yankees currently have the best record in baseball at 18–7, 2½ games ahead of Toronto in the AL East. They’re alone in first place in the division for the first time since Aug. 19, 2020.
So how are they doing it? It starts with the offense, of course. Everyone expected New York to put up runs in bunches this season after trading for Josh Donaldson, re-signing Anthony Rizzo, a trade deadline acquisition last year, to take some pressure off Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
The Yankees are currently averaging 4.76 runs per game, tops in the AL and just behind the Dodgers (4.96). Their team slugging percentage of .424 is tied with the Rockies for the best in the majors. New York is also leading the league with 35 home runs as a team.
More than half of those homers have come from Rizzo and Judge, who are tied for the AL lead with nine home runs each. (The Rockies’ C.J. Cron also has nine.) But they’re not the only guys stepping up. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, acquired from the Twins to give the Yankees better defense at shortstop, is batting .295 with six doubles. And DJ LeMahieu, who slumped last season while dealing with a core muscle injury that required offseason surgery, has rebounded this year.
But, more unexpectedly, the Yankees are also among the best pitching teams in the majors. They’re allowing the second-fewest runs per game (2.80, trailing only the Dodgers at 2.48), and they’re doing it with guys other than Gerrit Cole. His 3.00 ERA is fourth among Yankees starters. The breakout star has been Nestor Cortes, who, although he allowed two runs in four innings and took the loss last night, still has a minuscule 1.82 ERA.
It’s early in the season, but picking up two wins on the road against the preseason favorite Blue Jays could prove to be significant in September. The key, as it has been for the Yankees recently, will be staying healthy.
The best of Sports Illustrated
New York Liberty guard AD spent the last two years dealing with long-haul COVID-19 and discovering who they are, Ben Pickman writes in today’s Daily Cover:
“On the same July day that AD, formerly known as Asia Durr, announced their intention to sit out the 2020 WNBA season, they were admitted to the Emory at Saint Joseph’s Primary Care clinic in Atlanta. (Sports Illustrated is publishing AD’s birth name once, with their consent, for clarity.) The No. 2 pick in the ’19 draft, AD had been spitting up blood and vomiting. They later learned they contracted bronchitis.”
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Rohan Nadkarni raved about Chris Paul’s performance for the Suns in Game 2, especially in the fourth quarter. … The SEC and Pac-12 will lobby Congress to draft federal legislation governing name, image and likeness rights, Ross Dellenger reports. … These are the top 25 players still available in the men’s basketball transfer portal, according to Kevin Sweeney. … Brian Straus reflects on the significance of the Seattle Sounders’ Concacaf Champions League triumph.
Around the sports world
The Sixers lost Game 2 to the Heat and still aren’t sure when Joel Embiid will be back. … Gary Payton II is reportedly expected to miss about three weeks after an MRI on his elbow revealed ligament damage following a hard foul by Dillon Brooks. … Ben Simmons will undergo surgery on his injured back. … Kelsie Whitmore made her Atlantic League pitching debut last night, retiring the first batter she faced. … Aaron Judge met with the 9-year-old boy whose reaction to receiving a home run ball went viral.
The top five…
… moments in sports yesterday:
5. Chris Paul and Devin Booker combine for 58 points in the Suns’ win over the Mavs
4. Madison Bumgarner gets ejected in the first inning after taking issue with the umpire’s foreign substance check
3. Kirill Kaprizov with the first hat trick in Wild playoff history as they level the series with the Blues
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s pick at first for the final out of the Blue Jays’ win over the Yankees (with the bases loaded)
1. Rodrygo scores two goals in two minutes in stoppage time to keep Real Madrid alive in the Champions League semifinal
On this day in 1925, Yankees shortstop Everett Scott played the final game of what was, at the time, the longest consecutive games played streak in baseball history. How many games in a row did he play?
Yesterday’s SIQ: On May 4, 1984, which player hit a fly ball that got stuck in the roof of the Metrodome?
Answer: Dave Kingman. The A’s slugger came to bat with two outs and nobody on in the top of the fourth inning and hit a towering fly ball that disappeared somewhere above second base.
The ball had managed to squeeze into one of the many drainage holes in the dome’s ceiling and it didn’t come back down. The umpires weren’t sure what to do, because the rule book didn’t account for such a bizarre situation. Eventually, Kingman was awarded a ground-rule double.
Before the next day’s game, a Twins employee went up into the ceiling and dropped the ball down, with first baseman Mickey Hatcher down below to attempt to catch it. He failed.
Hatcher got a chance at redemption 20 years later. He was serving as the Angels’ hitting coach in 2004, and they happened to be in Minnesota a few days before the anniversary of the play, so the Twins had him strap on some catcher’s gear and attempt the catch again. He couldn’t pull it off that time, either.
From the Vault: May 5, 1980
Everything about this photo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is amazing. The first thing that pops out is the way his perfectly vertical body splits the frame. And then there are the details: the way the two other players in the image are reduced to minuscule figures on the periphery with their facial expressions making them look like helpless observers, the definition of the muscles on Abdul-Jabbar’s arm, the look of determination on his face, the vein bulging in his neck.
The Seattle SuperSonics weren’t as helpless in the Western Conference finals as the photo makes it seem, though. Seattle eked by in Game 1 with a one-point victory and, after dropping the next two, appeared poised to level the series at two games apiece after taking a big lead in the second half of Game 4. As Bruce Newman wrote in that week’s Sports Illustrated, that’s when Abdul-Jabbar kicked it up a notch:
“Los Angeles had fallen behind the SuperSonics by 21 points with 6:36 left in the third quarter when Abdul-Jabbar’s body began talking tough. With Kareem dominating the boards and scoring four of his game-high 25 points, the Lakers went on a 24–2 tear to pull ahead 72–71 just before the end of the period. When the game had ended and the Lakers had defeated the Sonics 98–93 to take a three-to-one lead in the finals of the Western Conference playoff series, [Lakers coach Paul] Westhead found himself trying to explain Abdul-Jabbar’s influence on the Lakers’ surge in artistic terms. ‘When you paint a picture,’ he said, ‘the sunshine goes in first, then you fill in the trees and the flowers.’”
The Lakers went on to win the series 4–1 and then prevail over the Sixers in six games to win their first championship since 1972.
Check out more of SI’s archives and historic images at vault.si.com.
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